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WH Counsel: 'That's Fake, That's Not the Real Call'

President Trump's legal team launches its defense in the Senate impeachment trial
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2020 10:15 AM CST
Updated Jan 25, 2020 12:45 PM CST
White House Counsel: This Is 'Very, Very Dangerous'
In this image from video, personal attorney to President Donald Trump, Jay Sekulow, hold a copy of the Mueller Report as speaks during the impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate at the US Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020.   (Senate Television via AP)

(Newser) – Enter the defense. President Trump's legal team, led by personal lawyer Jay Sekulow and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, gave a two-hour presentation Saturday morning against impeaching the president, the Washington Post reports. This after House managers, led by Rep. Adam Schiff, argued that Trump had abused his power and obstructed Congress over his dealings with Ukraine. Trump is accused of withholding military aid in return for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ordering an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Among highlights in the Senate presentation:

  • 'Dangerous': Out of the gate, Cipollone argued that removing Trump would be a "very, very dangerous" precedent for overturning an election. "They come here to the Senate, and they ask you to remove a president, tear up the ballots in all of your states, and they don’t bother to read the key evidence of the discussion of burden-sharing that’s in the call itself," he said.

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  • 'Not the Real Call': The team showed a video of Schiff embellishing on a rough transcript of Trump's call to Zelensky. "That's fake, that's not the real call," said White House deputy counsel Michael Purpura. (Schiff has said at separate times that he was either communicating the gist of Trump's call or parodying it.)
  • 'Corruption': Purpura said the July 25 call to Zelensky was "in line with the Trump administration's legitimate concerns about corruption" in Ukraine. (Yet the word "corruption" never came up in the call, the Post notes.)
  • Quid pro quo: Purpura also argued that there was no quid pro quo in the call, per the New York Times. "There couldn't possibly have been a quid pro quo because the Ukrainians didn't know the security assistance was on hold" before Politico reported it, he said. "There can't be a threat without the person knowing he's being threatened." (The quid pro quo argument hinges on a phrase Trump used in the call.)
  • Witnesses: Trump's lawyers are also attacking witness testimony over the alleged quid pro quo, the Wall Street Journal reports. They showed video of Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland saying "presume" and "presumption" in regard to the claim.

  • Subpoenas: Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin defended the White House blockade against subpoenas for witnesses and documents, saying—among other things—that the House didn't hold a full vote to launch the inquiry. "The subpoenas weren't authorized because there was no vote or the subpoenas were to senior advisers to the president who are immune from congressional compulsion," he said in part.
  • Whistleblower: Philbin also attacked the notion of building an impeachment case on an anonymous whistleblower, saying "you would want to find out something about the complainant that had started it all..." (But there's an argument for keeping whistleblowers anonymous.)
  • Cough drops: Some senators looked weary Saturday, yawning, stretching, and blowing or wiping their noses. Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colorado) was offered cough drops by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
  • 'Shredded': Republicans praised the lawyers' two-hour presentation, with several saying they had "shredded" the House case. "It took less than two hours to completely shred and eviscerate Adam Schiff's failed case for impeachment," said Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).
  • Schiff disagrees: "They don't contest the facts of Trump's scheme," he tweeted. "They're trying to deflect, distract from, and distort the truth. And they are continuing to cover it up by blocking documents and witnesses."
  • Sunday off: Trump's defense will resume on Monday at 1pm EST.
(Read more Trump impeachment stories.)

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