WASHINGTON — For a few gripping minutes, Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment prosecutor against President Donald Trump, had made the restless Senate snap to attention.
Voice cracking as he spoke, Schiff made an impassioned plea late Thursday for removing Trump from office, framing the choice in moral terms. “If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost,” he said.
“You know you can’t trust this president do what’s right for this country,” Schiff said. “You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months, he’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to. This is why if you find him guilty you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters.”
Reactions to the speech were as divided as the country. Democrats gushed, tweeting glowing words about the California Democrat’s rousing late-night speech. Republicans said they were unconvinced, and strenuously rejected the idea that Trump can’t be trusted.
Still, even some Republicans gave Schiff grudging respect for the skill of his arguments.
“I thought he was passionate and his case has been well articulated,” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican. Still, he added, “in the end it’s all going to come down to the facts, the law and the what people think is the threshold for what’s an impeachable offense.”
Schiff is unlikely to win over enough GOP senators to convict Trump, as most are solidly supporting the president. But for his articulate presentations to the Senate he has won praise from some senators like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who shook his hand and told him he was doing a good job after the first day of House arguments.
Schiff is the face of the House’s impeachment case against Trump, which has made him the principal target of Trump’s ire. Though he has six managers by his side, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Schiff, her confidant, as the lead impeachment manager. He is setting the tone of the prosecution’s case, working methodically to convince even his most ardent detractors that Trump deserves to be removed from office.
“In a way I do feel like I’m introducing myself to a number of the senators,” Schiff said in an interview with The Associated Press before arguments resumed on Thursday. He said many of them are familiar only with conservative criticism of him, and they are “finding I’m not the demon that I’m portrayed as on Fox.”