Attorneys for President Trump opened their defense in his Senate impeachment trial Saturday morning by charging that the case presented by House Democrats was full of “bluster and innuendo,” and that “devastating evidence” would lead to the inevitable conclusion that the two articles of impeachment now being considered have no merit.
“The president did absolutely nothing wrong,” said White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is leading Trump’s defense. That was a recurring theme of the session, which followed three days of presentations by House Democratic impeachment managers, and took up just two hours of the eight that Senate rules allowed. The trial will resume Monday at 1 p.m.
The other key point, made by Cipollone and others, was that Trump acted “in our national interest” by withholding $250 million in military aid from Ukraine for several months in the spring and summer of 2019.
In marked contrast to the sometimes impassioned rhetoric of the lead impeachment manager, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the defense presentation was notably low key, devoting considerable time to the seemingly tangential issue of how much European allies contributed to Ukraine’s defense and whether Trump was genuinely concerned about the relative dearth of those contributions.
The Democratic case is that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine to pressure new Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to announce (though not actually conduct) two investigations meant to help his personal political situation: one into purported Ukrainian efforts to help Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and another into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who was a member of the board of directors of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company.
The previous evening, members of the president’s legal team told reporters on a conference call that the Biden name would come up frequently in their arguments. But that presumably will be put off until subsequent se