President Donald Trump’s legal team asserted Monday that he did ‘absolutely nothing wrong,’ calling the impeachment case against him ‘flimsy’ and a ‘dangerous perversion of the Constitution.’ The lawyers decried the impeachment process as rigged and insisted that abuse of power was not a crime.
The brief from Trump’s lawyers, filed before arguments expected this week in the Senate impeachment trial, offered the most detailed glimpse of the lines of defense they intend to use against Democratic efforts to convict the president and oust him from office over his dealings with Ukraine.
It is meant as a counter to a filing two days ago from House Democrats that summarized weeks of testimony from more than a dozen witnesses in laying out the impeachment case.
The 110-page filing from the White House shifted the tone toward a more legal response. It still hinged on Trump´s assertion he did nothing wrong and did not commit a crime – even though impeachment does not depend on a material violation of law but rather on the more vague definition of ‘other high crimes and misdemeanors’ as established in the Constitution.
‘It is a constitutional travesty,’ the lawyers wrote.
The document says the two articles of impeachment brought against the president – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – don’t amount to impeachment offenses. It asserts that the impeachment inquiry, centered on Trump’s request that Ukraine’s president open an investigation into Democratic rival Joe Biden, was never about finding the truth.
‘Instead, House Democrats were determined from the outset to find some way – any way – to corrupt the extraordinary power of impeachment for use as a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election,’ Trump’s legal team wrote. ‘All of that is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn.’
‘The Senate should speedily reject these deficient articles of impeachment and acquit the president,’ according to a summary.
Trump’s team continues to attack the ‘abuse of power’ articles voted through the House, which lawyer Alan Dershowitz has argued does not constitute a crime.
‘House Democrats’ newly-invented ‘abuse of power’ theory collapses at the threshold because it fails to allege any violation of law whatsoever,’ they write.
The prosecution team of House managers was expected to spend another day on Capitol Hill preparing for the trial, which will be under heavy security. Before the filing, House prosecutors arrived on Capitol Hill to tour the Senate chamber.
Earlier Monday, Trump claimed Democrats ‘didn’t want’ fired national security advisor John Bolton to testify. Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway told Fox news the president ‘may exert executive privilege’ to prevent Bolton from testifying before the Senate. ‘The House should have called John Bolton if they were so anxious to hear from them,’ she said.
“Very little, although the president may exert executive privilege.
The impeachment case accuses Trump of abusing power by withholding military aid from Ukraine at the same time that the president was seeking an investigation into Biden, and of obstructing Congress by instructing aides to not participate. But Trump’s team contended Monday that even if Trump were to have abused his power in withholding the Ukraine military assistance, it would not be impeachable, because it did not violate a specific criminal statute.
Opening arguments are expected within days following a debate Tuesday over rules, including about whether witnesses are to be called in the trial.
Trump signaled his opposition to witnesses, tweeting Monday: ‘They didn´t want John Bolton and others in the House. They were in too much of a rush. Now they want them all in the Senate. Not supposed to be that way!’
That’s a reference to former national security adviser John Bolton, who was not subpoenaed by the House in its impeachment inquiry but has said he is willing to testify in the Senate if he is subpoenaed.
The White House brief argues that the articles of impeachment passed by the House are ‘structurally deficient’ because they charge multiple acts, creating ‘a menu of options’ as possible grounds for conviction.
The Trump team claims that the Constitution requires that senators agree ‘on the specific basis for conviction’ and that there is no way to ensure that the senators agree on which acts are worthy of removal.
The Trump lawyers accused Democrats of diluting the standards for impeachment, an argument that echoed the case made Sunday by one of Trump’s attorneys, Alan Dershowitz, who contended in talk shows that impeachable offenses must be ‘criminal-like conduct.’
That assertion has been rejected by scholars, and Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called it an ‘absurdist position.’
Earlier Monday, President Trump took up his own impeachment defense, complaining that he got ‘ZERO’ fairness during a House inquiry and claiming Democrats ‘didn’t want’ security advisor John Bolton as a witness.
Trump made his case Monday on the eve of the debut of arguments in his Senate impeachment trial – amid a still unresolved debate and speculation about whether a rump group of Republicans will join Democrats to push for witnesses.
Bolton, Trump’s fired national security advisor, has become a key figure, following testimony by other witnesses that he called the Ukraine policy being carried out by Rudy Giuliani, the White House acting chief of staff, and a U.S. ambassador a ‘drug deal.’
