Trump Team, House Trade Sharp Views 01/19 08:43
President Donald Trump's legal team issued a fiery response Saturday ahead
of opening arguments in his impeachment trial, while House Democrats laid out
their case in forceful fashion, saying the president betrayed public trust with
behavior that was the "worst nightmare" of the founding fathers.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump's legal team issued a fiery
response Saturday ahead of opening arguments in his impeachment trial, while
House Democrats laid out their case in forceful fashion, saying the president
betrayed public trust with behavior that was the "worst nightmare" of the
The dueling filings previewed arguments both sides intend to make once
Trump's impeachment trial begins in earnest Tuesday in the Senate. Their
challenge will be to make a case that appeals to the 100 senators who will
render the verdict and for an American public bracing for a presidential
election in 10 months.
"President Donald J. Trump used his official powers to pressure a foreign
government to interfere in a United States election for his personal political
gain," the House prosecutors wrote, "and then attempted to cover up his scheme
by obstructing Congress's investigation into his misconduct."
Trump's legal team, responding to the Senate's official summons for the
trial, said the president "categorically and unequivocally" denies the charges
of abuse and obstruction against him.
"This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016
election and interfere with the 2020 election, now just months away," the
president's filing states.
Stripped of legalese and structured in plain English, the documents
underscored the extent to which the impeachment proceedings are a political
rather than conventional legal process.
They are the first of several filings expected in coming days as senators
prepare to take their seats for the rare impeachment court.
Senators swore an oath to do "impartial justice"' as the chamber convenes to
consider the two articles of impeachment approved by the House last month as
Trump's presidency and legacy hangs in balance.
One Republican whose votes are closely watched, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of
Alaska, acknowledged Saturday the political pressure bearing on them.
"I'm going to take my constitutional obligations very, very seriously," she
told reporters from Anchorage on a call.
The House's 111-page brief outlined the prosecutors' narrative, starting
from Trump's phone call with Ukraine and relying on the private and public
testimony of a dozen witnesses -- ambassadors and national security officials
at high levels of government -- who raised concerns about the president's
The House managers wrote: "The only remaining question is whether the
members of the Senate will accept and carry out the responsibility placed on
them by the Framers of our Constitution and their constitutional Oaths."
The Trump team called the two articles of impeachment "a dangerous attack on
the right of the American people to freely choose their president."
Trump's team encouraged lawmakers to reject "poisonous partisanship" and
"vindicate the will of the American people" by rejecting both articles of
impeachment approved by the House.
The Senate is still debating the ground rules of the trial, particularly the
question of whether there will be new witnesses as fresh evidence emerges over
Trump's Ukraine actions that led to impeachment.
New information from Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy
Giuliani, is being incorporated in the House case. At the same time, Senate
Democrats want to call John Bolton, the former national security adviser, among
other potential eyewitnesses, after the White House blocked officials from
appearing in the House.
With Republicans controlling the Senate 53-47, they can set the trial rules
--- or any four Republicans could join with Democrats to change course.
Murkowski told reporters she wants to hear both sides of the case before
deciding whether to call for new witnesses and testimony.
"I don't know what more we need until I've been given the base case,"
The House's impeachment managers are working through the weekend and will be
at the Capitol midday Sunday to prep the case.
Trump's answer to the summons was the first salvo in what will be several
rounds of opening arguments. Trump will file a more detailed legal brief on
Monday, and the House will be able to respond to the Trump filing on Tuesday.
Trump's team led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal
lawyer Jay Sekulow, is challenging the impeachment on both procedural and
constitutional grounds, claiming Trump has been mistreated by House Democrats
and that he did nothing wrong.
The filings came a day after Trump finalized his legal team, adding Ken
Starr, the former independent counsel whose investigation into President Bill
Clinton led to his impeachment, and Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor
emeritus who intends to make constitutional arguments.
White House attorneys and Trump's outside legal team have been debating just
how political Monday's legal brief laying out the contours of Trump's defense
Some in the administration have echoed warnings from Senate Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that the pleadings must be sensitive to the Senate's
more staid traditions and leave some of the sharper rhetoric exhibited during
the House proceedings to Twitter and cable news.
One Democratic aide said Saturday that Trump's initial filing read more like
a Trump campaign fundraising email than a legal document.
People close to the Trump legal team said Cipollone would deliver the
president's opening argument before the Senate and that Sekulow would follow.
Starr and Dershowitz would have "discrete functions" on the legal team,
according to those close to the legal team, who were not authorized to discuss
the strategy by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
At issue in the impeachment case are allegations that Trump asked Ukraine to
announce an investigation of Democratic political rival Joe Biden at the same
time the White House withheld hundreds of nearly $400 million in aid from the
former Soviet republic as it faces a hostile Russia at its border.
The Government Accountability Office said last week the administration
violated federal law by withholding the funds to Ukraine. The money was later
released after Congress complained.
The House brief said, "President Trump's misconduct presents a danger to our
democratic processes, our national security, and our commitment to the rule of
law. He must be removed from office.
Trump's attorneys argue that the articles of impeachment are
unconstitutional in and of themselves and invalid because they don't allege a
Under the Constitution impeachment is a political, not a criminal process,
and the president can be removed from office if found guilty of whatever
lawmakers consider "high crimes and misdemeanors."