weather icon Clear

Trump legal says Democrats trying to overturn election

Updated January 25, 2020 - 4:23 pm

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s lawyers offered a spirited impeachment defense in the Senate on Saturday, claiming House Democrats failed to present facts to back their politically motivated effort to remove him 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 an election that’s occurring in approximately nine months,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone told the Senate.

Cipollone said House Democrats, on their own initiative, were asking the Senate “to tear up all the ballots across the country.”

Trump’s legal team began its defense in an abbreviated two-hour session where it outlined its arguments, which will begin in earnest when the trial resumes on Monday.

The defense began after three days of testimony from House impeachment managers charging Trump with coercing Ukraine to announce political investigations into former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and a debunked theory about election meddling and then obstructing a subsequent congressional inquiry.

Trump ordered nearly $400 million in military aid approved by Congress withheld from Ukraine as he sought the political investigations.

“It was a corrupt shakedown to get Ukraine to help them cheat in the election,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead House impeachment manager, said at a news conference.

“The facts are overwhelming,” Schiff said.

Trump’s lawyers attacked Schiff, the House managers and the process during a two-hour presentation where they also characterized the president as a victim of partisan animosity.

The president weighed in on Twitter.

“Any fair minded person watching the Senate trial today would be able to see how unfairly I have been treated and that this is indeed the totally partisan impeachment Hoax that EVERYBODY, including the Democrats, truly knows it is,” Trump tweeted.

“The president did nothing wrong,” said Jay Sekulow, the president’s private lawyer.

The president’s legal team said Democrats have failed to produce facts that would justify removal from office, something the Senate has never done in the history of the country.

Cipollone questioned the credibility of the House case that he said lacked hard evidence.

“Impeachment shouldn’t be a shell game,” Cipollone said. “They should give you the facts.”

But Senate Democrats said the president’s presentation supported their plea to subpoena witnesses that Trump blocked from testifying to House investigators.

“Why shouldn’t we have witnesses and documents here?” Schumer asked.

Democrats are seeking testimony from four current and former administration officials, including John Bolton, who previously served as national security adviser and was highly critical of a shadow operation in Ukraine run by the president’s private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, according to testimony.

Senate Democrats also want to hear from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

He told a White House news briefing that there was a quid pro quo in the Ukraine dealings, which came to light when a whistleblower complained about the political nature of a telephone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on July 25.

Mulvaney later walked back his comments, but Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she wanted him to appear before the Senate and explain the context of his comments.

Trump’s legal team never mentioned Mulvaney or Bolton in its opening testimony, but rebutted many points made by the House managers, including the withholding of military aid.

Sekulow argued that the United States has withheld military aid to other countries “a number of times” without a questioning of motives.

The withheld aid did not include Javelin missiles, a key weapon against tanks and armored vehicles in Ukraine’s fight against Russian-backed separatists.

Withholding the military aid was conducted to check on how the funds were going to be used, the president’s legal team said.

But it was not mentioned that the Department of Defense already had found that Ukraine had met the anti-corruption benchmarks to clear the aid for delivery.

Sekulow also raised the specter that Trump sought an investigation into whether Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election, a conspiracy theory that has been debunked by U.S. intelligence agencies and the president’s appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray as part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

But Sekulow noted Trump’s suspicions were heightened after the FBI wrongfully obtained warrants from the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to spy on a member of the president’s campaign staff, who was a U.S. citizen.

The president’s lawyers veered away from Biden, and his son, Hunter, who served as a board member on the Ukrainian gas company Burisma while his father was vice president.

Still, a focus on the Bidens is expected after House Democrats in their testimony spent significant time dispelling allegations of impropriety as a diversion by Republicans and irrelevant to the charge that the president sought foreign intervention in a U.S. election to help his re-election bid.

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate. GOP lawmakers said the House impeachment managers had failed to sway enough Republicans to provide a simple majority needed to call additional witnesses.

Several moderate Republicans, notably Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have been critical of comments by House impeachment managers about Senate complicity in a cover-up and cowering to presidential threats.

Many GOP senators were growing confident that Democrats could not muster a two-thirds majority needed to remove the president from office and that Trump could be acquitted as early as next week.

