Donald Trump‘s lawyers defended the president against articles of impeachment Saturday morning arguing it’s the Democrats trying to interfere in elections by seeking to remove Trump from the 2020 ballot for doing “absolutely nothing wrong.”
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said Democrats have no case and are doing damage to democracy by trying to undermine the will of American voters.
“For all their talk about election interference, they’re here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history,” Cipollone said in his opening remarks to the Senate. “And we can’t allow that to happen. It would violate our Constitution. It would violate our history.
“It would violate our obligations to the future. And most importantly, it would violate the sacred trust that the American people have placed in you and have placed in them. The American people decide elections. They have one coming up in nine months.”
Saturday was the first chance Trump’s lawyers had to refute the House’s case of impeachment and they came out making a forceful case that there are no grounds to remove Trump from office. Not only are Democrats asking the Senate to undo the results of the 2016 election but to tear up all ballots in the 2020 election with Trump’s name, Cipollone charged.
“They’re asking you to do something that no Senate has ever done and they’re asking you to do it with no evidence. And that’s wrong,” Cipollone said.
Trump’s legal team will have three days and up to 24 hours to launch their defense – the same amount of time as House managers.
The fifth full day of impeachment trial proceedings began around 9:50 a.m. with a procession of the House managers and their aides wheeling the 28,578-page trial record to the Secretary of the Senate. The binders and files transported in carts will serve as the permeant historic record of the evidence against Trump. Democrats believe the record should have been thousands of pages longer if the White House hadn’t thwarted their attempts to get documents related to dealings with Ukraine.
House managers, led by Rep. Adam Schiff, have an upward climb of getting two-thirds of the Senate to convict Trump on the two articles of impeachment, especially when Democrats are in the minority with 47 seats and GOP senators have little political incentive to defy Trump, who remains extremely popular among his Republican base.
Instead of winning them over, Schiff and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., ticked off two key GOP swing voters this week with unforced errors on the Senate floor. Both Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Ala., said they were upset that Nadler accused Republicans of engaging in a “cover-up” for taking a “treacherous vote” to deny new witnesses. Nadler’s language and Cipollone’s lashing back that Nadler should be “embarrassed” prompted Chief Justice John Roberts to admonish both sides.
And Schiff brought up CBS News’ reporting Friday night that GOP senators were warned “your head will be on pike” if you vote against Trump. Republicans groaned at Schiff’s assertion and Collins, visibly agitated, shook her head on the Senate floor and loudly shot back at Schiff: “Not true!”
House impeachment managers spent the last three days arguing that Trump needs to be removed from office because he’s put his own self-interests before that of national security by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and withholding nearly $400 million in security assistance to a country at war with Russia.
In smoothly choreographed presentations that relied on videos from witnesses and slideshows, the seven House Democrats drilled home the narrative that Trump needs to be impeached for abusing his oath of office to solicit foreign election inference solely to boost his 2020 reelection chances and then obstructed Congress from investigating when he got caught.
The Democrats argued that Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors are such an offense to the constitution and a threat to the fairness of the 2020 election that senators must remove him from office immediately, rather than wait for voters to decide at the ballot box in November.
“If he [Trump] is not removed from office, if he is permitted to defy the Congress entirely, categorically, to say that subpoenas from Congress in an impeachment inquiry are nonsense, then we will have lost … all power to hold any president accountable,” Nadler, D-N.Y., said. “This is a determination by President Trump that he wants to be all-powerful. He does not have to respect the Congress. He does not have to respect the representatives of the people. Only his will goes. He is a dictator. This must not stand and that is another reason he must be removed from office.”
With little hope of winning a conviction in the GOP-controlled Senate, Democrats have turned their attention to forcing a vote on calling new witnesses and obtaining White House documents, which would take the support of just 51 senators–or four GOP defections.
Another vote on witnesses is expected next week after Trump’s defense team finishes its arguments and senators complete 16 hours of questioning to both sides.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.