President Donald Trump‘s legal team on Monday argued that Democrats do not have the evidence to charge him with a crime and were employing “politically loaded and promiscuously deployed terms” to turn an un-impeachable offense into one during its second day of arguments in the impeachment trial.
The defense team, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal attorney Jay Sekulow, sought to discredit the argument made by Democratic House managers last week by stating Trump did not condition the release of military aid to Ukraine on the country announcing investigations into Trump’s political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden.
Deputy White House counsel Mike Purpura said “the managers are wrong” about the timeline in which Trump released the aid saying Trump released military aid to Ukraine on Sept. 11 and met with Ukrainian President Voldomyr Zelensky later that month because his concerns had been “addressed in the ordinary course.”
Purpura said Trump decided to release the aid because his concerns about Ukrainian corruption were eased, not because he was “caught” by the House, which launched an investigation into Trump’s alleged effort to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens.
“Were crimes alleged in the articles in the common law of presidential impeachment? In Nixon, yes. In Clinton, yes. Here, no,” he said.
Former Florida attorney general and member of Trump’s legal team Pam Bondi outlined the concerns around Hunter Biden’s involvement in Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma.
Hunter Biden worked on the company’s board while his father, then U.S. vice president under Barack Obama, in 2016 pushed for the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor because of concerns he was overlooking corruption. Trump supporters contend Joe Biden’s actions amounted to a conflict of interest.
Former U.S. envoy Kurt Volker, however, testified last fall during House impeachment hearings that Joe Biden was following official U.S. policy to fight corruption in Ukraine.
Bondi questioned Hunter Biden’s qualifications, calling his role with the company “nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst.”
She also called into question Joe Biden’s efforts to remove Ukrainian prosecutor Victor Shokin, citing his investigation into Burisma, although a deputy said that probe was dormant at the time and he had been accused of corruption.
“There was basis to talk about this, to raise this issue, and that is enough,” she said.
As the long day stretched into night, celebrity attorney and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz took to the lectern and argued that the charges against Trump do not meet the criteria of high crimes and misdemeanors as conditions for impeachment under the Constitution.
He called terms such as “quid pro quo” and “personal benefit,” which have been used to describe Trump’s actions and motivations in connection to Ukraine, as terms Democrats have utilized to term a non-impeachable act into a crime worthy of unseating a president.
“It’s inconceivable that the framers would have intended so politically loaded and promiscuously deployed a term as ‘abuse of power’ to be weaponized as a tool of impeachment,” he said. “It is precisely the kind of vague, open-ended and subjective term that the framers feared and rejected.”
He said the Democrats adopted a “psychoanalytical approach” to determine Trump’s motives and to determine them impeachable, but that was beside the point as a president demanding quid pro quo as a condition for sending aid to a foreign country does not constitute an abuse of power.
“The claim that foreign policy decisions can be deemed abuses of power based on subjective opinions about mixed or so motives that the president was interested only in helping himself demonstrates the dangers of employing the vague, subjective and politically malleable phrase abuse of power as a constitutionally permissible criteria for the removal of a president,” he said.
And while most of Trump’s legal team sidestepped the issue of the New York Times report on Saturday on a manuscript by former national security adviser John Bolton outlining the president withholding aid from Ukraine, Dershowitz addressed it head-on, stating even if it were true it would not be a crime punishable by removal from office.
“Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense,” he said. “That is clear from the history, and that is clear from the language of the Constitution. You cannot turn conduct that is not impeaching into impeachable conduct simply by using words like ‘quid pro quo’ and ‘personal benefits.'”
Trump’s defense opened its case on Saturday but used only a fraction of the time allotted to make its presentation. Both sides were allowed a combined 24 hours over a period of three days to argue their cases. Democrats used all of their allotted time last week, but Trump’s attorneys said they plan to sum up their defense “efficiently and quickly.”