White House counsel Pat Cipollone, the lead lawyer for President Donald Trump’s defense team during the Senate impeachment trial, took the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon along with House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead manager for House Democrats who impeached Trump last month.
Cipollone said that Trump’s defense team supported a resolution introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that outlines the initial steps for the trial.
Noting that House Democrats delayed sending the impeachment articles to the Senate for about three weeks, Cipollone said the resolution gives the House impeachment managers a chance “to stand up and make their opening statement and make their case.”
Trump’s team will then have time to respond and senators will have time to submit written questions. Then, senators will vote on whether to call any witnesses.
“We believe once you hear those initial presentations, the only conclusion will be that the president has done absolutely nothing wrong, and that these articles of impeachment do not begin to approach the standard required by the Constitution and in fact, they themselves will establish nothing beyond those articles,” he said. “You look at those articles alone and you will determine that there is absolutely no case.”
Schiff said that House Democrats opposed the resolution. He told senators that “the most important decision in this case is the one you make today.”
“The question you must answer today: Will the president and the American people get a fair trial?” he asked. “If you only get to see part of the evidence, if you only allow one side or the other chance to present their case, your verdict will be predetermined by the bias in the proceeding. If the defendant is not allowed to introduce evidence of his innocence it is not fair trial, so too for the prosecution. If the House cannot call witnesses or introduce documented evidence it is not a fair trial.”
House and Senate Democrats have pushed for the Senate to immediately vote on whether to call witnesses while Republicans have pushed back, citing precedent established in the 1999 trial of President Bill Clinton. In that trial, the Senate voted on initial guidelines and heard from both sides before voting on whether to call witnesses.
Democrats want acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney; Robert Blair, a senior advisor to Mulvaney; Michael Duffey, a senior official at the White House of Office and Budget and Management; and “other witnesses with direct knowledge that we reserve the right to call later” to testify, Schiff said.
Also on Tuesday, McConnell submitted an amended resolution for impeachment trial rules, adding a third day for opening arguments and letting House evidence be included in the record without a vote.
Trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress last month. He has said he did nothing wrong.
The impeachment revolved around a July 2019 phone call Trump had with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. After a whistleblower filed a complaint against the president, the White House released a transcript of the call, showing he asked Zelensky to “look into” corruption allegations about former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter Biden.
Because the elder Biden is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Democrats allege Trump was asking a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election. Trump said he was doing his duty to root out corruption.