Democrats warned Republicans that new information about the president’s dealings with Ukraine continues to leak out, and that more information was likely to become public if the Senate failed to subpoena witnesses and documents that have been blocked by the president.

“This is no parking ticket we are contesting,” Schiff said in his closing arguments on Friday.

He implored the Senate to “give America a fair trial.”

“She’s worth it.”

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
The Nevada caucus in photos
Best shots from the Review-Journal photo staff's coverage of the Nevada Caucus, Saturday, February 22, 2020.
Bernie Sanders announces his Nevada caucus win to supporters in Texas
At a rally in San Antonio, Texas, Bernie Sanders announces winning the Nevada Democratic caucus.
Joe Biden addresses supporters in Las Vegas
Joe Biden energizes a crowd of supporters at the IBEW Hall in Las Vegas after the Nevada Democratic caucus.
Tweet highlights from the 2020 Nevada Democratic caucus
Confusion, flaring tempers and misinformed volunteers highlighted Review-Journal tweets during the Nevada Democratic caucus.
Voters comment on Nevada Democratic caucus - VIDEO
Nevada caucusgoers comment on the process from locations across the Las Vegas Valley, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Doolittle Community Center hosts caucuses - VIDEO
The Doolittle Community Center hosted six precincts in one room for the Nevada Democratic caucuses, and voters engaged in debate and discussion about who to lead each precinct, Feb. 22, 2020. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Desert Oasis High School has wait for caucus check-in - VIDEO
James Strange has been waiting in line to caucus for the first time for 45 minutes and some said they have been waiting for an hour at Desert Oasis High School for the Nevada Democratic caucuses. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Conservative guru encourages Republicans to vote in Democratic caucuses - VIDEO
Republican activist Chuck Muth encourages his fellow GOP members to change party affiliation for a day to elect Bernie Sanders. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nevada Congresswoman Susie Lee at Desert Oasis High School - VIDEO
Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., stopped by the Nevada Democratic caucus at Desert Oasis High School in Las Vegas, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caucus day in Summerlin - VIDEO
Out-of-state caucus observer Ken Valz speaks about the Nevada Democratic caucuses at Palo Verde High School, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Doors open for Nevada Democratic caucuses - VIDEO
Caucusgoers are lining up Saturday morning to take part in the Nevada Democratic caucuses across the state (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caucus day at East Last Vegas Community Center - VIDEO
Registration begins at the East Las Vegas Community Center for the Nevada Democratic caucuses, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
It’s caucus day in Nevada - VIDEO
Democrats will gather at over 250 locations across the state to declare their presidential preferences in the Nevada caucuses, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Democratic caucus-goers lined up to register at Liberty High - VIDEO
Democratic caucus-goers lined up to register at Liberty High in Henderson, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Elizabeth Warren holds rally with Julian Castro
Elizabeth Warren held her Get Out the Caucus Block Party with Secretary Julián Castro at the Clark County Government Center Amphitheater.
Trump caps western swing with campaign rally in Las Vegas
President Trump speaks to an enthusiastic crowd of thousands gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center during a tour across the western United States.
Anti-Trump Protestors at LVCC Rally - Video
President Trump speaks at a Keep America Great rally as a small group of protesters gather outside the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Thousands gather for Trump rally
Thousands showed up for President Donald Trump’s rally Friday morning, forming a line that stretched nearly a quarter mile around the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Trump supporters camp outside the Las Vegas Convention Center
Trump supporters camp outside the Las Vegas Convention Center on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, where President Trump will held a rally on Friday in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
President Trump lands in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Donald Trump landed in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, as part of a four-day western state swing. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Long lines during early voting in Las Vegas - VIDEO
The final day of the Nevada Democratic Party’s early presidential caucuses wrapped up Tuesday, as thousands of Democrats lined up at 55 locations around the state for their last shot at filing an early preference card before the traditional caucuses on Saturday. Long lines were seen at CSN Charleston in Las Vegas. (Alexis Egeland/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Last day for early voting at Culinary Union - VIDEO
