The impeachment trial has ended for Saturday after roughly two hours of arguments by President Donald Trump’s defense team. It will resume at 1 p.m. EST on Monday.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump weighed in with his thoughts on the Senate impeachment trial..
Shortly after his defense team wrapped up its presentation on Saturday, Trump took to Twitter to once again complain that he has been mistreated and that impeachment is a hoax.
“Any fair minded person watching the Senate trial today would be able to see how unfairly I have been treated and that this is indeed the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax that EVERYBODY, including the Democrats, truly knows it is,” he wrote. “This should never be allowed to happen again!”
– Michael Collins
White House lawyer: removing Trump would be ‘irresponsible’
White House counsel Patrick Cipollone wrapped up Saturday’s presentation after about two hours – 60 minutes shorter than lawmakers had anticipated.
“I have good news. Just a few more minutes from us today,” he said.
He told senators it would be “a completely irresponsible abuse of power” to convict and remove Trump from power based on the Ukraine allegations, suggesting again that they were trying to prevent him from being re-elected in 2020.
“Let the people decide for themselves,” he said. “That’s what the founders wanted.”
President Donald Trump’s defense team will resume its arguments Monday at 1 p.m. EST.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., argued the president’s defense team inadvertently made the case to call witnesses and documents during the trial, something Democrats have been pushing for since before the trial began.
“They kept saying there were no eyewitness accounts, but there are people who have eyewitness accounts,” Schumer said, referring to acting White House chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, two people Democrats want to testify.
Senate Republicans have rejected Democratic efforts to release documents and call witnesses so far.
“The president’s counsels are criticizing the case against the president for lack of sources close to the president while at the same time blocking testimony from witnesses close to the president.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead House impeachment manager prosecuting the case, argued again that Trump led a scheme to have Ukraine do his political bidding.
“They don’t contest the basic architecture of the scheme,” he said. “They do not contest that the president solicited a foreign nation to interfere in our election, to help him cheat. I think they acknowledge, by not even contesting this, that the facts are overwhelming.”
– Deirdre Shesgreen and Sean Rossman
Trump lawyer: Trump did not get ‘due process’
Patrick Philbin, deputy counsel to President Donald Trump, tried to counter the charge of obstruction of Congress, saying the White House did not comply with House Democrats’ subpoenas because they were not legally valid.
He argued that the House did not follow correct rules in authorizing the impeachment inquiry – thus making the subpoenas void.
In fact, Philbin suggested the entire impeachment inquiry was illegitimate because the full House never voted to open a probe.
“There was no vote to authorize the committee to exercise the power of impeachment,” he said. So Schiff’s committee didn’t have the authority to issue subpoenas.
He said Trump was not allowed to have counsel in the initial closed-door interviews with key witnesses, and was only invited to participate at the end of the probe.
“The entire proceedings in the House … lasted 78 days. It’s the fastest investigatory process for a presidential impeachment in history,” he said. And for all but 7 days of that, “the president was completely locked out.”
“That’s not due process,” Philbin said.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
Attorneys counter Dem. claim Trump did not care about corruption
President Donald Trump’s private attorney Jay Sekulow tried to counter Democrats’ assertions that Trump was not concerned about corruption in Ukraine – except in the case of the allegations about former Vice President Joe Biden his son, because that would help him politically.
Sekulow noted that several witnesses testified before the House impeachment panel about rampant corruption in Ukraine, and it was widely accepted the former Soviet state has struggled to curb the influence of politically connected oligarchs.
Sekulow also portrayed the Trump administration’s freeze on U.S. security assistance for Ukraine as part of a broader Trump administration policy to review all U.S. foreign security assistance.
He also listed other times Trump froze aid to countries over the years, including $300 million to Pakistan due to concerns the country was not meeting its counter-terrorism obligations.
“You didn’t hear about any of that,” he said looking over to the House managers, Democrats who are prosecuting Trump. “None of that was discussed.”
– Deirdre Shesgreen and Christal Hayes
Trump’s defense team seeks to use Democrats’ evidence against them
One of President Donald Trump’s lawyers played clips from testimony offered during the House’s impeachment inquiry, seeking to both discredit the case that $400 million in military aid was tied to investigations politically helpful to the president and suggesting that senators had been deceived by House managers.
Mike Purpura, deputy counsel to the president, played a series of combined clips from European Ambassador Gordon Sondland, where he repeatedly said he “presumed” accounts and that he had no first-hand knowledge of some events. The series of clips focused on witnesses who said they did not know whether Ukraine was aware of the hold on the military aid, a key portion of the Democrats’ case against the president.
“The House managers never told you any of this. Why not? Why didn’t they show you this testimony? Why didn’t they tell you about this testimony?” Mike Purpura said after playing the clips. “Because none of this fits their narrative. And it wouldn’t lead to their predetermined outcome.”
