Trump lawyers wrap up impeachment defense

President Trump’s lawyers will wrap up their arguments in his Senate impeachment trial on Tuesday, capping an aggressive three-day defense against the House impeachment managers’ case.

An official familiar with the defense team’s plans said the lawyers plan to present for roughly two to three hours on Tuesday beginning at 1 p.m., meaning the first stage of the Senate proceedings are likely to end early Tuesday after several longer days in the impeachment trial.

The person indicated Tuesday’s presentation would lean heavily on White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow, but said others on the legal team may also have speaking roles during the proceedings.

Trump’s legal team, comprised of a mix of White House lawyers, the president’s personal attorneys and high-profile names, is expected to spend considerably less of the time allotted to them — 24 hours over three days — than the House Democratic impeachment managers who presented their case at the start of the trial last week.

The legal team’s strategy has been manifold: the lawyers have sought to portray Democrats’ case as lacking or ignoring evidence; attacked the impeachment as a partisan exercise designed to bruise Trump; asserted that Trump is not guilty of what he is accused of; and argued that the offenses alleged do not rise to the level of impeachable conduct, even if proven.

The team also spent a good deal of Monday’s proceedings zeroing in on the Biden family in a bid to legitimize Trump’s decision to bring them up during the July 25 call he made from the White House to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which is at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

The House has accused Trump of abusing his power by soliciting Ukraine to investigate a political rival, though the White House has maintained that the president raised former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden on the call to Zelensky out of concern over corruption.

It’s unclear precisely how the defense will focus their arguments on Tuesday. Following opening arguments from both sides, the chamber will proceed to a new stage of the trial in which senators will get to ask questions.

Republican senators indicated the chamber would wait until Wednesday to begin asking questions of each side to allow lawmakers to review the six days’ worth of presentations from House managers and the president’s lawyers.

Senators will have a total of 16 hours to ask questions, after which they will move to the question that has loomed over the trial since the beginning: whether to hear new testimony and evidence.

A Sunday New York Times report that former national security adviser John Bolton wrote in his forthcoming memoir that Trump told him in August he did not want to release security aid for Ukraine unless the country agreed to help investigate his political rivals has roiled the impeachment proceedings.

Bolton’s reported account, which Trump has denied, called into question assertions by the president’s attorneys that Trump did not link the security assistance to investigations into the Bidens and a debunked theory about Ukraine’s involvement in 2016 election interference.

Democrats have pointed to the manuscript to bolster their argument that Bolton should testify in the trial, but it’s unclear if Republicans will be swayed.

Trump’s legal team largely ignored the Bolton revelations until the final hour of Monday’s proceedings, when Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor emeritus, asserted that the former top aide’s allegations against Trump, even if true, would not amount to an impeachable offense.

“That is clear from the history. That is clear from the language of the Constitution,” Dershowitz, an opinion contributor to The Hill, said. “You cannot turn conduct that is not impeachable into impeachable conduct simply by using words like 'quid pro quo' and 'personal benefit.’”

Dershowitz explained in detail his argument, contested among legal experts, that impeachment requires “criminal-like conduct.”

Dershowitz, who has maintained he is not a political supporter of Trump but joined the defense to defend the Constitution, was spotted at the White House on Tuesday during Trump’s joint remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing his administration’s Middle East peace plan.

As GOP senators seek to close ranks and avoid a drawn-out trial with witnesses, some have suggested they should get access to Bolton’s manuscript so they can review the claims for themselves.

In any case, the former national security adviser is likely to play a prominent role in the next phase of the trial.

"It seems like every day, some new revelation emphasizes our request for relevant witnesses and documents in this trial and gives it momentum,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters. “There's been a steady drip, drip, drip of information."

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