WASHINGTON — House managers turned their attention Friday, Jan. 24, to the obstruction-of-Congress charge against President Donald Trump on their third and final day of opening arguments in the historic impeachment trial focused on the president's conduct toward Ukraine.
After the managers, led by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., wrap up their presentation, lawyers for Trump will get an opportunity to present his defense. Their presentation is expected to start Saturday - which Trump referred to as "Death Valley in T.V." in a tweet - and continue into early next week.
The crux of the House case is the allegation that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a political rival, as well as his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president.
The House managers appeared to shift their approach on Friday.
For one, they picked up the pace.
In the first 90 minutes, senators heard from three different managers - Reps. Schiff, Jason Crow, D-Colo., and Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. - over the course of five segments. During the two previous days, individual managers rarely presented for less than 45 minutes at a time and often spoke for much longer.
The prosecutors also used a greater number of short video clips to punctuate their remarks and seemed to speak at a faster clip.
Since the managers began making their case Wednesday, Republican senators have complained that the presentations were tedious and repetitive.
Just before the trial resumed Friday, Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-La., urged House managers and the president's team to be concise.
"Old expression: Very few souls are saved after the first 20 minutes of a sermon," Kennedy told reporters.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence, during an overseas trip in Italy, told reporters confidently that "we fully expect the Senate will acquit the president."
Pence denied allegations made by Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy. Giuliani, that he knew about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to open an investigation into the Bidens.
"What he has said about me has been completely false. I don't recall ever having met Mr. Parnas. But what I've said over and over again is I was never aware of the allegations that there was some pressure campaign for investigations against the Bidens that was underway until those matters became public," Pence said.
Asked whether Giuliani exercised good judgment in bringing Parnas into Trump's orbit, Pence said, "I hold Rudy Giuliani in the highest regard."
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that a majority of American adults, 66%, support the Senate calling new witnesses to testify, as opposed to 27% who don't.
Americans remain divided over Trump's impeachment. A slight majority of 52% approve of the House's vote to impeach while 45% disapprove.
Fewer people believe the Senate should go the next step of removing the president from office, with 47% for it versus 49% against.
If the outcome ends up being Trump's impeachment followed by an acquittal, half of Americans say neither side will be able to claim victory, one-third say it will be a victory for Trump and 10% a victory for Democrats.
Notably, more than half of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the economy, but just 39% approve of his handling of his impeachment.
In Friday's session, Jeffries, one of the House impeachment managers, began to detail what he termed the "cover-up" of Trump's efforts to "cheat" in the 2020 election.
"As additional evidence of the president's wrongdoing mounted, White House lawyers redoubled their efforts to prevent Congress and the American people from learning of the president's misconduct," Jeffries said. "At the same time, top administration officials . . . tried to convince President Trump to lift the hold on the security assistance. They failed. President Trump was determined to carry out his corrupt scheme."
Jeffries said the military aid was released on Sept. 11 only "after the House launched an investigation and after Congress learned about the existence of a whistleblower complaint," Jeffries said. "The $391 million in security aid was only released because President Trump was caught red-handed."
Jeffries said it was clear Trump "was undoubtedly calling the shots."
Crow, the Colorado Democrat, focused on the release of the hold on military aid to Ukraine, asserting that Trump "only released it after he got caught."
That was a reference to the whistleblower complaint that had been filed about Trump's pressure on Ukraine to launch investigations that could benefit him politically.
"But there's another reason we know the president lifted the aid only because he got caught, because there's no other explanation," Crow said.
Crow also sought to rebut a Republican argument that the aid was eventually released and no investigations were announced "so therefore no harm, no foul."
"Well, this defense would be laughable if this issue wasn't so serious," Crow said. "First, I've spoken over the past three days about the real consequences of inserting politics into matters of war. Real people, real lives are at stake every day. Every hour matters. So, no, the delay wasn't meaningless. Just ask the Ukrainians sitting in trenches right now."
This article was written by Colby Itkowitz and John Wagner, reporters for The Washington Post.