23/09/2020

President Trump’s legal team on Sunday previewed what will be the meat of their forthcoming defense this week by saying that even if all the allegations Democrats laid out last week were true, they would still fall short of “impeachable” offenses under the U.…

President Trump’s legal team on Sunday previewed what will be the meat of their forthcoming defense this week by saying that even if all the allegations Democrats laid out last week were true, they would still fall short of “impeachable” offenses under the U.S. Constitution.
After House Democrats got their chance to make the case against Mr. Trump last week, the focus now turns to the defense as Republicans eye an end to a Senate impeachment trial that could see a vote to acquit the president by the end of the week.
“Even if the factual allegations are true — which are highly disputed and which the defense team will show contrary evidence — but even if true, they did not allege impeachable offenses,” Trump defense attorney Alan Dershowitz said on “Fox News Sunday.” “So there can’t be a constitutionally authorized impeachment.”
Mr. Trump is on trial after the House voted last month on two articles of impeachment: abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to open up politically beneficial investigations, including into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, and obstruction of Congress for not cooperating with the House impeachment inquiry.
But Mr. Dershowitz said abuse of power and obstruction charges are “vague, open-ended.”
“The conduct has to be criminal in nature — it can’t be abuse of power; it can’t be obstruction of Congress,” he said. “Those are precisely the arguments that the framers rejected.”
Mr. Trump’s team also is calling into question the credibility of Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the House Democrats’ lead impeachment manager who figures to be a key element of the defense strategy.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham on Sunday said on Fox News that it appears that Mr. Schiff is having a “mental issue” and he’s obsessed with taking down the president.
Several Republican senators also have chided Mr. Schiff for citing a CBS News report in his opening arguments last week that said key senators were warned by a Trump confidant that, if they voted against the president, their “head will be on a pike.”
Mr. Schiff, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Sunday that he didn’t think it was anything personal to refer to the story.
“I made the argument that it’s going to require moral courage to stand up to this president, and this is a wrathful and vindictive president. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” the California Democrat said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Mr. Schiff also said a Sunday morning tweet from the president was intended to be a “threat” directed at him personally.
“Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man. He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, another House impeachment manager, said in response that Mr. Trump should “get a grip” and act more presidential.
But she also said she wasn’t sure if Mr. Schiff erred in repeating the CBS report.
The “head will be on a pike” comment irked key GOP senators such as Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who Democrats are eyeing as potential “yes” votes for additional witnesses in the trial.
“But hopefully, the senators are not going to be letting a CBS report, which Adam himself didn’t know if that was accurate, in making a decision for the country in whether the president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors,” Ms. Lofgren, California Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I can’t believe that the president’s misbehavior would be ignored because of something like that,” she said.
As he helped kick off Mr. Trump’s defense on Saturday, Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin also has referred to a transcript being withheld by Mr. Schiff’s committee that could be helpful to the president’s defense.
The transcript is supposedly related to a whistleblower who raised concerns last year to the intelligence community’s inspector general about the president’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Mr. Trump talked about investigating the former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.
“We don’t know what he was asked and what he believed about the whistleblower,” Mr. Philbin said of the inspector general. “You would think before going forward with an impeachment proceeding against the president of the United States, you would want to find something out about the [complainant] that started all of it.”
Mr. Philbin suggested the reason some of the information is being withheld is because Mr. Schiff first denied having contact with the whistleblower before it was later revealed that his staff did communicate with the whistleblower, who is said to be a CIA analyst assigned to the White House.
Mr. Schiff countered by saying Mr. Trump’s team is trying to out and “punish” the whistleblower.
“The advice he or she — the whistleblower — got was you should talk to a lawyer and you should talk to the inspector general,” the congressman said.
The House impeachment managers have argued that they had “overwhelming evidence” of wrongdoing by Mr. Trump, including using Oval Office power to strong-arm Ukraine into smearing Mr. Biden.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone promised Saturday that the defense team would present the exculpatory evidence left out by House impeachment managers.
“They are asking you to tear up all the ballots across this county,” he said. “I don’t think they spend one minute talking about the consequences of that for our country.”
“Ask yourself,” he told the senators who will decide whether to remove Mr. Trump from office, “why am I just hearing about this now after 24 hours of their presenting their case?”
Depending on how long the defense team spends on their arguments and whether there are votes to hear witnesses, the Senate could vote to acquit the president by the end of the week.
After the president’s team finishes its arguments, which are expected to continue Monday, the senators will have 16 hours to submit questions to both sides before debating the issues of more evidence and potential witnesses.
The ultimate outcome is all but assured at this point. It takes a two-thirds majority in the Senate, or 67 votes, to convict and remove Mr. Trump from office. That means at least 20 GOP senators would have to break ranks and vote to convict.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham on Sunday predicted Mr. Trump will be acquitted because the impeachment has been a “railroad job” by the House. He said the president will emerge stronger politically than he where he was after special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference.
“He is now the prohibitive favorite, in my view, to get re-elected,” Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican, said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” “And this is the boomerang party. Every time they go after Trump, it hurts them. They throw rocks at Trump, they get hit.”
Mr. Mueller said in his report last year that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to conclusively prove that Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. But he also said that based on the evidence he saw, he couldn’t exonerate Mr. Trump of obstruction of justice for trying to hamper the Russia probe.
Other Republicans are saying it’s time to move on.
Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, said Sunday that he doesn’t plan to vote to call witnesses and that there’s no sense in prolonging the case.
“The House Democrats have not proven their case against Donald Trump — we don’t need to prolong this matter,” Mr. Coton said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I don’t want to forecast the way other senators may vote, but I would just say the last five days have kind of been a microcosm of the last five months.”
Democrats have pointed to a newly disclosed recording of Mr. Trump apparently talking about firing former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as an example of the dangers of moving too quickly on the Senate trial.
“Get rid of her!” the voice reported to be Mr. Trump’s says. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”
The audio purportedly was taped during a dinner on April 30, 2018, at the Trump International Hotel that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both associates of Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani.
Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman worked with Mr. Giuliani in probing corruption in the Ukraine and a potential nexus to the Bidens.
Hunter Biden had held a lucrative position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was running point on Obama administration policy for the region.
Ms. Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post in early 2019, was viewed as an impediment to Mr. Giuliani’s efforts.
“There’s a lot that’s still out there,” Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, another House impeachment manager, said on “Face the Nation.” “The American people deserve the full picture, and that’s why we’re going to continue to push for additional evidence.”
Alex Swoyer, S.A. Miller and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.
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