US Senator Edward J. Markey on Sunday blasted defense attorneys’ opening arguments Saturday in President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial and called on Republican colleagues to allow new witnesses and evidence — even as he admitted there’s little chance GOP senators will cross the aisle.
“I’m hopeful, but I’m not optimistic, that there are four Republicans,” the Malden Democrat said, referring to the number needed to join Senate Democrats in voting to allow additional evidence. “I seriously doubt that there are four Republicans who are willing to in any way run the risk that they would have the ire, the anger of Donald Trump directed at them.”
A Senate trial that includes new witnesses, such as acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, would be a fair proceeding, Markey told reporters at a noon news conference Sunday inside the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Federal Building in downtown Boston, but he insisted that anything less “is a coverup.”
Markey also addressed a Sunday morning Twitter attack the president made on congressman Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and lead impeachment manager in the Senate trial.
‘‘Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man,’’ Trump wrote. ‘‘He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!’’
Schiff — in an interview on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning — and others have called the message a threat against the congressman. Markey said it is part of the “atmosphere of intimidation” Trump is trying to create in hopes of silencing both Democratic and Republican critics.
“The attack on Adam Schiff is part of it, but it’s making it very clear that if you decide to cross Donald Trump, then you will pay a big political price," he said.
Markey said Trump’s attorneys omitted facts in their two-hour presentation Saturday and included misinformation, such as the claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. “That is false,” he said, pointing out accurately that "United States intelligence experts . . . have repeatedly rejected that claim.”
Massachusetts’ junior senator also pushed back against Trump attorney Jay Sekulow’s claim before the Senate that there was no quid pro quo between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Markey pointed to an October news conference in which Mulvaney told reporters Trump had withheld military aid to Ukraine while demanding the Eastern European nation investigate Hunter Biden, son of former vice president Joe Biden, who has emerged as Trump’s leading Democratic challenger for the November election.
Mulvaney said then of mixing politics and foreign policy: “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.”
Markey suggested the president’s lawyers are attempting to distract Congress and the American people rather than providing a legitimate defense to the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress included in the articles of impeachment.
“President Trump’s legal team has started building a defense made of sound bites, misinformation, and alternative facts,” Markey said. “Their goal is simple: distract, distort, deny. That’s what the president is doing. That’s what the president’s defense team is trying to do.”
He rejected Republican arguments that removing Trump from office in an election year would be overriding the will of American voters just as they return to the polls, saying that the issue is bigger than any single election.
“We cannot give future presidents carte blanche to conspire with foreign leaders to interfere with elections in the United States of America,” he said. “We can’t allow Donald Trump to use American taxpayer dollars — $391 million — to essentially extort an investigation of the Biden family as the price of receiving much-needed national security help for the Ukraine people.”