The US Senate has begun hearing opening arguments in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial with proceedings now on a fast track.
Democratic House managers kicked off proceedings by making their case that Mr Trump abused his presidential power and should be removed from office.
After late night deliberations over the rules almost ensured no new witnesses will be heard, the trial picked up speed. There were few signs of Republican resistance to quickly assessing, and voting, on charges related to Mr Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
The House impeachment managers laid out a compelling case for why we need access to documents and witnesses that have been withheld by the White House. I hope my Republican colleagues will join us next week and demand access to all the information we need to conduct a fair trial. pic.twitter.com/RvpF4buEwr
— Senator Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) January 22, 2020
Senators rejected all attempts to bring in new witnesses – including top aides of Mr Trump – and are likely to do so again next week, shutting out any chance of new evidence.
Chief justice John Roberts opened the session as senators settled in for a several long days of proceedings.
Mr Trump, who was in Davos, Switzerland, attending a global economic forum, suggested he would be open to his advisers giving evidence, then quickly backtracked, saying there were “national security” concerns that would stand in the way.
“I’ll leave that to the Senate,” Mr Trump said on the question of witnesses.
The trial marks just the third time the Senate has weighed whether an American president should be removed from office.
Democrats argue Mr Trump abused his office by asking Ukraine to investigate political rivals while withholding crucial military aid, and also obstructed Congress by refusing to turn over documents or allow officials to give evidence in the House of Representatives probe. Republicans have defended Mr Trump’s actions and cast the process as a politically motivated effort to weaken the president in the midst of his re-election campaign.
Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and leader of the prosecution team, launched into opening arguments referring to Alexander Hamilton and the country’s other Founding Fathers who wrote impeachment into the constitution.
Mr Schiff said: “We are here today in this hallowed chamber, undertaking this solemn action for only the third time in history because Donald J Trump, the 45th president of the United States, has acted precisely as Hamilton and his contemporaries feared.”
The House prosecutors will have 24 hours over the next three days to present their case. The president’s lawyers will follow with another 24 hours over three days to mount a defence. They are expected to take only Sunday off.
After that, there will be 16 hours for senators, who must sit quietly at their desks, no speeches or mobile phones, to ask written question, and another four hours for deliberations.
By the end of next week there is expected to be one last vote on whether or not they want to hear from more witnesses, and it appears increasingly likely that will be the end.