WASHINGTON (CN) — Ahead of next week’s Senate impeachment trial, President Trump’s legal team on Saturday launched a broadside on House Democrats’ articles of impeachment, echoing past claims that they are on shaky legal ground as the result of a flawed process.
Trump’s defense team, led by his private attorney Jay Sekulow and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, filed a 6-page response to summons the Senate issued to Trump last week that previews the arguments they will make in their efforts to save Trump from being the first president ever removed from office.
“The articles of impeachment submitted by House Democrats are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president,” the document states. “This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election —now just months away.”
The reply denies all allegations of wrongdoing against Trump and attacks the articles as “the result of a lawless process” and “defective” because they do not accuse the president of committing a crime.
The House impeached Trump in December for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after finding he attempted to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son and a discredited theory about the 2016 presidential election.
Trump is accused of withholding a nearly $400 million military aid package and a coveted White House visit as leverage to convince Ukraine to announce the probes.
The Government Accountability Office last week released a report that found Trump’s slow-walking of the military aid violated federal law, though the articles of impeachment the House passed do not specifically make that allegation against Trump beyond the more general abuse of power charge.
Both the tone and content of the reply are similar to the defenses the White House and House Republicans launched throughout the impeachment saga, as Trump argued he was unfairly cut out of the process and that his now-infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect.”
The House Judiciary Committee invited Trump to participate after it began drafting the articles following investigations and public hearings in the House Intelligence Committee, but Trump declined to do so.
As for the call, the document filed Saturday argues Trump did nothing wrong in his conversation with Zelensky because the military aid eventually went to Ukraine and Trump and Zelensky met without the investigations being announced.
In defending against the obstruction of Congress charge, Trump’s legal team argues the president’s claims of privilege were valid. The reply dings House Democrats for not going to court to enforce subpoenas the White House ordered key administration officials to buck.
“Notwithstanding these abuses, the Trump administration replied appropriately to the subpoenas and identified their constitutional defects,” the reply states. “Tellingly, House Democrats did not seek to enforce these constitutionally defective subpoenas in court.”
House Democrats said they did not want to tie up the impeachment push in lengthy court battles with a White House that had launched a blanket blockade against complying with congressional requests for information.
The document is separate from the reply brief Trump’s team is set to file on Monday and a source close to the president’s legal team said the brief will delve more deeply into the arguments made in the Saturday filing.