WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s lawyers told Senate Republicans on Monday that they should simply dismiss the House Democratic impeachment case against their client, calling the charges unfair and the political product of a “rigged process.”
“All that House Democrats have succeeded in proving is that the President did absolutely nothing wrong,” said a legal document filed with the Senate, which is set to hear opening arguments in the impeachment trial on Tuesday.
In its “trial memorandum,” the president’s legal team said the two articles of impeachment against Trump “do not identify any impeachable offense;” the House impeachment inquiry was “irredeemably flawed,” and there is “no evidence” to back the House claims that the president abused power or sought to obstruct Congress in its investigation.
A summary of the day’s impeachment news:Right to your inbox. Sign up for On Politics here
As senators debated whether to call witnesses in the trial, the president’s lawyers indicated they would seek a quick dismissal from the Republican-run Senate.
“The articles,” the filing said, “should be rejected and the president should immediately be acquitted.”
The new filing supplements a brief legal document that Trump’s team submitted Saturday denying the allegations, and describing impeachment as a “brazen and unlawful attempt” to overturn the 2016 election.
While providing more detail, citing prior legal opinions, and providing a history of previous impeachments, the briefing echoes previous arguments that have been ridiculed by House Democratic managers who will prosecute the case.
They cited evidence that Trump tried to get Ukraine to investigate a U.S. political opponent – Joe Biden – threatened to withhold aid from the country if it did not comply, and obstructed the House investigation into the incident.
Trump “used Presidential powers to pressure a vulnerable foreign partner to interfere in our elections for his own benefit,” the House Democratic managers said in their own legal filing Monday.
“In doing so,” they added, the president “jeopardized our national security and our democratic self-governance.”
The House managers also said Trump used the powers of the presidency to “orchestrate a cover-up unprecedented in the history of our Republic: a complete and relentless blockade of the House’s constitutional power to investigate high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
The Republican-run Senate is expected to acquit Trump. But the president’s lawyers and House Democratic managers are preparing for an intense trial little more than nine months before the U.S. presidential election.
One of the two impeachment articles accuses Trump of abuse of power in asking Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had business interests in the country.
House Democratic impeachment managers also accuse Trump of threatening to withhold aid from Ukraine as punishment, and of offering the president of Ukraine a White House meeting if he announced an investigation of the Bidens.
Trump and aides said he wanted Ukraine to investigate corruption, and concern about that corruption is the reason the administration held up aid temporarily. They noted that the money was released in September.
In denying that Trump threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine, the legal brief said “House Democrats do not have a single witness who claims, based on direct knowledge, that the President ever actually imposed such a condition.”
The General Accounting Office, however, issued a finding this week that the delay in providing the funding violated the law.
Trump’s attorneys also claimed there is no merit to the second impeachment article that accuses Trump of obstructing the Congressional investigation by withholding witnesses and documents.
The filing said the White House withheld witnesses and documents because the information is protected by executive privilege, and Congress is not entitled access to internal deliberations within the executive branch.
“Defending the separation of powers is not an impeachable offense,” it said.
Trump’s attorneys also stressed that the White House released a summary of his July 25th telephone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the heart of the impeachment case.
The filing indicates that the White House is prepared to argue that witnesses are unnecessary in the Senate trial because the House case is so insufficient.
In a pair of tweets, Trump said the House was responsible for producing witnesses, even though his administration blocked testimony from key White House and administration officials.
Referring to the top Senate Democrat, Trump tweeted that “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer is now asking for “fairness”, when he and the Democrat House members worked together to make sure I got ZERO fairness in the House. So, what else is new?”
Democrats said the White House prevented the House from interviewing certain witnesses and seeing documents, and the Senate should find a way to hear from them.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., one of the impeachment managers tweeted over the weekend that “Americans overwhelmingly want to see a fair trial,” and that includes as much evidence as possible.
“But will Senators allow witnesses and subpoena documents?” Schiff said. “If Senators are true to the oath they have taken to impartially administer justice, they must do so.”
In their legal finding Monday, House managers said Trump and his attorneys appear to think he is somehow above the law.
“President Trump maintains that the Senate cannot remove him even if the House proves every claim in the Articles of impeachment,” their legal brief said. “That is a chilling assertion. It is also dead wrong.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said senators will vote during the trial whether to hear more witnesses.
If House managers are allowed to call witnesses, Trump attorneys said they will call witnesses of their own, including Hunter Biden.
Trump and aides claimed that, as vice president, Joe Biden sought the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor so that he would not investigate the gas company that employed Hunter Biden, though there is no evidence behind that accusation.
In a memo to the media, the Biden campaign said that the vice president publicly called for the prosecutor’s removal because of concerns about corruption within his office; it had nothing to do with Hunter Biden’s company.
“Donald Trump is the only American president to have weaponized foreign and national security policy in an attempt to coerce a foreign country into lying about a rival presidential candidate,” the Biden campaign memo.