U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, an Aurora Democrat, invoked his military service Tuesday, arguing that the White House budget office should be required to turn over documents involved in the case against President Donald Trump, as the impeachment trial got underway in the U.S. Senate.
One of seven House managers prosecuting the charges, Crow urged senators to approve a subpoena for documents from the Office of Management and Budget that he maintained would help prove Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress, as the articles of impeachment allege.
"These documents go directly to one of President Trump’s abuses of power — his decision to withhold vital military aid from a strategic partner that’s at war, to benefit his re-election campaign," Crow said.
After detailing his argument that the documents would reveal "exactly how the president carried out the scheme to use our national defense funds to benefit his political campaign," Crow brought up his status as a combat veteran, as he alluded to the president allegedly withholding aid to an American ally fighting a proxy war with Russia.
"Before I was a member of Congress, I was an American soldier, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "And although some years have passed since that time, there are still some memories that are seared in my brain. One of those memories was salvaging scrap metal on the streets of Baghdad in 2003 that we had to bolt on the sides of our trucks, because we had no armor to protect against roadside bombs. So when we talk about troops not getting the equipment that they need when they need it, it's personal to me."
Crow later said: "The American people deserve answers. I remember what it feels like to not have the equipment you need when you need it. Real people’s lives are at stake. That’s why this matters. We need this information so we can ensure that this never happens again. Eventually, this will all come out. We will have answers to these questions. The question now is whether we will have them in time, and who here will be on the right side of history."
The Washington Post reported that after sitting still for hours of testimony, more than a dozen senators from both sides of the aisle, including Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, got up to stretch their legs or use the restroom as Crow spoke.
At another point during his argument, Crow laid out what he described as Trump's plan and explained why the Democrats were seeking the budget documents.
"To be clear, here, we are talking of $391 million of taxpayer money, intended to protect our national security by helping our strategic partner Ukraine fight against Vladimir Putin's Russia, an adversary of the United States," he said.
"But the president couldn't carry out this scheme alone; he needed a lot of people to help him. And that's why we know as much about it as we do today. But there is much more to know. And that's what trials are for — to get the full picture."
Trump's legal team argued that the House Democrats were attempting to introduce new evidence that should have been aired during the months of investigation that preceded approval of the impeachment articles, despite the White House's refusal to turn over documents or make witnesses available.
Republican senators, including Colorado's U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, proceeded to vote down the subpoena Crow argued for along strict party lines, 53-47. Bennet voted with his party and the independent senators who caucus with the Democrats.
A reliable Trump ally, Gardner has been keeping his cards close to his vest since Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry in September. He issued a statement as the Senate convened for the trial's first day.
“Impeaching the president is one of the most serious constitutional actions, and I will closely evaluate the law and facts presented to the Senate as I fulfill my constitutional duties as a United States Senator," Gardner said.
"The Senate will move forward with an organizing resolution that is modeled after the same basic principles as the Clinton impeachment proceedings and will establish guidelines for a bipartisan trial allowing both sides to present their case."
When Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled proposed impeachment rules Tuesday morning, Democrats countered that they "depart dramatically from the Clinton precedent," set when President Bill Clinton was acquitted by the Senate in 1999.
“Under this resolution, Senator McConnell is saying he doesn’t want to hear any of the existing evidence, and he doesn’t want to hear any new evidence," said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement.
Before the trial commenced Tuesday afternoon, Crow echoed the complaints about the proceedings, tweeting that McConnell was "planning to run an impeachment trial — without witnesses — without evidence — in the middle of the night," adding, "That's not a fair trial. It's hardly a trial at all — that's a cover up."
Bowing to pressure from some Republicans, McConnell shifted course at the trial's outset, discarding a proposed rule that would have kept the trial in session past midnight, according to multiple reports. But the GOP stuck together to deny numerous attempts by Democrats to call any witnesses or subpoena documents the Trump administration has withheld.
During the trial, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and leads the prosecuting team, played a video of Trump suggesting that more witnesses should testify in the inquiry.
"Don't blind yourself to the evidence," Schiff said. "The facts will come out in the end. The question is, will they come out in time?"
Morgan Carroll, the chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, lashed Gardner, who is seeking a second term in November, in a statement Tuesday night.
"Senator Gardner has claimed that he would be an impartial juror in this impeachment trial, but in the opening hours of the Senate trial, he voted three times with his fellow Republicans to block key documents from subpoena," Carroll said.
"If President Trump is innocent, why would Gardner and Republicans block relevant evidence in a fair and impartial trial? Gardner’s vote shows he is more interested in covering up for Trump than in finding the truth."
Earlier in the day, the Colorado Republican Party pushed back against Crow's suggestion that the trial would be unfair without the witnesses and evidence sought by House Democrats.
"Jason Crow is now PETRIFIED of defending his own sham impeachment articles," the state GOP tweeted, echoing a phrase Republicans have been using for months to dismiss the impeachment effort.
"If your case was so strong, why did you vote for impeachment without the witnesses you are referencing? Answer: Because Pelosi had to fit impeachment into a political timetable," the Colorado Republicans said.
The GOP was referencing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and accusations she has been managing the impeachment calendar to inflict maximum political damage on a president who will almost certainly be acquitted by senators.