Trump impeachment: President attends anti-abortion rally


As his impeachment trial continues in Washington, Donald Trump decided to take a bold move, becoming the first president in history to attend the US’s largest annual anti-abortion rally.

Seeking to shore up evangelical support ahead of the November election, Mr Trump addressed the rally on Friday as the Senate sat in judgment nearby at his impeachment trial.

“Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House,” Mr Trump told tens of thousands of anti-abortion campaigners at the 47th March for Life on the National Mall.

Mr Trump assailed Democrats for supporting abortion rights and claimed “religious liberty” was under attack.

“When it comes to abortion,” the 73-year-old Republican president said, “Democrats have embraced the most radical and extreme positions.

“We have taken decisive action to protect religious liberty.”

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media_cameraUS President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the 47th annual March for Life in Washington, DC. Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFP

After Mr Trump’s brief remarks, the crowd broke into a chant of “four more years”, a reference to the November vote, when Christian evangelical support will be crucial to his re-election.

“I vote pro-life,” said signs held by members of the crowd.

Mr Trump made only a single reference to the impeachment trial going on just down the street that could see him removed from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

US President Donald Trump is warmly received at an anti-abortion rally. Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFPpacific.epeak.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/1579902011_527_Trump-impeachment-President-attends-anti-abortion-rally.webp”/>
media_cameraUS President Donald Trump is warmly received at an anti-abortion rally. Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFP

“They are coming after me because I am fighting for you and we are fighting for those who have no voice,” he told the crowd.

“And we will win because we know how to win.”

Beverly Atkins, 55, drove 13 hours from Alabama to attend the rally.

“Life begins at conception,” Atkins told AFP.

“We don’t think you should destroy that.”

As for impeachment, she said Democrats “have no evidence” Mr Trump did anything wrong.

The seven Democratic impeachment “managers” are now making their final arguments at Mr Trump’s Senate trial.

White House lawyers will then have 24 hours on Saturday to present their defence of the President, who was impeached by the House of Representatives on December 18.

DEMOCRATS PRESS CASE FOR TRUMP COVER-UP

Democrats serving as prosecutors in Mr Trump’s impeachment trial have argued he improperly impeded an investigation by Congress into suspicions he coerced Ukraine’s government to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.

In their third and final day of opening arguments, Democratic politicians tried to show the Republican president was guilty of obstructing Congress by barring key witnesses and withholding documents from the investigation.

“President Trump tried to cheat, he got caught and then he worked hard to cover it up,” Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries said in his opening argument on Friday.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives impeached Trump last month on the obstruction charge and a separate charge of abusing power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden, a former US vice president and a contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The impeachment trial in the Republican-controlled Senate will determine whether Mr Trump is ousted from power less than 10 months before a November election.

Pro-life demonstrators listen to US President Donald Trump as he speaks at the 47th annual March for Life. Picture: Olivier Douliery/AFPpacific.epeak.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Trump-impeachment-President-attends-anti-abortion-rally.jpeg”/>
media_cameraPro-life demonstrators listen to US President Donald Trump as he speaks at the 47th annual March for Life. Picture: Olivier Douliery/AFP

Mr Trump denies any wrongdoing, while his Republican allies have argued his conduct does not rise to the level of an impeachable offence.

In a July 25 phone call, Mr Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Mr Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

Mr Trump temporarily withheld $US391 million in US military aid to Ukraine, which Democrats say was leverage for his demands.

ABC News on Friday reported about an audio recording from April 2018 in which Mr Trump is heard to say he wants then US ambassador in Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, fired.

“Get rid of her!” Trump said in the recording, according to ABC News. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”

If true, that would bolster Democrats’ argument that Trump associates spent nearly a year trying to oust her from the post because they saw her as an obstacle in their efforts to pressure Ukraine.

Mr Trump has said he had the right to fire Yovanovitch, which he did in May 2019.

The President is expected to be acquitted in the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required to convict and remove a president from office.

No Republican senator has voiced any support for his ouster.

Mr Trump and other Republicans also accused the Democrats of wasting time with repetitive and partisan arguments.

Democrats have focused their attention on a small group of Republican moderates they believe might support their efforts to bolster their case against Mr Trump with the inclusion of new witness testimony and additional evidence.

“We know we’ll never get Trump,” Senator Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the chamber, said.

“But four Republican senators can step forward and say that we need witnesses and documents. And there are 12 or 13 who have never said a bad word about witnesses and documents.”

Key administration officials who refused to comply with subpoenas in the probe included Vice President Mike Pence, White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Former national security adviser John Bolton refused a request by the House to testify.

‘I LOVE TRUMP’

Impeachment may forever stain his record, but Mr Trump is virtually assured of acquittal by the Republican-held Senate — and he is already looking past the trial to the re-election fight that awaits.

Before entering politics Mr Trump defended abortion rights, but he has increasingly aligned himself with the anti-abortion movement as he works to firm up his electoral base.

“I love Trump,” said Jim Bolognio, 63, who came to the rally from New Jersey.

“These people are going to re-elect him.

“My daughter is adopted. She wouldn’t be here if her mother didn’t choose the right path.” Brayden Harris, 16, who came to Washington from Hershey, Pennsylvania, with the “pro-life” club of his school, said “abortion is wrong”.

“God says he knows you before you’re even born, so in the womb he knows you,” Mr Harris said.

“It’s what it says in the Bible.”

The March for Life, which Mr Trump had addressed by video the last two years, is held annually on or near the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Roe v Wade case, which legalised the procedure nationwide on January 22, 1973.

Under Mr Trump’s presidency, abortion rights activists fear that landmark ruling is now under threat.

“Since day one, this administration has carried out a full-out assault on our health and our rights,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which supports abortion rights.

Since taking office in 2017, Mr Trump has strengthened the Supreme Court’s 5-4 conservative majority, naming two justices who oppose abortion — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — and galvanising abortion opponents.

Conservative-leaning Chief Justice John Roberts is seen as the potential swing vote if the constitutionality of abortion eventually comes before the court.

About two-thirds of Americans say abortion should be legal, polls suggest.

But while Roe v Wade remains the law of the land, numerous states have taken measures to limit access to the procedure.

The first big Supreme Court test of that anti-abortion push will come in March, when the court examines a Louisiana law whose restrictions on abortion are similar to a Texas law struck down nearly four years ago.

Like each year, the march wound its way from the National Mall towards the Supreme Court near the Capitol, where senators are sitting as jurors in Trump’s impeachment trial.

Republicans hold a 53 to 47 edge in the Senate and a two-thirds majority of the 100 senators would be needed to convict and remove the president from office.

Originally published as Trump’s bold move amid impeachment



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