• Thursday, Apr 09, 2020
  • Last Update : 03:23 pm

White House lawyers: Voters should decide Trump's fate

  • Published at 09:56 am January 26th, 2020
Protesters gather outside of the US Capitol ahead of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in Washington, US on January 21, 2020 Reuters

Democratic prosecutors from the House, which impeached Trump last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress

White House lawyers began their defence of Donald Trump at his historic Senate impeachment trial on Saturday, saying the president did nothing wrong in his dealings with Ukraine and American voters - not Congress - should decide his fate.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone said it would be a "completely irresponsible abuse of power" if the Senate follows the lead of the House of Representatives and votes to remove the 45th US president from office.

"They're asking you to do something that no Senate has ever done," Cipollone told the 100 senators gathered on a rainy Saturday morning for a rare weekend session at just the third impeachment trial in US history.

Democratic prosecutors from the House, which impeached Trump last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, had not convincingly made their case that the president had committed "high crimes and misdemeanors," as demanded by the Constitution, Cipollone said.

"We don't believe that they have come anywhere close to meeting their burden for what they're asking you to do," he told a hushed Senate chamber. "We believe when you hear the facts you will find that the president did absolutely nothing wrong."

House prosecutors spent the previous three days laying out a detailed case that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting to pressure his Ukrainian counterpart to open an investigation into political rival Joe Biden and the former vice president's son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

Adam Schiff, the chief House prosecutor, said the real estate tycoon turned politician poses an "imminent threat" to American democracy and his guiding principle is "Trump first, not America first."

Cipollone argued that Democrats were asking the Senate to "tear up all of the ballots" from the 2016 presidential election and attempting to prevent Trump from running for re-election in November.

"They are here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history and we can't allow that to happen," the White House counsel said. "Let the people decide for themselves."

The White House lawyers kept their opening arguments short - just under two hours - in part, perhaps, because Trump, a former reality television star, had complained that Saturday is the "Death Valley" of TV viewership.

Following the defence presentation, Trump claimed it had demonstrated how "unfairly" he has been treated and showed he was the victim of a "partisan Impeachment Hoax."

Trump's lawyers are due to resume his defence today. They will have 24 hours spread over three days for their arguments but have said they are unlikely to use all the time allotted.

Saturday's brief session was a relief to the four senators battling for the Democratic presidential nomination, allowing them to return to the campaign trail.