Trump Attorneys Accuse Democrats of Intentional Omissions in Impeachment Case

January 25, 2020 Updated: January 26, 2020

President Donald Trump’s attorneys dedicated the first day of their defense arguments to exposing what they described as omissions in the narrative presented by the Democratic impeachment managers, asking the senators at the trial to consider why crucial evidence had been left out.

In arguments that lasted roughly two hours, the attorneys shed light on the context of the facts presented at length by the Democrats over the course of the three prior days. The defense suggested that the omissions are intentional because the relevant facts would be fatal to the impeachment managers’ case.

Over the course of more than 20 hours starting on Jan. 22, the House managers presented arguments and evidence for removing the president. They accused Trump of abusing his power to interfere in an election and of obstructing justice when his alleged plan was discovered. They allege the president withheld aid to Ukraine and the potential of a White House meeting in order to force the Ukrainian president to open investigations into Trump’s political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

On Jan. 25, White House counsel Pat Cipollone told the Senate that any one of six pieces of evidence alone could exonerate Trump.

First, Cipollone argued, the transcript of the July 25 call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump showed no link between the hold on security assistance and the opening of any investigation; second, the Ukrainians, including Zelensky, have said there was no pressure from Trump and no suggestion of a quid pro quo; and third, the Ukrainians were unaware of the hold on aid until a month after the Trump–Zelensky call.

Fourth, Cipollone said that despite a parade of witnesses, not a single person had offered firsthand evidence to suggest that Trump ordered or intended the alleged plan. Fifth, the aid ultimately flowed to Ukraine and Trump went on to meet with Zelensky; and sixth, Trump has been a stronger supporter of Ukraine than the previous administration.

“Each one of these six facts standing alone is enough to sink the Democrats’ case. Combined, they establish what we’ve known since the beginning. The president did absolutely nothing wrong,” Cipollone said.

Cipollone accused the Democrats of presenting a selective set of facts to make their case. He spotlighted their presentation of evidence from the Trump–Zelensky call transcript on the issue of sharing the burden of supporting Ukraine with European allies. The impeachment managers made the case that Trump had no interest in the topic of burden-sharing, while leaving out an entire section of the July 25, 2019, call transcript in which Trump and Zelensky specifically discussed the need for European allies, specifically France and Germany, to do more to help Ukraine.

The presentation by Trump’s attorneys followed roughly along the outline presented by Cipollone. Throughout the presentation, Trump’s attorneys substantiated their themes with testimony from witnesses who appeared during the Democrat-led House impeachment inquiry. Most of the two hours consisted of arguments addressing the first article of impeachment, which alleges that Trump abused his power. A brief segment addressed the second article, which alleges Trump obstructed Congress.

In a notable departure from the main points, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow laid out the argument for why the president is reasonably skeptical about the assessments of the U.S. intelligence community. Sekulow referenced two recent orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which found that the FBI’s applications to surveil a Trump campaign adviser included significant misstatements and omissions.

During the House impeachment inquiry, Democrats used Trump’s concern about Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 election to suggest that the president was claiming that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered. Although Trump made no such claim, Democrats employed the argument to suggest that Trump was doubting the assessment of the intelligence community, which found that Russia had meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Some of the remarks by Trump’s attorneys focused on Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead impeachment manager. They pointed to how Schiff manufactured significant portions of the Trump–Zelensky call and lied about his committee’s interactions with the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint triggered the House’s impeachment inquiry. Cipollone mentioned that unlike prior leaders of impeachment inquiries, Schiff didn’t appear for cross-examination by the House Judiciary Committee, sending his staff instead.

The presentation by Trump’s attorneys was frequently punctuated with a plea to the Senate to consider why the impeachment managers omitted some of the evidence from their lengthy arguments.

“If they don’t want to be fair to the president, at least out of respect for all of you, they should be fair to you. They should tell you these things,” Cipollone said. “Impeachment shouldn’t be a shell game. They should give you the facts.”

Schiff responded to the defense’s presentation by accusing the attorneys of distorting the truth.

“After listening to the President’s lawyers opening arguments, I have three observations. They don’t contest the facts of Trump’s scheme. They’re trying to deflect, distract from, and distort the truth. And they are continuing to cover it up by blocking documents and witnesses,” Schiff wrote on Twitter.

Trump issued a response of his own, calling the proceedings a “partisan impeachment hoax.”

“Any fair minded person watching the Senate trial today would be able to see how unfairly I have been treated and that this is indeed the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax that EVERYBODY, including the Democrats, truly knows it is. This should never be allowed to happen again!” the president wrote.

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