WASHINGTON (AP) — Laying out their impeachment defense, President Donald Trump's lawyers perpetuated a baseless claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election as they argued that Trump had good reason to withhold military aid to the country.
It was one of several statements during Week 1 of the impeachment trial where truth came up short.
Democrats on the prosecution team, facing a tall task of persuading a Republican-led Senate to remove the president from office, occasionally stretched beyond the facts as they presented their case that he abused power and obstructed Congress. But in large measure they hewed closely to testimony from government officials and the record.
During opening arguments, Trump's lawyers accused the Democrats of giving senators selective facts in the case. Indeed they did — but Trump's lawyers did the same, as each side argued whether Trump was guilty of the impeachment charges.
Here is a look at some of the claims heading into Week 2 of the trial:
TRUMP LAWYER JAY SEKULOW: Rep. Jerry Nadler, a member of the prosecution, said "President Trump thought, 'Ukraine, not Russia,' interfered in our last presidential election. And this is basically what we call a straw-man argument. Let me be clear. The House managers over a 23-hour period kept pushing this false dichotomy that it was either Russia or Ukraine, but not both." — impeachment trial Saturday
THE FACTS: No evidence exists that it's both — it was just Russia.
Trump has repeatedly shrugged off not only testimony of current and former aides at the House impeachment hearings, but advice going back months from officials who told him such assertions are invalid. As recently as December, FBI Director Christopher Wray rejected the idea of Ukraine's involvement.
"We have no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 presidential election," Wray told ABC News, adding: "Well, look, there's all kinds of people saying all kinds of things out there. I think it's important for the American people to be thoughtful consumers of information and to think about the sources of it."
None of the witnesses who testified at the House hearings — including those the Republicans wanted to hear from — gave credence to Trump's theory that Ukraine attacked the U.S. election and tried to make Russia look like the villain.
Even before his July phone call pressing Ukraine's president to investigate the theory, Trump's own staff repeatedly told him it was "completely debunked," Trump's first homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said in September.
"Fictions," a former senior director on the National Security Council for Russia and Europe, Fiona Hill, testified in November.
SEKULOW, on special counsel Robert Mueller: The Mueller report found "the investigation did not establish that the (Trump) campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-related interference activities." — impeachment trial Saturday
NADLER: Trump "worked with the Russians to try to rig the 2016 election." — speaking as a House impeachment manager on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Jan. 19
THE FACTS: Sekulow omits some key findings from the Mueller report, while Nadler stretches the finding too far.
Mueller's two-year investigation and other scrutiny did reveal a multitude of meetings with Russians. Among them: Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer who had promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016.