‘They didn’t want John Bolton and others in the House. They were in too much of a rush. Now they want them all in the Senate. Not supposed to be that way!’ Trump tweeted Monday.
He also went after Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, whose caucus and Senate colleagues have been sworn in to impartially weigh evidence against Trump.
‘Cryin’ Chuck Schumer is now asking for “fairness”, when he and the Democrat House members worked together to make sure I got ZERO fairness in the House. So, what else is new?’ Trump wrote.
The House invited Bolton to testify in its impeachment inquiry, but the fired national security advisor then joined an effort to seek a ruling from a federal judge about whether he could appear. Bolton’s lawyer asked a judge to rule on whether his client should comply with the request from Congress or a White House instruction for witnesses not to appear.
Early this year, Bolton said through his lawyer that he was willing to appear in the Senate trial. Amid the standoff, the House did not subpoena Bolton, although it heard from multiple officials who spoke of his role – including security advisor Fiona Hill, who testified about his ‘drug deal’ comment.
‘I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,’ Hill said Bolton told her. Hill also said Bolton consider Giuliani, who was working to dig up information on the Bidens in Ukraine, a ‘hand grenade.’
Schumer said Sunday he would force a vote on allowing witnesses as the Senate impeachment trial gets underway Tuesday.
‘We have the right to do it, We are going to do it and we are going to do it at the beginning on Tuesday if leader [Sen. Mitch] McConnell doesn’t call for these witnesses in his proposal,’ he said.
‘If they say well let’s wait and hear the arguments we’ll want a vote after they hear the arguments as well and we will do everything we can to force votes again,’ he said. He would need to assemble 51 votes – which would include four Republicans – to prevail.
House Intelligence Chair Rep. Adam Schiff said of Bolton this year, after the House had already voted out two impeachment articles: ‘If we are proceeding in a rationale way where we are trying to be fair to the President and fair to the American people, he should testify before the triers of fact, which are the senators.’
Trump’s push against witnesses comes as key Republicans including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins of Maine have spoken about witnesses. Romney says he would like to hear from Bolton, and Collins has said she is ‘likely’ to back a motion to hear from witnesses.
Democrats have demanded the Senate hear from witnesses for there to be a fair trial – after the White House refused to allow key figures like Mulaney to appear.
The process fight comes days after Trump’s legal team put forward the legal argument that abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – the two impeachment articles passed by the House – do not even constitute a crime.
‘The Articles of Impeachment are constitutionally invalid on their face. They fail to allege any crime or violation of law whatsoever, let alone “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” as required by the Constitution,’ Trump’s lawyers wrote in a six-page brief released Saturday.
‘They are the result of a lawless process … Nothing in these Articles could permit even beginning to consider removing a duly elected President or warrant nullifying an election and subverting the will of the American people,’ according to the brief, signed by Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow and White House counsel Pat Cipollone and
They wrote in response to a lengthy Democratic legal brief arguing that Trump violated his oath and abused his office.
‘In fact, it alleges no violation of law whatsoever. House Democrats “abuse of power” claim would do lasting damage to the separation fo powers under the Constitution,’ Trump’s team responded.
Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz has made a similar argument in TV appearances, as he did on ABC’s ‘This Week’ Sunday. He cited Justice Benjamin Curtis and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson – who he said forwarded the argument that an impeachable offense must also be a crime. That trial involved dozens of witnesses.
‘So I am making an argument much like the argument made by the great Justice Curtis,” said Dershowitz. “And to call them absurdist is to, you know, insult one of the greatest jurists in American history. The argument is a strong one. The Senate should hear it.’
The House on Monday filed its own reply to the arguments put forth by Trump’s team in response to the impeachment articles.
‘President Trump maintains that the Senate cannot remove him even if the House proves every claim in the Articles of impeachment. That is a chilling assertion. It is also dead wrong. The Framers deliberately drafted a Constitution that allows the Senate to remove Presidents who, like President Trump, abuse their power to cheat in elections, betray our national security, and ignore checks and balances,’ House impeachment managers wrote in a document that bears all of their names.
‘Despite President Trump’s stonewalling of the impeachment inquiry, the House amassed overwhelming evidence of his guilt,’ they added. ‘It did so through fair procedures rooted firmly in the Constitution and precedent. It extended President Trump protections equal to, or greater than, those afforded to Presidents in prior impeachment inquiries. To prevent President Trump’s obstruction from delaying justice until after the very election he seeks to corrupt, the House moved to decisively to adopt the two Articles of impeachment. Still, new evidence continues to emerge, all of which confirms these charges,’ they added.