Trump's backers and critics clash as impeachment trial nears, Latest World News - The New Paper

Trump's backers and critics clash as impeachment trial nears

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Trump lawyer says abuse of power not impeachable behaviour, impeachment manager says it's nonsense

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump's defenders and supporters skirmished over the airwaves on Sunday, a day after his legal team dismissed his impeachment trial as unconstitutional and dangerous.

Starting today, the chamber will meet six hours a day for six days a week in only the third impeachment trial of a US president, with lofty constitutional issues brushing up against raw partisan politics.

It will be a "gruelling exercise," Republican Senator John Cornyn said on CBS.

Attorney Alan Dershowitz, a recent addition to Mr Trump's legal team, argued on Sunday that even if every charge sent by the House to the Senate for the trial were accepted as true, it would not rise to the level of impeachable behaviour.

"The (House) vote was to impeach on abuse of power, which is not within the constitutional criteria for impeachment, and obstruction of justice," Mr Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor emeritus, said on ABC.

A politically motivated impeachment, he added, was the "greatest nightmare" of the country's founders.

Mr Adam Schiff, the California lawmaker chosen by House Democrats as lead manager of the impeachment trial, dismissed the notion that abuse of power was not impeachable.

"That is an argument you have to make if the facts are so dead set against you," he said on ABC.

Another House impeachment manager, Mr Jerrold Nadler, called Mr Dershowitz's argument "arrant nonsense".

The House impeached Mr Trump on charges that he abused his office to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden by withholding military aid and dangling a White House meeting with the leader of Ukraine. He was also charged with obstructing Congress.

For Republicans to argue that such behaviour is not impeachable, Mr Schiff said, "would have appalled the founders, who were worried about exactly that kind of solicitation of foreign interference in an election for personal benefit".

Mr Trump has said he would like the Senate to almost immediately dismiss the charges, but Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a confidant of the President, told Fox News: "That is not going to happen. We don't have the votes for that."

Mr Dershowitz said that calling witnesses would introduce major delays.

"The trial will take a much longer time because the Democrats will call (former national security adviser) John Bolton, and the President will invoke executive privilege and it will have to go to the courts," he said on CNN.

Republicans say the House erred by not taking the time during its hearings to secure the testimony of key witnesses before sending articles of impeachment to the Senate.

Mr Schiff said that would have meant "endless months or even years of litigation".

He added: "What the President is threatening to do is cheat in the next election; you cannot wait months and years to be able to remove that threat from office." - AFP