Trump lawyers: President has done ‘absolutely nothing wrong’
Donald Trump’s legal team called for the US president to be “immediately acquitted” ahead of the first day of his impeachment trial on Tuesday.
White House lawyers said Mr Trump has done “absolutely nothing” wrong and urged the Senate to swiftly reject the “flimsy” charges and “flawed” case against him.
Mr Trump’s legal team was writing in its first full filing for the impeachment court on Monday.
The president’s lawyers wrote: “All of this is a dangerous perversion of the constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn.
“The articles should be rejected and the president should be immediately acquitted.”
Final preparations were underway for the trial on Monday in a tense day of developments, with Mr Trump’s legacy and the judgement of both parties in Congress at stake.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put forward rules that could lead to a quick impeachment trial for Mr Trump, with no guarantee that witnesses or new evidence would be allowed.
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He also proposed a condensed, two-day calendar for each side to give opening statements.
A senior Republican leadership aide said that under the resolution, which could face a vote as early as Tuesday, lawyers for Mr Trump could move early in the proceedings to ask senators to dismiss all charges.
The motion would likely fail and Mr McConnell’s proposal was immediately rejected by the Democrats.
The Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called the rules package a “national disgrace”.
Mr Schumer said: “It’s clear Senator McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through.”
He vowed to propose votes on Tuesday to try to amend the rules package and called it a “cover-up”.
Officials at the White House, where the president was embarking for an overseas trip to the global leaders conference in Davos, welcomed the Republican trial proposal.
House Democrats impeached the president on two charges last month.
Trump on trial: What is happening in the Senate now the president has been impeached?
The first was abuse of power as the president withheld US military aid to Ukraine while pressing the country to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden.
The second was obstruction of Congress by refusing to comply with their investigation.
Mr Trump’s defence has argued neither charge constituted a crime or impeachable offence.
The trial is set to take place just weeks before the first primaries of the 2020 election season and as voters are assessing Mr Trump’s first term.
While the Senate is highly unlikely to remove Mr Trump from office, it is important for the president to try to diminish the Democratic accusations to limit political damage to his bid for re-election.
The Senate could be facing 12-hour sessions for the rare trial which begins at 1pm Washington time (6pm GMT), with some of the very senators running to replace Mr Trump as president sitting as jurors.
After the four days of opening arguments – two days per side – senators will be allowed up to 16 hours for questions to the prosecution and defence, followed by four hours of debate.
Only then will there be votes on calling other witnesses.
At the end of deliberations, the Senate would then vote on each impeachment article.
Mr McConnell had promised to set rules similar to the last trial, of President Bill Clinton in 1999, but his resolution diverged in key ways, which may leave some senators from both parties uneasy.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah said in an email message to his constituents Monday night that the resolution put forth by Mr McConnell “overall, aligns closely with the rules package approved 100-0 during the Clinton trial”.
He is among a small number of Republican senators who want to consider witness testimony and documents that weren’t part of the House impeachment investigation.
In their own filing Monday, House prosecutors issued fresh demands for a fair trial in the Senate.
They wrote: “President Trump asserts that his impeachment is a partisan ‘hoax’. He is wrong.”
The prosecutors added: “Senators must honour their own oaths by holding a fair trial with all relevant evidence.”
Senators are poised for only the third presidential impeachment trial in US history.
Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached by the House but not convicted by the Senate.