ADDS SENATORS SWORN IN
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The Senate's impeachment trial of President Donald Trump began Thursday with the reading aloud of the two House of Representatives-passed charges, making Trump just the third chief executive in U.S. history to face Senate proceedings.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who is leading seven House lawmakers prosecuting the case, read the charges aloud before assembled senators, formally beginning the trial.
"In the history of the Republic, no president has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry, or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate high crimes and misdemeanors," Schiff said, flanked by the other House prosecutors.
"This abuse of office served to cover up the president's own repeated misconduct, and to seize and control the power of impeachment and thus to nullify a vital constitutional safeguard vested solely in the House of Representatives," he added.
Senators were sworn in later Thursday by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who asked the 100 lawmakers to commit to doing "impartial justice" in the case. Roberts is tasked with presiding over the trial.
The two articles of impeachment against Trump -- abuse of power and obstruction of Congress -- related to his repeated effort to have Ukraine declare criminal investigations into leading Democratic candidate Joe Biden, and his subsequent refusal to cooperate with the House's investigation of the matter.
Trump also directed his top officials to follow suit as the House continued to issue subpoenas that Democrats maintain would have brought to light information vital to their case.
Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have denied any sort of wrongdoing took place, maintaining the president was working to ferret out corruption in Ukraine, not influence this year's presidential election.
But earlier Thursday a nonpartisan watchdog determined Trump violated the law when he ordered congressionally-appropriated military aid to Ukraine last year be withheld.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report that the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) broke the Impoundment Control Act when it delayed hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance to Ukraine last summer amid President Donald Trump's push to get Kiev to announce the criminal investigations.
"Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law," Thomas Armstrong, the office's general counsel, said in writing office's findings. "The President is not vested with the power to ignore or amend any such duly enacted law"
The funding, which was passed by Congress, was being held up at the same time Trump was pushing for the public declaration.
And on Wednesday, Lev Parnas, who worked with Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine, unleashed a series of bombshells in television interviews, including accusing the president of seeking to tarnish Biden's reputation to hinder his presidential bid.
House Democrats further released documents, including Parnas' text messages and notes, that appear to indicate, among other things, that the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch whom Trump later ousted reportedly over her resistance to the campaign to have Ukraine open the probes, was being surveilled by Giuliani's associates.