How Trump backers and critics clash as impeachment trial nears

Washington (AFP) - Donald Trump's defenders and supporters skirmished over the airwaves on Sunday a day after the US president's legal team dismissed his impeachment trial as unconstitutional and dangerous.

Coming two days before Trump's trial opens in the Senate, the clashing arguments offered an early taste of the historic drama to play out in coming weeks.

Beginning Tuesday, the chamber will meet six hours a day for six days a week in only the third impeachment trial of a US president, with lofty constitutional issues brushing up against raw partisan politics.

It will be a "grueling exercise," Republican Senator John Cornyn said on CBS.

Celebrity attorney Alan Dershowitz, a recent addition to Trump's legal team, argued Sunday that even if every charge sent by the House to the Senate for the president's trial were accepted as true, it would not rise to the level of impeachable behavior.

"The (House) vote was to impeach on abuse of power, which is not within the constitutional criteria for impeachment, and obstruction of justice," Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor emeritus, said on ABC.

A politically motivated impeachment, he added, was the "greatest nightmare" of the country's founders.

Adam Schiff, the California lawmaker chosen by House Democrats as lead manager of the impeachment trial, dismissed the notion that abuse of power was not impeachable.

- 'Arrant nonsense' -

"That's an argument you have to make if the facts are so dead set against you," he said on ABC.

Another House impeachment manager, Jerrold Nadler, called Dershowitz's argument "arrant nonsense."

The House impeached Trump on charges that he abused his office to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden by withholding military aid and dangling a White House meeting with the Ukrainian president. He was also charged with obstructing Congress.

For Republicans to argue that such behavior is not impeachable, Schiff said, "would have appalled the founders, who were worried about exactly that kind of solicitation of foreign interference in an election for personal benefit." Read More

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