WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker got their first chances to speak during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
Menendez and Booker, D-N.J., each announced they had submitted a question to Chief Justice John Roberts, who then read them out loud.
The questions were the House Democratic impeachment managers, to help them further make their case that Trump should be removed from office.
The ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez said that Trump approved a total of $1.5 billion in aid for Ukraine more than 45 times, but then claimed he was holding up assistance last year because he was worried about corruption.
"Why did the president suddenly become concerned about corruption?” Menendez asked.
“He became concerned about corruption supposedly in early 2019 because Vice President Biden was running for election for the presidency," responded Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo. “That is what the overwhelming amount of the evidence shows, because there’s no other legitimate reason.”
The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that the Trump administration broke federal law by withholding the congressionally approved assistance.
The first article of impeachment charged Trump with withholding the aid to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump also requested a probe of the discredited claim that Ukraine and not Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election. Former White House national security aide Fiona Hill said those allegations were “politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”
Booker asked, "can you comment on whether executive privilege allows a president to conceal information from Congress, particularly if the evidence cannot be obtained elsewhere?”
“The president has ordered the entire executive branch to defy our constitutionally inspired impeachment inquiry,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., “Blanket defiance is what has taken place. There is no right to do that.”
Booker also joined with several senators to ask whether lawmakers should assume that Trump’s refusal to provide documents and witnesses means that they would not support his case.
“Here, one party, the president, has prevented witnesses within his control from testifying or providing documents,” the senators asked. "Do the House managers believe senators should apply the missing witness rule here, and if so, what adverse inferences should we draw about this testimony and documents?”
“We do believe that you should draw an adverse inference against the party resisting the testimony,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.