– Christal Hayes
Trump attorney accuses Dems of trying to interfere in 2020
White House counsel Pat Cipollone emphasized the gravity of the Senate impeachment trial proceedings and accused Democrats of trying to undo the 2016 presidential election – and interfere with the 2020 contest.
“They’re asking you to do something very, very consequential and … very, very dangerous,” Cipollone said. “They’re asking you not only to overturn the results of the last election but … asking you to remove President Trump from the ballot in an election that’s occurring in approximately nine months. They’re asking you to tear up all of the ballots across this country” and “take that decision away from the American people.”
Mike Purpura, deputy counsel to President Donald Trump, began by trying to undermine the credibility of Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat and House Intelligence Committee chairman who led the impeachment inquiry.
He played a clip of Schiff reading the supposed transcript of Trump’s now infamous July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. In the clip, Schiff appears to exaggerate the substance of the call – in what he later said was a “parody” – and suggested Trump had directly asked his Ukrainian counterpart for “dirt” on a political opponent.
Republicans have repeatedly attacked Schiff’s account of the call, and now it has become Exhibit A in the president’s defense.
As Purpura played the clip, Schiff sat motionless, his eyes glued to Purpura and a TV screen showing the video. He had his hands clasped in his lap and ignored a note passed over on a legal pad.
As Purpura continued to focus on the case outlined by House managers, the team of managers and attorneys jotted down notes on large legal pads, passing messages back and forth.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
Graham floats idea of having special counsel look into Bidens
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters Saturday he opposes calling witnesses in the impeachment trial, even as he says his GOP colleagues face “pressure” to “call” forward both Hunter and Joe Biden.
“Senator Schumer said he didn’t want to make a trade, I agree with that actually,” Graham stated. “I don’t want to call Hunter and Joe Biden…but somebody needs to look at the Biden connections in the Ukraine.”
He proceeded to clarify that he “doesn’t know how to do this” regarding investigating the Biden’s and hadn’t spoken to Trump specifically about a “special counsel”, but he wasn’t opposed to the idea.
The president claims that the former vice president and 2020 Democratic front-runner strong-armed the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor in order to thwart an investigation into a company tied to his son.
“Somebody needs to think about this. Do you want me to do it? I’ll do it. I’d rather have somebody like Mueller do it because I think it’s important to look, but if my Democratic colleagues say, ‘looking at the Biden’s, it’s been done, there’s no reason to look’, I find that offensive.”
– Savannah Behrmann
Bidens, Burisma to be focus of Trump defense team
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, resumed the trial shortly after 10 a.m.
One of Trump’s private lawyers, Jay Sekulow, said the defense would shine a spotlight on the role that former Vice President Joe Biden played in Ukraine during the Trump team’s opening arguments.
“Believe me, you’ll hear about that issue,” Sekulow told reporters Friday in the Capitol, according to Politico.
Trump and his allies have alleged that Biden strong-armed the Ukrainian government into firing its top prosecutor to thwart an investigation into a company tied to his son, Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukraine gas company, Burisma Holdings.
In fact, Biden pushed for the Ukrainian prosecutor’s ouster because he wasn’t pursuing corruption cases, according to a Ukrainian official and four former American officials who specialized in Ukraine and Europe.
Takeaways from Friday:Takeaways from Democrats’ last day of arguments in Trump impeachment trial
But Trump’s allies continue to push that debunked allegation.
“The House managers decided to not just open the door, but kick the door down on the Burisma-Biden matter,” Sekulow said, referring to the seven Democrats who presented the case for impeachment.
Sekulow refused to detail his defense strategy. But he said Trump’s team will raise a bevy of hot-button issues– including the Bidens, the dossier that former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele collected on Trump before the 2016 campaign, and complaints about the FBI’s probe into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.
“We have two goals – we’re going to refute the allegations that they’ve made and we’re going to put on an affirmative case as well,” Sekulow said.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
Trump team won’t take full 24 hours for arguments
Cipollone opened the defense’s case for Trump and began by delivering some news the senator-jurors were likely quietly cheering: Trump’s team does not plan on using all of the time they have – 24 hours over the next three days – to present the president’s case.
“We will be very efficient,” Cipollone said. “We will finish efficiently and quickly.”
– Deirdre Shesgreen
28,000 pages of trial documents delivered to Senate
Minutes before Trump’s team was scheduled to open their defense, the House managers delivered the trial record they assembled in the impeachment investigation – more than 28,000 pages of transcripts and documents.
The documents were rolled from the House to the Senate in oversized grocery carts and dollies.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
Trump goes on attack before Saturday start
Trump weighed in to the fray on Saturday morning via his favorite medium.
“Our case against lyin’, cheatin’, liddle’ Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nervous Nancy Pelosi … & the entire Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrat Party, starts today at 10:00 A.M.,” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s lawyers ‘going to attack’ in Saturday arguments
Now it’s Donald Trump’s turn.
