During three days of Democrat offensive, President Donald Trump’s defense team now laid out their arguments. The Democrats, they said, are trying to commit their own brand of election interference by removing Trump from office.
The Senate impeachment trial of President Trump opened on Tuesday, and the Democrats’ chosen team of prosecutors, or impeachment managers, spent much of this week reiterating their long-standing argument: Trump abused his office by withholding military aid for Ukraine to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky into reopening a corruption investigation into the business activities of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.
Trump’s defense team hit back on Saturday, arguing that the charges against Trump were hastily cobbled together by a party eager for vengeance after losing the 2016 election, and pointing out that none of the witnesses called during the House inquiry revealed direct evidence of a crime.
“They’re here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history, ”White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said of the Democrats. “And we can’t allow that to happen.”
@WhiteHouse Counsel Pat Cipollone →
Democrats “here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history, & 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”
“They’re asking you to tear up all the ballots across this country on their own initiative,” he added. “Talk about abuse of power. This is a waste of time and money.”
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow claimed that the Democrats are trying to finish, with impeachment, what they’d started with the ‘Russiagate’ investigation: to “relitigate” the Mueller report and remove Trump from office, whatever the cost.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) and Jerry Nadler (D-New York) strayed from their original arguments during the week to make this point exactly. Schiff – who led the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry last year – claimed on Wednesday that impeachment is the only way to stop a Trump victory later this year.
“The president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won,” he said. As well as implying that Trump would rig the 2020 election, Schiff suggested on Friday that Trump’s apparent misbehavior will continue unless the Senate votes to remove him from office.
“He is who he is,” Schiff told Senators. “You know it’s not going to stop. … It’s not going to stop unless the Congress does something about it.”
Jerry Nadler, who stated last year that impeachment must be a “bipartisan” endeavor, went further on Friday, calling Trump an “outlaw” and a “dictator” who wants to be “all powerful” and therefore “must be removed from office.”
In a trial where the outcome is all but certain – Republicans hold 53 Senate seats to the Democrats’ 47, making the two-thirds majority needed to oust Trump next to impossible to achieve – Trump’s defense team spent just two hours on Saturday outlining their case, compared to the 24 hours spent by the prosecution in the preceding days.
As the hearings dragged on, Republican Senators made it known that they considered the whole affair a waste of time. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) passed the time with crossword puzzles, telling reporters that “hearing the same thing over and over again isn’t all that exciting.” Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) handed out fidget spinners to his GOP colleagues, several of whom played with the gadgets during the prosecution’s arguments.
Our wonderful sketch artist captured Mr. Burr and his fidget spinner on the Senate floor, as referenced in this story
Outside political circles, the spectacle of impeachment seemed lost on the general public. The New York Post reported that the drama played out to a mostly-empty spectator gallery. The proceedings haven’t put a dent in Trump’s approval ratings either. Rasmussen’s daily poll showed the president’s approval hover between 47 and 50 percent during the week, while a Washington Post survey recorded his approval at 44 percent, the best result in their poll of his presidency to date.