Trump legal team asks Senate for speedy acquittal in impeachment trial

Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, The New York Times

Posted at Jan 21 2020 08:23 AM

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s legal team called on the Senate on Monday to “swiftly reject” the impeachment charges and acquit him, maintaining that he committed no impeachable offense and has been the victim of an illegitimate partisan effort to take him down.

In a 110-page brief submitted to the Senate the day before his trial begins in earnest, the president’s lawyers made the most sustained argument the White House has advanced since the House opened its impeachment inquiry in the fall, contending that the two articles of impeachment approved largely along party lines were constitutionally flawed and set a dangerous precedent.

Trump’s lawyers dismissed the largely party-line impeachment by the House as a “brazenly political act” following a “rigged process” that should be repudiated by the Senate. They argued that neither of the articles of impeachment against Trump were valid because they did not state a violation of the law and they would in effect try to punish the president for foreign policy decisions and efforts to preserve executive prerogatives.

The brief does not deny that Trump pressured Ukraine to announce investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden, but argues that the president has the right to conduct relations with other countries as he sees fit and that he had valid reasons to raise those issues with Ukraine to fight corruption.

The lawyers rejected the notion that doing so was an abuse of power, as outlined in the first article of impeachment, calling that a “novel theory” and a “newly invented” offense that would allow Congress to second-guess presidents for legitimate policy decisions.

They argued that the second article, accusing him of obstructing Congress by blocking testimony and refusing to turn over documents during the House impeachment inquiry, would violate separation of powers by invalidating a president’s right to confidential deliberations.

The House Democratic managers had their own noon deadline to produce a response to a shorter filing by Trump’s team Saturday that responded to the impeachment charges against him. Democrats will argue that Trump’s behavior was not only adequately proven during the course of their inquiry but clearly meets the standard laid out by the framers of the Constitution for impeachable offenses.

The president weighed in himself from Florida, where he was spending the holiday weekend, complaining that he had not been treated fairly and dismissing demands by Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, and other Democrats for a trial that would include witnesses and testimony that the president has so far blocked.

"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," Trump wrote on Twitter. "So, what else is new?"

He also dismissed Democratic demands that the Senate call John Bolton, his former national security adviser, as a witness during the trial.

"They didn’t want John Bolton and others in the House," Trump wrote. "They were in too much of a rush. Now they want them all in the Senate. Not supposed to be that way!"

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