Trump Team to Start Defense Saturday 01/25 09:35
Democratic House prosecutors made an expansive case Thursday at Donald
Trump's impeachment trial that he abused power like no other president in
history, swept up by a "completely bogus" Ukraine theory pushed by attorney
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The floor of the Senate now belongs to President Donald
Trump's lawyers as they push the Republican-led chamber for his impeachment
acquittal on charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress.
The president's lawyers planned to begin their arguments Saturday in the
impeachment trial and were expected to insist that he did nothing wrong when he
asked Ukraine's leader to investigate one of Trump's political rivals, former
Vice President Joe Biden, who's now seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential
Trump's legal team has foreshadowed an aggressive, wide-ranging defense that
will assert an expansive view of presidential powers. His lawyers intend to
portray Trump as besieged by political opponents determined to undo the results
of the 2016 election that put him in the Oval Office and to ensure his defeat
this November. The lawyers also want to put Biden on the defensive as he
campaigns for a first-place finish in the leadoff Iowa caucuses next month.
"They put their case forward. It's our time next," said one of Trump's
lawyers. Jay Sekulow.
The opening of the defense's case comes after a three-day presentation by
House Democrats. As they wrapped up on Friday, they asserted that Trump will
persist in abusing his power and endangering American democracy unless Congress
intervened to remove him before the 2020 election. They implored Republicans to
allow new testimony to be heard before senators render a final verdict.
"Give America a fair trial," said California Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead
Democratic impeachment manager. "She's worth it."
Schiff closed Democrats' case after methodical and impassioned arguments
detailing charges that Trump abused power by asking Ukraine for politically
motivated probes of political rivals, then obstructed Congress' investigation
into the matter. Trump's lawyers contend Trump was within his rights as
president when he asked Ukraine for the investigation.
House managers made the procession across the Capitol before the trial
resumed Saturday to deliver the 28,578 record of their impeachment case to the
The the seven Democratic prosecutors peppered their arguments with video
clips, email correspondence and lessons in American history. Republicans who
found the presentation tedious and redundant can expect differences in tone and
style from Trump's lawyers, who planned to attack the impeachment as much on
political as legal grounds.
"It's really trying to remove the president from the ballot in 2020. They
don't trust the American people to make a decision," Sekulow said.
Defense lawyers were expected to press the argument that Trump was a victim
not only of Democratic outrage but also of overzealous agents and prosecutors.
The lawyers probably will cite mistakes made by the FBI in its surveillance of
a former Trump campaign aide in the now-concluded Russia investigation. In
response to allegations that he invited foreign interference, they already have
argued that it was no different than Hillary Clinton's campaign's use of a
former British spy to gather opposition research on Trump in 2016.
Acquittal was likely, given that Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the
Senate, and a two-thirds vote would be required for conviction.
Trump, with his eyes on the audience beyond the Senate chamber, bemoaned the
trial schedule in a tweet, saying it "looks like my lawyers will be forced to
start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V."
Arguments were scheduled for just a few hours Saturday in what defense
lawyers called a sneak preview. They'll continue Monday.
The president is being tried in the Senate after the House impeached him
last month on charges he abused his office by asking Ukraine for the probes at
the same time the administration withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in
military aid. The second article of impeachment against Trump accuses him of
obstructing Congress by refusing to turn over documents or allow officials to
testify in the House probe.
The Senate is heading next week toward a pivotal vote on Democratic demands
for testimony from top Trump aides, including acting chief of staff Mick
Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, who refused to
appear before the House. It would take four Republican senators to join the
Democratic minority to seek witnesses, and so far the numbers appear lacking.
"This needs to end," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a Trump confidant. He
said he doesn't want to hear from Bolton or from Joe Biden or his son Hunter.
The younger Biden who served on a Ukraine gas company's board.
Democrats on Friday tried to preempt anticipated arguments from Trump's
lawyers, attacking lines of defense as "laughable."
Those include that Trump had a legitimate basis to be concerned about
potential corruption in Ukraine and to pause military aid to the country. One
of the president's lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, was expected to argue that an
impeachable offense requires criminal-like conduct, even though many legal
scholars say that's not true.
With Chief Justice John Roberts presiding, the final day of the Democratic
arguments opened with Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, a former Army ranger, saying
the only reason Trump eventually released his hold on the aid Ukraine
desperately relied on to counter Russian aggression was because he had "gotten
"The scheme was unraveling," Crow said. The money for Ukraine was put on
hold after Trump's July 25 call to Ukraine that launched the impeachment probe,
and released Sept. 11 once Congress intervened.
Throughout the three days, Democrats balanced the legal and history lessons
with plainspoken language about what they see as at stake: the security of U.S.
elections, America's place in the world and checks on presidential power. The
Democrats argued that Trump's motives were apparent, that he abused power like
no other president in history, swept up by a "completely bogus" Ukraine theory
pushed by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
"Let me tell you something. If right doesn't matter, it doesn't matter how
good the Constitution is," Schiff said in an emotional plea to a pin-drop-quiet
room. "If you find him guilty you must find that he should be removed. Because
They argued that Trump's abuse was for his own personal political benefit
ahead of the 2020 election, even as administration officials were warning off
the theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016
The Democrats' challenge was clear as they tried to convince not just
senators but an American public divided over the Republican president in an
A poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research
showed the public slightly more likely to say the Senate should convict and
remove Trump from office than to say it should not, 45% to 40%. But a sizable
percentage, 14%, said they didn't know enough to have an opinion.
One issue with wide agreement: Trump should allow top aides to appear as
witnesses at the trial. About 7 in 10 respondents said so, including majorities
of Republicans and Democrats, according to the poll.
After both sides have concluded their arguments next week, senators will
face the question of whether to call witnesses to testify. But that issue seems
all but settled. Republicans rejected Democratic efforts to get Trump aides,
including Bolton and Mulvaney, to testify in back-to-back votes earlier this
As for the Ukraine connections, evidence has shown that Trump, with
Giuliani, pursued investigations of the Bidens and sought the investigation of
the debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.