WASHINGTON — The Senate formally opened the impeachment trial of President Trump on Thursday, as senators accepted the promise to deliver “impartial justice” and installed Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. as the presiding officer.
In a somber ceremony that has happened only twice before in the nation’s history, Chief Justice Roberts vowed to conduct Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial “according to the Constitution and the laws.” He then administered the same, 222-year-old oath of impartiality and adherence to the Constitution to the senators, setting in motion the final step in a bitter and divisive effort by the president’s adversaries to remove him from office.
Even as the antiquated ritual unfolded, with senators signing their names one by one in an oath book near the marble Senate rostrum, new evidence was trickling out about Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine that is at the heart of the charges against him.
A trove of newly released texts, voice mail messages, calendar entries and other records handed over by Lev Parnas, an associate of the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, offered new details about the scheme. And the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan federal watchdog, found that Mr. Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine was an illegal breach of a law that limits a president’s power to block the spending of money allocated by Congress.
Two hours before the oath-taking on the Senate floor, seven House members made a solemn march to the chamber to read aloud the charges against Mr. Trump. His words echoing from the well of the Senate, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California accused the president of abusing the power of his office and obstructing Congress by trying to cover up his actions.
“President Trump,” Mr. Schiff said, “warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”
The charges detailed the case against the president: that Mr. Trump pressured Ukraine for investigations into his political rivals, withholding $391 million in military aid as leverage, and that he obstructed Congress by blocking the inquiry into his conduct.
The evidence provided by Mr. Parnas adds significant new detail to the public record about how the pressure campaign played out. On Wednesday, Mr. Parnas told The New York Times that he believed Mr. Trump knew about the efforts to dig up dirt on his political rivals.
Just hours before the formal start of the trial, the Government Accountability Office said the decision by the White House Office of Management and Budget to withhold the aid violated the Impoundment Control Act, concluding that “faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.” Mr. Trump directed the freeze on the Ukraine aid, and administration officials testified during the course of the impeachment inquiry that they had repeatedly warned that doing so could violate the law, but their concerns were not heeded.
Aides said Mr. Trump was not watching the ceremonial events on television as the trial got underway. But Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said the White House expected Mr. Trump’s formal response to the impeachment charges would prove he did nothing wrong, and she dismissed the stream of new details emerging about the Ukraine pressure campaign.
“We’re not too concerned about it,” Ms. Grisham told Fox News on Thursday. “Once again, we know that everything in the Senate is going to be fair.”
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