Politics

Trump impeachment trial: Defense to finish its argument for acquitting the president

Share
Key Points
  • President Trump's legal team is expected to make final arguments for acquittal on Tuesday, hammering home a defense that has so far attempted to discredit the evidence gathered by House Democrats in their initial probe.
  • When the trial convenes at 1 p.m., the president's legal team is expected to try to persuade senators that there is no need to call further witnesses or produce additional documents.
  • The plea comes after a bombshell report that said Trump told former national security advisor John Bolton that he wanted to withhold military aid to Ukraine until the country helped with investigations into political rivals.
VIDEO2:0202:02
Capitol Hill contends with bombshell revelations from John Bolton's new book amid impeachment trial

President Donald Trump's legal team is expected to make final arguments for acquittal on Tuesday, hammering home a defense that has so far attempted to discredit the evidence gathered by House Democrats in their initial probe.

When the trial convenes at 1 p.m., the president's legal team is expected to try to persuade senators that there is no need to call further witnesses or produce additional documents. The team's plea comes after a bombshell report that said Trump told former national security advisor John Bolton that he wanted to withhold military aid to Ukraine until the country helped with investigations into political rivals including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

The defense, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow, largely ignored the news about Bolton in arguments Monday. The defense team also sought to undermine the arguments presented last week by the House impeachment managers, while making the historical case for Trump's acquittal and rationalizing his dealings with Ukraine. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

Nonetheless, calls for witnesses increased. Moderate Republicans like Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins expressed more openness to calling for testimony. The GOP holds a 53-47 majority in the Senate. Democrats need four Republicans to join with them in a vote in order to call new witnesses. But even if they are able to secure witnesses, it remains unlikely that the Senate will vote to convict and remove the president from office.

Democrats intensified their push for witnesses, as well. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said in an interview with MSNBC before the Tuesday proceedings that he doesn't think the president's team can "sufficiently argue" the case against witnesses and that the Republican senators must call them up.

"My point in the Senate is that yes, this is going to require moral courage, and that's difficult to muster, particularly when that courage is in the form of disagreeing with your own party," he said.

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly, who had a tumultuous tenure in the White House, added some fuel to the fire, saying that he supports calling witnesses in his impeachment trial. Kelly also said he believes Bolton.

"If John Bolton says that in the book I believe John Bolton," he said Monday in Florida.

Read more: Trump impeachment trial: Defense ignores Bolton bombshell about Ukraine aid for investigations

Trump downplayed the news about Bolton in two tweets on Monday. In the first he said that he "NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats."

Trump tweet

Later Monday morning, Trump falsely said that the House "never even asked John Bolton to testify." House investigators asked Bolton to testify during their impeachment probe, but Bolton declined. The Trump administration instructed its staff not to comply with the probe.

Trump tweet 2

Once the defense finishes arguments, senators will have 16 hours to question both the legal team and the House managers.

Following questions, the Senate will vote on whether to produce documents and witnesses in the trial, per Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's rules. Both Republican and Democrats have expressed interest in calling up witnesses to testify.