President Donald Trump's legal team asserted Monday that he did “absolutely nothing wrong," calling the impeachment case against him “flimsy" and a “dangerous perversion of the Constitution." The lawyers decried the impeachment process as rigged and insisted that abuse of power was not a crime.
The brief from Trump's lawyers, filed before arguments expected this week in the Senate impeachment trial, offered the most detailed glimpse of the lines of defense they intend to use against Democratic efforts to convict the president and oust him from office over his dealings with Ukraine.
The document lays out many of the same assertions that appeared in a six-page brief the White House filed over the weekend in response to a brief filed by House Democrats that summarized weeks of testimony from more than a dozen witnesses in laying out the impeachment case..
Read the brief below. (For those reading this on our app, please click here).
The 110-page filing from the White House shifted the tone toward a more legal response. It still hinged on Trump’s assertion he did nothing wrong and did not commit a crime — even though impeachment does not depend on a material violation of law but rather on the more vague definition of “other high crimes and misdemeanors” as established in the Constitution.
“It is a constitutional travesty," the lawyers wrote.
The document says the two articles of impeachment brought against the president — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — don't amount to impeachment offenses. It asserts that the impeachment inquiry, centered on Trump's request that Ukraine's president open an investigation into Democratic rival Joe Biden, was never about finding the truth.
“Instead, House Democrats were determined from the outset to find some way — any way — to corrupt the extraordinary power of impeachment for use as a political tool to overturn the result of the 2016 election and to interfere in the 2020 election," Trump's legal team wrote. “All of that is a dangerous perversion of the Constitution that the Senate should swiftly and roundly condemn."
The prosecution team of House managers was expected to spend another day on Capitol Hill preparing for the trial, which will be under heavy security. Before the filing, House prosecutors arrived on Capitol Hill to tour the Senate chamber.
The impeachment case accuses Trump of abusing power by withholding military aid from Ukraine at the same time that the president was seeking an investigation into Biden, and of obstructing Congress by instructing aides to not participate. But Trump's team contended Monday that even if Trump were to have abused his power in withholding the Ukraine military assistance, it would not be impeachable, because it did not violate a specific criminal statute.
Opening arguments are expected within days following a debate Tuesday over rules, including about whether witnesses are to be called in the trial.
Trump signaled his opposition to witnesses, tweeting Monday: “They didn’t want John Bolton and others in the House. They were in too much of a rush. Now they want them all in the Senate. Not supposed to be that way!"
That's a reference to former national security adviser John Bolton, who was not subpoenaed by the House in its impeachment inquiry but has said he is willing to testify in the Senate if he is subpoenaed.
The White House brief argues that the articles of impeachment passed by the House are “structurally deficient” because they charge multiple acts, creating “a menu of options” as possible grounds for conviction.
The Trump team claims that the Constitution requires that senators agree “on the specific basis for conviction” and that there is no way to ensure that the senators agree on which acts are worthy of removal.
The Trump lawyers accused Democrats of diluting the standards for impeachment, an argument that echoed the case made Sunday by one of Trump's attorneys, Alan Dershowitz, who contended in talk shows that impeachable offenses must be “criminal-like conduct."
That assertion has been rejected by scholars, and Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called it an “absurdist position."
Who's Who in the Trump-Ukraine Affair
President Donald Trump faces a formal impeachment inquiry led in the Democratic-controlled House after he asked the newly elected Ukrainian president to investigate one of his chief political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Credit: Noreen O'Donnell, Nelson Hsu, Nina Lin/NBC