After three marathon days of impeachment testimony from Democratic House managers on why the president should be convicted and removed from office, Trump’s legal team will have equal time to make its case to senators starting Saturday.
Trump’s lawyers are expected to press their argument that the president did nothing wrong in his relations with Ukraine and that he rightfully tried to ensure the proper use of taxpayer dollars when he delayed $391 million in military aid to the Eastern European ally so they would step up anti-corruption efforts.
They’ll also contest the first article of impeachment – abuse of power – has no validity because no specific crime is being alleged. That argument has been dismissed by more than a dozen legal scholars as a misreading of what the framers of the Constitution intended.
Who’s on Trump’s legal team? Patrick Cipollone, Jay Sekulow, Alan Dershowitz, Ken Starr
They’ll also take less time than the Democrats. At least to start.
While Democrats took nearly eight of their 24 hours on Wednesday, their first day of arguments, Trump’s lawyers will start at 10 a.m. EST Saturday and stop around 1 p.m., said Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s private lawyers serving on his defense team.
Sekulow said the Senate asked for the “accommodation.” The president had also complained that his defense was forced to start on a day known among broadcasters as “Death Valley” because of traditionally low ratings.
Longer presentations are being planned for Monday and Tuesday, officials said.
“The evidence and the facts prove he has done nothing wrong,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Friday. “We are looking forward to the chance when we get to lay out our case. The attorneys are excited about that and they are going to attack.”
What you missed Friday:Schiff’s ‘head on a pike’ comment riles GOP senators
Unfair to the president
In pre-trial legal briefs, Trump’s attorneys have said the House impeachment investigation was unfair to Trump and also argued that, in any case, the allegations do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses.
On Friday, Sekulow said the team would make a compelling case, but that in three hours Saturday it would represent an overview of their arguments.
“We’re going to put on I believe without question a compelling case,” Sekulow said. “We have two goals – we’re going to refute the allegations that they’ve made and we’re going to put on an affirmative case as well.”
Sekulow refused to disclose what he would discuss. But suggested the defense team will raise a variety of contentious issues, such as the dossier that former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele collected about Trump, complaints about the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court and the role that former Vice President Joe Biden played in Ukraine.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, might also become a subject of the arguments. Giuliani criticized Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and worked for her removal, which preceded Trump’s pressure for an investigation of Biden.
‘Open and shut’ case for Trump
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, one of eight House lawmakers who are part of Trump’s defense team, told reporters Friday that the team is “very confident” because all of the facts are on the president’s side.
“I think this case is open and shut for the president,” Jordan said.
Regarding the second article of impeachment – obstruction of Congress – Jordan and other GOP allies of the president agree with Trump’s legal team that argues Democrats should have pursued access to documents and witnesses through the courts, not the Senate.
In a filing from last week, Trump’s attorneys claim there is no merit to the impeachment article. The filing said the White House withheld witnesses and documents because the information is protected by executive privilege, and Congress is not entitled access to internal deliberations within the executive branch.
“Defending the separation of powers is not an impeachable offense,” it said.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said she’s eager to hear Trump’s lawyers mount a vigorous defense rather than just call the case a witch hunt.
“I’d like to see an actual evidentiary argument,” Hirono said. “I’d like to see them produce some documents to say he didn’t do what he did. We see with our own eyes all of the evidence that has been presented, despite the fact that Trump has tried to stonewall everything.”
Democrats’ facts ‘extraordinarily powerful’
Impeachment experts don’t expect Trump’s defense team to counter the Democrats’ argument point by point but rather try to drive home the president’s contention that Democrats are engaged in a political hit job.
“The Democrats are trying to make a very specific argument and they’re speaking in concrete terms,” said William Howell, a political science professor at the University of Chicago. “I expect the Republicans to speak in generalities because their job isn’t so much to offer an alternative, equally clear counter claim. Rather their job is to simply derail the Democrats’ efforts.”
Howell said that knowing the Senate will not convict Trump, all his lawyers need to do is create reasonable doubt.
“These counter stories, when you get up close to them and you think them through, they lack merit,” he said. “But as long as they’re unexamined and there’s some base plausibility to them, they can do the work for the president that they need them to do, which is simply to say there is some plausible reason why the president was pursuing this line, it’s certainly within his right and therefore not impeachable.”
University of Missouri Law Professor Frank O. Bowman III agreed.
Trump’s lawyers “are certainly not going to provide a counter narrative because they haven’t got one,” Bowman said. “The Democrats’ facts are extraordinarily powerful.”
Neither Howell or Bowman believe the GOP will take up the entire 24 hours they’re allotted.
“They want to say this thing lacks any merit whatsoever and if the carry on for three straight days, that would suggest there’s something to contend with which runs counter to their argument,” Howell said. “The core of their argument is there’s not much to see here folks.”
Bowman said he’d be surprised if they do because the Republican strategy is to acquit the president in time for his State of the Union speech to Congress Feb. 4.
Contributing: Bart Jansen, David Jackson