President Trump’s impeachment trial completes its first full week on Tuesday with closing arguments from the president’s lawyers.
The president’s legal team, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal attorney Jay Sekulow, spent roughly eight hours Monday seeking to pick apart House Democrats’ case as flawed, incomplete and politically-motivated.
They also went on the attack against the Bidens in a bid to argue that Trump had legitimate reason to raise the family on the call with Ukraine’s president at the center of the impeachment case.
Monday’s proceedings featured arguments from a number of figures on the president’s legal team who had not previously spoken on the Senate floor, including former independent counsel Kenneth Starr and Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, who wrapped up the proceedings by arguing that House Democrats’ case did not meet the constitutional criteria for impeachment because they did not allege “criminal-like conduct.”
The attorneys waited until the very end of the day to explicitly address the elephant in the room -- namely an explosive New York Times report that said Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton writes in a draft of his memoir that Trump told him he wanted to continue to withhold security assistance to Ukraine until the country helped with investigations into Democrats.
“Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense,” Dershowitz said late Monday evening after the rest of the legal team danced around the issue.
“You cannot turn conduct that is not impeachable into impeachable conduct simply by using words like ‘quid pro quo’ and ‘personal benefit,’” he added.
The president’s legal team has been adamant that it does not believe it will need the full 24 hours allotted to make its argument. As a result, the trial could shift into a new phase once the defense wraps up its presentations on Tuesday.
Senators will have 16 hours to ask questions of House impeachment managers and the president’s attorneys. The questioning period will likely unfold over multiple days, and could prove critical in determining whether the Senate hears from additional witnesses or moves right to voting to acquit Trump.
Democrats are likely to try and pin down the president’s defense on the reported allegations in Bolton’s manuscript as they seek to persuade GOP senators that additional evidence is necessary.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) have indicated they are open to considering new testimony, but a fourth Republican would need to join them and vote with the entire Democratic caucus to ensure a majority favors hearing from witnesses.
One possibility under consideration floated Monday was a one-for-one witness swap where Democrats and Republicans would each get to call one individual they’d like to hear testify, but the idea did not garner traction among the broader Republican conference.