As President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial unfolds, Courthouse News will be reaching out at the close of each day to prominent attorneys, scholars and other experts in the legal community for analysis on the historic proceedings. Joining us to break down the end of the White House’s opening arguments are Thomas Jipping, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation and former chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee; and Jennifer Taub, professor of Law at Vermont Law School.
WASHINGTON (CN) – After six days of opening arguments in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, senators are preparing to enter the phase of the trial where they will be able to ask questions submitted through Chief Justice John Roberts.
Thomas Jipping, the deputy director of the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation, has a question he would pose if he were in the chamber about what he says remains a weakness in the House case.
“The articles claim that this was soliciting interference in this election — that that’s why he did what he did,” Jipping told Courthouse News in an interview. “His critics said that often and people probably assume that, but there’s no evidence for it. When a prosecutor charges a specific intent crime, they have to prove intent. We all know what he did. He wasn’t impeached for that. The thing that transforms what he did into an impeachable offense is that corrupt motive. That’s what the impeachment articles say and senators ought to hold the House to their proof, and there isn’t any.”
Do you have any takeaways in particular from the Trump defense team’s presentation today?
JIPPING: I don’t think that the president’s team provided any new arguments necessarily, but I think they’ve done a pretty good job of bringing together either pieces of arguments or arguments that have been expressed in different ways in order to kind of in one piece respond to the articles of impeachment.
What comes to mind, for example, is the Office of Legal Counsel opinion, things like this that are part of the picture and help to bolster or to fill out the context for decisions and actions that the president took, although they’re not brand new arguments.
TAUB: My main reaction to today's proceedings was, thank goodness that's over. This final day of defense arguments ends what has been a shameful three-day display of cynical, sloppy, and dishonest lawyering.
In an unexpected gift to the House managers today, Jay Sekulow addressed John Bolton's forthcoming book. Sekulow said, "You cannot impeach a president on an unsourced allegation." A foolish move on his part, as this statement will be used by the House managers during the coming days’ Q&A period to emphasize why even the defense believes we must hear from Bolton under oath. Today, a Quinipiac poll reported that 75% of registered voters believe witnesses should testify.
Looking at the bigger picture, how do you think the Trump defense did across all three days of arguments?