Politics

Trump impeachment trial: White House team argues Democrats want to remove president from 2020 ballot

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump's defense started at 10 a.m. Saturday after House impeachment managers made their case over three days on why the president should be removed from office.
  • White House counsel Pat Cipollone argued that House managers are asking senators to remove Trump from the presidential election ballot.
  • Trump was impeached in the House last month, becoming just the third American president to be formally charged under the Constitution's ultimate remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors.
President Donald Trump boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington, D.C., United States on January 23, 2020.
Yasin Ozturk | Anadalou Agency | Getty Images

President Donald Trump's legal team defended the president in a brief two hour session on Saturday, after House impeachment managers spent three days arguing why Trump should be removed from office on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The defense, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, follows arguments by House managers that Trump wanted Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in order to help his reelection.

Trump was impeached in the House of the Representatives last month, becoming just the third American president to be formally charged under the Constitution's ultimate remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors.

He is accused of abusing power by pressuring a foreign nation to interfere in the 2020 election by freezing foreign aid, and obstructing Congress during its investigation by calling for the White House to block subpoenas for witness testimony.

Cipollone started off the defense by reading parts of the reconstructed transcript of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine's president, arguing that Trump discussed "burden sharing" with European countries. Trump's defenders have claimed the president was trying to push European allies to contribute more when he froze security assistance to Ukraine.

He also argued that House managers are asking senators to remove Trump from the presidential election ballot.

"They're asking you to remove President Trump from the ballot in an election that's occurring in approximately nine months, they're asking you to tear up all of the ballots across the country on your own initiative — take that decision away from the American people," Cipollone said.

Sekulow argued Trump had no reason to trust the intelligence community. He held up part one of the report on Russian election interference by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, and said that $32 million in taxpayer dollars, 2,800 subpoenas and 500 search warrants were required to conclude that Trump did not conspire with Russians in the 2016 election. 

However, Sekulow failed to mention the second part of the report, which concludes that there were 10 instances where the president could have obstructed justice. 

Under trial rules, the House impeachment managers had 24 hours over three days to make their arguments against Trump. Trump's attorneys were given the same amount of time to make their case for acquittal. The president's defense will continue on Monday.

Senators will then have 16 cumulative hours to ask questions of the House managers and the defense team in writing, after which the Senate will vote on whether to provide documents and witnesses in the trial that Republican and Democratic lawmakers have wanted.

It's unclear if the president's lawyers will use the entirety of the 24 cumulative hours at their disposal to make their case.

Trump on Saturday lashed out at impeachment lead manager Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and encouraged his followers to tune into the impeachment trial.

The president has also complained that his legal defense team's case was scheduled on a Saturday, which he said is called "Death Valley in T.V."

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Phase 2 of Dems' case against Pres. Trump focuses on the Constitution