Charges Against Trump Politically Motivated, Says Defence Team
Urging the Senate to acquit Trump, the defence argued that impeachment would cause serious, lasting damage.
The lawyers representing Donald Trump at his impeachment trial said the abuse of power charges against the US President was "driven by political desires", as they wrapped up their opening arguments.
"The articles of impeachment fall far short of any constitutional standard," White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, who led Trump's defence, said on Tuesday, 28 January.
"What they are asking you to do is to throw out a successful president on the eve of an election, with no basis and in violation of the Constitution," he said.
Urging the Senate to acquit the president of the abuse of power charges, the White House counsel argued that overturning the last election and "massively interfering" with the upcoming one would cause serious and lasting damage to the people of the United States.
“The Senate cannot allow this to happen. It is time for this to end, here and now,” he said in his closing remarks at the Senate floor.
Why is Trump Being Impeached?
The Senate is conducting Trump's trial as the House of Representatives voted last month to impeach him on articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, both related to his dealings with Ukraine.
Trump is accused of cheating in his 2020 reelection bid by pressuring Ukraine, a US ally, to announce probe into Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son Hunter and a conspiracy theory, promoted by Russia, that Kiev helped the Democrats in 2016.
According to the impeachment charges, Trump froze military aid to Ukraine for two months last summer to put pressure on President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly announce the investigations, illicitly drawing a foreign nation into American electoral politics.
The Impeachment Trial
Trump's legal team said he did nothing wrong and the articles of the impeachment are "constitutionally deficient and they fail to state impeachable offences".
The lawyers said the entire process that led to the House of Representatives voting for the president's impeachment was "completely partisan" and was not based on any wrongdoing by Trump or any constitutionally sufficient theories for impeaching the president.
“It was simply a partisan process that was driven by political desires to overturn the last election and to affect the 2020 election,” the legal team said.
Meanwhile, Democrats sought to have the Senate subpoena former national security advisor John Bolton as a witness, following leaks from his forthcoming book that suggested he could supply damning evidence against Trump.
Republicans, however, exuded confidence that they have enough votes to thwart any such move. In the 100-member Senate, Republican Senators have a 53-47 lead over the Democrats.
Bolton reportedly writes that Trump directly withheld security aid to Ukraine for his own political benefit.
During the three days of arguments, Trump's lawyers painted him as a victim of a partisan attempt to undo the 2016 election.
Referring to Bolton's allegations, Trump's personal attorney Jay Sekulow said, "It is not a game of leaks or unsourced manuscripts."
What Happens Next?
With the conclusion of the opening arguments of Trump's legal team, the Senate trial now moves into a two-day period of questioning, during which each party will alternate questioning for up to 16 hours throughout Wednesday and Thursday. The senators will not ask questions themselves but submit them for Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding, to read.
A vote on whether or not to call witnesses in the trial is expected on Friday, 29 January. "No matter how many witnesses you give the Democrats, no matter how much information is given, like the quickly produced Transcripts, it will NEVER be enough for them. They will always scream UNFAIR. The Impeachment Hoax is just another political CON JOB!" Trump tweeted late Tuesday night.
Senator Ted Cruz exuded confidence that Trump will be acquitted of all the charges at the end of the trial.
Praising Trump's lawyers, Senator John Cornyn said the House managers made the mistake of allotting time to each of the managers.
“It was more like they weren’t talking to us, they were talking to the TV cameras and were enjoying their moment in the sun. I thought the President’s lawyers presented a concise and persuasive case,” he said.
"Not only do they want to negate the 2016 election where President Trump was elected, they want to bar him from being on the ballot in 2020. That's what this impeachment trial is all about. That, to me, is a real threat to the American people's right to be heard at the ballot box, particularly here nine months before the election," Cornyn told Fox News.
(Published in arrangement with PTI)
(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)
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