WASHINGTON (CN) — Offering a truncated crash course of arguments to come next week, President Donald Trump’s attorneys opened their first day of defense Saturday by telling senators that House Democrats have not met their burden to remove the president from office.
“They’re asking you not only to overturn the results of the last election, but as I’ve said before, they’re asking you to remove President Trump from the ballot in an election that’s occurring in approximately nine months,” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said. “They’re asking you to tear up all of the ballots in this country on your own initiative — take that decision away from the American people. ”
In a roughly 22-hour presentation over three days, House managers repeatedly warned senators they should not wait until Election Day to remove Trump because a core allegation of the articles of impeachment is that the president attempted to solicit foreign aid to swing the 2020 election in his favor.
After the trial adjourned, Schiff told reporters that the president’s attorneys did not take on the key points Democrats have argued necessitates Trump’s removal.
“They don't contest the basic architecture of the scheme,” Schiff said at a press conference. “They do not contest that the president solicited a foreign nation to interfere in our election, to help him cheat.”
The two-hour round of opening statements from the president's defense team was a run through of the full breadth of arguments to resume on Tuesday.
Relying on select snippets from the House impeachment hearings, Trump’s attorneys said impeachment managers left out of their presentation evidence favorable to the president.
Trump’s attorneys cited portions of witness testimony before the House during the impeachment inquiry, including sworn statements from former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, former senior Russia expert to the National Security Council Fiona Hill and Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.
Both Taylor and Hill expressed concern about Trump’s engagement with Ukraine, including the presence of an unofficial channel operating inconsistent of formal U.S. policy there.
But the defense’s preview notably omitted key elements from Hill and Taylor’s sworn remarks.
For one, defense attorney Michael Purpura argued that if Ukranian officials knew of the freeze on military aid, they would have raised their alarm during contact with Trump administration officials on July 9, 10, 25, 26 or Aug. 27.
During Trump’s impeachment inquiry in the House, Laura Cooper testified that her staff received emails from the State Department affirming that both the Ukrainian embassy as well as the House Foreign Affairs Committee were aware of the freeze on July 25 — the same day as Trump’s call with Zelensky.
Contextualizing the crafted argument from Trump’s attorneys, Schiff said Ukraine found out about the aid freeze before most members of Congress, adding that the Ukrainain foreign minister received a cable informing her of the hold within days of the White House order blocking the military assistance.
“The foreign minister was instructed by a top aide to Zelensky not to bring it up, not to discuss it, to keep it quiet,” Schiff said in a press conference. “She was planning to come to Washington.”
Taylor’s testimony also undercuts opening remarks from Trump’s defense.