WASHINGTON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Democrats planned to plow ahead on Thursday at President Donald Trump's impeachment trial with their arguments for removing him from office, but Republicans showed no signs of softening their resistance to the Democratic case.
U.S. Representative Adam Schiff and other Democratic impeachment managers are pressing their argument that Trump should be convicted of two articles of impeachment passed by the House last month - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress - for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden last year, and impeding the inquiry into the matter.
Blocked so far in their drive to persuade the Republican-led Senate to let them call new witnesses, Democrats are using their time instead to outline an extensive narrative, complete with video clips, based on the testimony presented during hearings in the Democratic-led House of Representatives.
The case focuses on a July 25 telephone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential contender, and his son on unsubstantiated corruption charges as well as a discredited theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 U.S. election. U.S. military aid to Ukraine was frozen for a period of time.
"We have the evidence to prove President Trump ordered the aid withheld, he did so to force Ukraine to help his re-election campaign," Schiff said during arguments on Wednesday that stretched for eight hours. "We can and will prove President Trump guilty of this conduct and of obstructing the investigation into his conduct."
Trump denies any wrongdoing and his fellow Republicans in the Senate say his behavior does not fit the description of "high crimes and misdemeanors" outlined in the U.S. Constitution as a reason to oust a president.
He is almost certain to be acquitted by the 100-member Senate, where a two-thirds majority is needed to remove him from office. But the case could help determine whether Trump wins a second term in November's election.
Democrats have two more days to make their arguments. Trump's defense team, starting on Saturday, will have three days for rebuttal. Trump is relying on a core group of White House lawyers and outside counsel to undermine the Democratic case.
Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said it was unclear whether the Trump defense would need all three days.
"We will make a determination on our presentation based on what we are responding to and based on our affirmative case," Sekulow said. "I don't know if it will take 10 hours, 14 hours, 24 hours or six hours."
The House impeachment managers' presentation appeared to have little impact on the Senate’s deep partisan split.
"I didn’t hear anything new, at all," said Republican Senator John Barrasso, who added: “It still seems to me as if this was an effort by Democrats, in a very partisan way, to bring a case against President Trump because they weren’t happy with the results of the 2016 election and are concerned that they’re going to have real problems in the 2020 election.”
But Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said: “Anyone following this testimony will see that the truth is right there in plain sight. It’s very clear that President Trump used all the agencies of the federal government to pursue his scheme.”
Senator John Kennedy, a Republican close to Trump, was listening to what he called Schiff's "eloquent" presentation.
"Most if not all senators are hearing the prosecution and the case of the defense for the first time," Kennedy said, adding that most senators had not read a transcript of the House proceedings. "Senators, because they've been busy being senators, have not heard the case."
Avidly tracking the Senate trial even during a trip this week to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump told reporters on Wednesday he was the victim of a "takedown attempt." He arrived back in Washington on Wednesday night.
A Reuters-Ipsos poll released on Wednesday found a bipartisan majority of Americans wanting to see new witnesses testify in the impeachment trial.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Patricia Zengerle, Susan Cornwell, David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney)