WASHINGTON - U.S. House Democrats at President Donald Trump's impeachment trial are moving Thursday to try to show how his alleged "corrupt scheme" to benefit himself politically fits into the country's constitutional requirement that he committed "high crimes and misdemeanors" before he could be ousted from office.
"We've introduced the case. We've gone through the chronology," Congressman Adam Schiff, the lead House manager prosecuting Trump, said late Wednesday as he wrapped up the first of three days of arguments against Trump at his Senate trial. "And (Thursday) we will apply the facts to the law as it pertains to the president's abuse of power."
Trump is accused of abusing the presidency and obstructing congressional efforts to investigate his Ukraine-related actions. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy last July to launch investigations of one of his key 2020 Democratic presidential challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden's work for a Ukrainian natural gas company and a debunked theory that Ukraine tried to undermine his 2016 campaign. At the same time, Trump was temporarily withholding $391 million in military aid Kyiv needed to help fight pro-Russian separatists.
Schiff, a Democrat who leads the House Intelligence Committee, was one of seven House managers serving as prosecutors who laid out the framework of the case against Trump during the initial eight-hour session. They will have Thursday and another session Friday to complete their arguments before Trump's legal team gets 24 hours to defend him, likely starting Saturday and extending into next week.
Trump again ridiculed the Democrats' impeachment case, saying on Twitter, "The Democrat House would not give us lawyers, or not one witness, but now demand that the Republican Senate produce the witnesses that the House never sought, or even asked for? They had their chance, but pretended to rush. Most unfair & corrupt hearing in Congressional history!"
The Democrat House would not give us lawyers, or not one witness, but now demand that the Republican Senate produce the witnesses that the House never sought, or even asked for? They had their chance, but pretended to rush. Most unfair & corrupt hearing in Congressional history!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2020
Trump’s lawyers were not permitted to participate in impeachment proceedings in front of the Intelligence panel, but declined an invitation to participate once the process reached the House Judiciary Committee, which drafted the two impeachment articles against Trump. Democrats in the full House of Representatives then impeached Trump without the support of any Republican lawmakers.
"There are no serious disputes about the underlying facts," Schiff said, adding that instead, White House lawyers defending Trump will argue that he cannot be removed from office for abusing the power of the presidency.
Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's lawyers, said after Wednesday's session that the fact that the impeachment proceedings are even taking place is "ridiculous."
"Are we having an impeachment over a phone call?" he asked reporters. "Or has this been a three-year attempt to take down a president that was duly elected by the American people? And we're doing this with 10 months to go to a general election. Pretty dangerous for our republic, in my view."
Trump has said throughout the process he did nothing wrong in his discussions with Zelenskiy, frequently describing their half-hour phone call as "perfect."
Sekulow said, "We believe, without question, the president will be acquitted. There is not a doubt."
WATCH: Congressional Democrats: Trump 'Schemed' to Pressure Ukraine
That outcome is widely expected with members of Trump's Republican Party holding a 53-47 majority in the Senate and impeachment rules requiring a two-thirds vote for conviction in order to remove him from office. Democrats would need to convince 20 Republicans to vote for conviction, and no Republican has called for his removal from office.
Trump eventually released the military aid to Ukraine and Zelenskiy never opened an investigation into the Bidens -- proof, Republicans say, that Trump did not engage in a quid pro quo with Ukraine -- the Biden probes in exchange for the defense assistance.
But Schiff said Trump only released the funds because "he got caught," when a still unidentified intelligence whistleblower filed a complaint that Trump in the July 25 telephone asked Zelenskiy to "do us a favor," to start the politically tinged investigations to benefit the U.S. leader in his 2020 re-election campaign.
Other House impeachment managers addressed the senators Wednesday, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler who talked about Trump's "smear campaign" against former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. The diplomat balked at cooperating with efforts to investigate Biden. Trump ended up ousting her.
Congresswoman Val Demings said Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was no "rogue agent" when he went to Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens. Demings said he was acting directly for Trump. She said former National Security Adviser John Bolton was trying to send the American people a "very powerful message" when he said he did not want to be a part of whatever "drug deal" he said Giuliani was pursuing in Ukraine.
Democrats lost Tuesday in vote after vote in their attempt to amend the rules for the trial presented by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Democrats wanted to subpoena at the outset of the trial White House, State Department and Defense Department documents and such key witnesses as Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
McConnell ruled that the Senate could only vote on the question of evidence and witnesses after the two sides present their cases and senators have a chance to ask questions of the House managers and Trump lawyers.
A Reuters-Ipsos public opinion poll and another Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Wednesday both showed about 70 percent support for allowing top Trump administration aides to appear at the trial, with majorities in favor among both people identifying as Democrats and Republicans.
Trump's impeachment trial is just the third such event in U.S. history. Two other presidents -- Andrew Johnson in the mid-19th century and Bill Clinton two decades ago -- both faced a Senate impeachment trial but were acquitted and remained in office.