Impeachment trial: Trump’s lawyers lay out their defense

Author: CBS News
Published: Updated:
FILE: The Capitol and Senate are seen in Washington, early Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite/FILE)
FILE: The Capitol and Senate are seen in Washington, early Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite/FILE)

President Trump’s lawyers had their first chance to defend the president on Saturday after three days of Democrats’ opening arguments. In opening arguments, Mr. Trump’s attorneys gave what appeared to be a two-hour preview of what is expected to be a vigorous defense.

“We don’t believe that they have come anywhere close to meeting their burden for what they’re asking you to do,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone said about the House impeachment managers’ opening arguments this week.

Mr. Trump’s attorneys continued to use the defense that Democrats are trying to overturn the 2016 election. Cipollone also continued to reference the “transcript” of the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, although no verbatim transcript has been released, just a summary.

Mr. Trump’s attorneys will continue their arguments on Monday. The question about whether witnesses will be called has not yet been answered.


Impeachment trial concludes for the day shortly after noon

12:26 p.m.: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell adjourned the Senate at noon, with the White House legal team using barely two hours to make their opening arguments.

Cipollone begins final remarks of the day

12:02 p.m.: White House Counsel Pat Cipollone indicated the president’s legal team was close to concluding their arguments for the day.

“Just a few more minutes from us today,” Cipollone said when he began his remarks shortly before noon.

Cipollone repeated his criticisms of the House impeachment managers.

“They come in here today and they basically said let’s cancel an election over a meeting with the Ukraine,” Cipollone said, using an incorrect term for Ukraine.

Sekulow asks senators to put themselves in Trump’s shoes

11:39 a.m.: Sekulow took the podium after Cipollone, asking senators to put themselves in the shoes of a president who has been questioned by those with power from the beginning of his presidency.

Sekulow harkened back to when special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to be special counsel in the case investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. The president’s personal attorney claimed House managers are trying to relitigate that case.

Sekulow, picking select parts of Mueller’s conclusions, read Mueller’s conclusion that the investigation did not find enough evidence to establish that the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the election.

Leaving room to doubt the American intelligence community, Sekulow said the president was criticized for not “blindly” trusting those intelligence agencies.

He also argued the president is being chastised for having a different foreign policy approach to Ukraine and other nations. Sekulow insisted the president is entitled to his own approach to foreign policy, mischaracterizing House managers’ argument that the president is entitled to his own philosophy on foreign policy but not when he’s doing so for his personal gain.

“Disagreeing with the president’s decision on foreign policy matters or whose advice he’s going to take is in no way an impeachable offense,” Sekulow said.

Graham says he will not vote to subpoena Joe and Hunter Biden

11:04 a.m.: Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal supporters in the Senate, told reporters Saturday that he would not vote to subpoena former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, to testify in the impeachment trial.

“I don’t want to call Hunter and Joe Biden on this floor, but somebody needs to look at the Biden connections in the Ukraine,” Graham said, advocating for appointing a special counsel. Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens in his July 25 call.

Graham also indicated that he would not vote to subpoena any other witnesses in the trial.

“I’m convinced now more than ever, the best thing for us to do is judge the articles of impeachment based on the evidence gathered for all of us,” Graham said.

Cipollone says House managers are trying to “tear up” the November ballot

In this image from video, White House counsel Pat Cipollone speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

10:29 a.m.: White House counsel Pat Cipollone took the podium first and said the president’s team will begin by going through the record House Democrats created with their own investigation.

“We don’t believe that they have come anywhere close to meeting their burden for what they’re asking you to do,” Cipollone said of the Democrats’ presentation.

The Democrats’ goal should be to give senators all of the facts, Cipollone said, even as the Trump administration has blocked key records and witnesses.

Cipollone said House Democrats are not only asking senators to overturn the results of the 2016 election, but to “tear up all of the ballots across this country” and take that decision away from the American people.

“They’re asking you to do something that no Senate has ever done, and they’re asking you to do that with no evidence, and that’s wrong,” Cipollone said.

Cipollone then referenced the July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, which he called the key piece of evidence in the trial. The White House counsel pointed out that Mr. Trump did reference burden sharing for Ukraine’s defense, which House managers didn’t focus on in their testimony.

Cipollone continued to reference the summary of the July 25 call as a “transcript,” even though the call record itself notes it isn’t a verbatim transcript. No word-for-word transcript has been provided to the Congress.

Trump tweets insults at Democrats

10:25 a.m.: Just about 20 minutes before his lawyers were expected to start their opening arguments Saturday in the trial, Mr. Trump tweeted insults at Democrats.

“Our case against lyin’, cheatin’, liddle’ Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nervous Nancy Pelosi, their leader, dumb as a rock AOC, & the entire Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrat Party, starts today at 10:00 A.M. on ⁦‪@FoxNews⁩⁦‪@OANN⁩ or Fake News ⁦‪@CNN⁩ or Fake News MSDNC!” Mr. Trump tweeted at 9:37 a.m.

Earlier this week, Mr. Trump complained about the timing of his lawyers’ arguments, calling Saturday “the Death Valley of T.V.”

Impeachment managers to deliver trial record to Senate ahead of trial

House impeachment managers will deliver the trial record to the Senate in a procession at 9:30 a.m. As with the delivery of the impeachment articles to the Senate, the managers will start on the House side of the Capitol and will walk over to the Senate chamber.

A Democratic staffer working on the impeachment trial told reporters that this filing is a 28,578-page trial record with the secretary of the Senate for the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump, providing a permanent account of the evidence gathered. This record does not include thousands of related documents and testimony which Democrats have sought to subpoena from the administration.

Trump tells Fox News that “my people have to be honest”

In an interview Friday that aired on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle,” Mr. Trump said he wants his team to “be honest.”

“What my people have to do is just be honest, just tell the truth,” Trump told Raymond Arroyo at the March for Life rally in Washington. “They’ve been testifying, the Democrats, they’ve been telling so many lies, so many fabrications, so much exaggeration. And this is not impeachable.”

But Mr. Trump called the trial a “fraud.”

“I don’t even know how to determine this, but they say it’s not a crime, everybody says that,” Trump said. “[Democrats] say, ‘But it doesn’t have to be a crime.’ Well, maybe it doesn’t have to be a crime, but can you imagine being impeached and you didn’t commit a crime?”

Sanders says senators are staying awake “in most cases”

In an interview with “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell, Senator Bernie Sanders said “it’s unusual” for a senator to be seated for “nine hours.”

O’Donnell: We don’t get to see your colleagues during the trial. The cameras are not pointed at the senators. Take us inside. I mean, what is everybody doing?

Sanders: I think it’s unusual for a senator, especially somebody who’s running for president (I think we have four or five of those on the floor right now) to be seated for nine hours. It’s just not the way the Senate usually works. So I think what people are trying to do is to listen as intently as they can.

O’Donnell: Are the senators staying awake?

Sanders: In most cases.

Senators use fidget spinners and stress balls to relieve boredom during Trump impeachment trial

After sitting through many hours of the impeachment trial of President Trump, bored Republican senators figured out a new way to entertain themselves. Several have been spotted passing the time playing with fidget spinners while Democratic House managers gave their opening statements.

The Associated Press reported that Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, passed around the fidget spinners and stress balls to several of his colleagues ahead of Thursday’s proceedings.

Photos and videos are restricted during the trial in the Senate Chamber, but sketch artist Bill Hennessy captured images of the fidget spinners.

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