White House counsel Pat Cipollone charged that House impeachment managers left out the discussion on burden sharing from President Donald Trump’s July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Cipollone, opening the rebuttal for Trump’s defense team after days of House Democrat presentations to the Senate, said that Democrats “are asking you to do something very, very consequential, and I would submit to you … very, very dangerous.”
“They’re asking you not only to overturn the results of the last election, but they’re 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, on your own initiative, take that decision away from the American people,” he said, referring to the presidential election slated for November.
Cipollone said the transcript of Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was the best evidence of what was said during the call, and he read from a transcript of a call.
“They didn’t tell you that burden sharing was discussed in the call. They didn’t tell you that. Why? Let me read it to you,” Cipollone said.
“The president said, and they read this line, ‘And I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time.’ But they stopped there. They didn’t read the following: ‘Much more than European countries are doing. They should be helping you more. Germany does almost nothing for you. Angela Merkel, she talks Ukraine, but she doesn’t do anything. A lot of European countries are the same way so I think it’s something you want to look at,’” Cipollone said, quoting Trump from the transcript.
“They left out the entire discussion of burden sharing,” he continued.
“Now what does President Zelensky say? Does he disagree? No, he agrees. They didn’t tell you this. ‘Yes, you are absolutely right. Not only 100 percent but actually 1,000 percent. And I can tell you the following: I did talk to Angela Merkel and I did meet with her. I also met and talked with Macron and I told them that they are not doing quite as much as they need to be doing on the issues with the sanctions.’”
Democrats leaving out the part on burden sharing was “emblematic of their entire presentation,” Cipollone said.
He said House impeachment managers had “the burden of proof,” adding, “They have not come close to meeting it.”
Cipollone said the impeachment effort was an attempt to interfere in the election.
Trump was impeached in December 2019 for abuse of office and obstruction of Congress. Democrats said the president tried to interfere in the 2020 election when he asked Ukraine’s president last year to “look into” corruption allegations surrounding former Vice President and leading Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
They also said Trump attempted to establish a “quid pro quo” by linking congressionally approved military aid that he put a hold on with the requested investigation. Officials from the United States and Ukraine have said Ukrainian leaders weren’t aware of the military aid at the time of the phone call, and the aid was released on or before schedule.
Trump’s team defended the call on Saturday.
“The call was in line with the Trump administration’s legitimate concerns about corruption,” Mike Purpura, a Trump lawyer, told lawmakers. “There was no discussion of paused security assistance.”
Trump’s team took the floor after House Democrats spent three days making their case for removing Trump from office. A conviction, or removal from office, requires a supermajority vote in the 100-member body; an acquittal requires a simple majority.
In concluding remarks, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said facts surrounding Trump’s alleged actions “have been proved.”
“Those facts are not contested. We have met our burden,” he said.
Schiff also asked senators to consider calling witnesses, a point that both House and Senate Democrats have repeatedly made.
“I implore you—give America a fair trial. She’s worth it,” Schiff said.
Earlier in the day, House impeachment manager Jason Crow (D-Colo.) said that Ukraine had been extorted.
“It doesn’t matter if extortion last two weeks or two months—it’s still extortion. And Ukraine certainly felt the pressure,” he said.
“The question for you is whether it is OK for the president to withhold taxpayer money, aid for our ally, our friend at war, for a personal political benefit, whether it is OK for the president to sacrifice our national security for his own election. It’s not OK to me, it’s certainly not OK to the American people, and it should not be OK to any of you.”
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.