Voters were still in line just before 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, as early voting in the Nevada Democratic Party caucuses came to a close. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pigeons wearing MAGA hats in Las Vegas - VIDEO
A flock of pigeons wearing Make America Great Again hats and one sporting a Donald Trump hairdo invaded downtown Las Vegas late Tuesday, following their release by an anonymous group: P.U.T.I.N. (Pigeons, United to Interfere Now). (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tuesday is last day to early vote in Nevada Democratic caucuses - VIDEO
Early voting in the Nevada Democratic caucuses ends Tuesday, with sites open throughout Clark County. (Michael Quine and James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren and Tom Steyer talk pay for child care workers - Video
Elizabeth Warren and Tom Steyer talk to care in action about the importance of Medicare for All, paid leave and child care. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Elizabeth Warren barnstorms Nevada ahead of caucuses - VIDEO
Warren is trying to drum up enthusiasm about her campaign after finishing fourth in the New Hampshire primary. Her rally drew about 400 people to the student union of the College of Southern Nevada’s Henderson campus. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sen. Jacky Rosen encourages early voting at Culinary Workers 226 - VIDEO
Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., spoke to those casting early caucus votes at the Culinary Workers hall on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. Early voting in the Nevada Democratic caucuses continues Tuesday. The Nevada Caucuses are Saturday, Feb. 22. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2020 candidates rally in Southern Nevada ahead of caucus - VIDEO
2020 candidates Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders held rallies all over Southern Nevada on Saturday ahead of the Democratic caucus. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
First day of early voting - VIDEO
Nevada Democrats turned out in force on Saturday for the first day of early voting in the Democratic presidential caucuses.
Biden and Sully Sullenberger speak in Henderson - VIDEO
Presidential candidate Joe Biden and famed pilot Sully Sullenberger spoke at Sun City MacDonald Ranch to get out the vote for early voting for the Nevada caucus. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Poll: Bernie Sanders leads Democratic presidential candidates - VIDEO
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leads the presidential field by a solid margin among likely Democratic caucus-goers heading into Nevada’s four-day early voting period, with with 25 percent of respondents expressing support. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada Poll: caucus vs. primary - VIDEO
A new Nevada Poll finds two-thirds of likely Democratic caucus-goers surveyed in a Review-Journal poll say they’d like to see Nevada replace its caucuses with a secret-ballot primary election to determine support for a presidential nominee. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caucus events Leading up to Caucus Day 2020 - VIDEOl
As presidential candidates make their way to Las Vegas, here's a look at events, dates and times for the days leading up to Nevada's Caucus Day 2020 on Feb. 22. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Election 2020: Nevada Caucus and Early Voting - Video
AARP's Nevada Caucus discussion with Steve Sebelius about the Nevada Caucus and early voting.
Election 2020: Nevada Caucus - Video
AARP's Nevada Caucus Discussion with Steve Sebelius. Join us as we discuss the Nevada Caucus process.
Las Vegas ready to enforce homeless camping ban - VIDEO
Las Vegas police will begin enforcing a controversial camping ban on city streets on Saturday, but officials say they expect to impose the penalties available under the new ordinance only in rare instances. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Yvanna Cancela Speaks on Supporting Biden - Video
The RJ Politics podcast crew sits down with Nevada State Senator Yvanna Cancela to discuss why she is supporting former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race.
Tom Steyer on Donald Trump and the economy - Video
Tom Steyer joins the RJ Politics podcast to talk about his campaign presence in Nevada and how he plans to take Trump on when talking about the economy. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas City Council Votes On Homeless Ordinance - Video
The Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday will discuss expanding on a controversial camping and sleeping ban aimed at deterring the homeless from bivouacking on city streets to include hours when public sidewalks are being cleaned.
Pete Buttigieg Speaks At Black Empowerment Event - Video
Pete Buttigieg speaks at a black empowerment event to talk about his Douglass plan.
A look inside the Nevada caucuses — PHOTOS

Here are images from Review-Journal photographers and reporters from more than 20 voting sites across Nevada.

Bernie Sanders wins Nevada caucuses, takes national lead

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders cruised to a commanding victory Saturday in the Nevada Democratic caucuses, cementing his status as the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination heading into next week’s primary in South Carolina.