President Donald Trump’s impeachment legal team on Monday expanded their arguments, defending Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, attacking the constitutional basis for the charges against the president and supporting his desire to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
After an abbreviated start to the White House defense on Saturday, Trump’s lawyers accused House Democrats of rushing through the impeachment process with unsubstantiated claims about the president.
“Instead of a once in a century phenomenon, which it had been, presidential impeachment has become a weapon to be wielded against one’s political opponent,” said Ken Starr, one of Trump’s lawyers who led the impeachment investigation into former President Bill Clinton two decades ago.
Today’s defense unfolded in the aftermath of details leaked from an unpublished manuscript by former national security adviser John Bolton, in which he writes the president said he would not release aid to Ukraine’s military until the country launched an investigation into the Bidens.
Bolton’s account seemed to weigh heavily on the trial, where senators will soon vote on whether or not to subpoena witnesses and more evidence.
Here are five key moments from Trump’s rebuttal:
Trump impeachment is about ‘policy differences,’ lawyer says
Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said that the impeachment of the president is about “deep policy differences.” He called for the impeachment process to be based on evidence rather than speculation.
“We live in a constitutional republic where you have deep policy concerns and deep differences. That should not be the basis of an impeachment,” Sekulow said. This, he added, endangers the constitutional framework.
Ken Starr: Impeachment should remain ‘measure of last resort’
In his remarks, Starr called for senators to “close this chapter,” referring to the impeachment process. Starr’s presentation sought to provide historical context for impeachment and to explain the significance of its use. We are living in the “age of impeachment,” Starr stated, which he described as “hell.”
“Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment — including members of this body — full well understand that a presidential impeachment is tantamount to a domestic war,” Starr said. “A war of words and a war of ideas. But it’s filled with acrimony and it divided the country like nothing else.”
Attorney Raskin: Giuliani wasn’t on ‘political errand’ in Ukraine
Jane Raskin, one of Trump’s lawyers, defended Rudy Giuliani’s professional background and refuted claims that Giuliani’s involvement in Ukraine was part of a political errand.
“The House managers would have you believe that Mr. Giuliani is at the center of this controversy. They’ve anointed him the proxy villain of the tale,” Raskin said. “But I suggest to you that he’s front and center in their narrative for one reason and one reason only: to distract from the fact that the narrative does not support their claims.”
Raskin continued that the House would have pushed to subpoena Giuliani for testimony if they believed he was a leader of the operation in Ukraine. Raskin asserted that rather than using direct evidence to build House Democrats’ case, they relied on hearsay.
Dershowitz says he would give the same constitutional defense if Hillary Clinton were on trial
Defense attorney Alan Dershowitz disputed the constitutional grounds of impeaching a president for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, adding that he would make the same case if a President Hillary Clinton were on trial.
“I stand before you today, as I stood before you in 1973 and 1974, for the protection of the constitutional and procedural rights of Richard Nixon — who I personally abhorred — and whose impeachment I personally favored. And as I stood for the rights of Bill Clinton, who I admired and whose impeachment I strongly opposed.”
In recent days Dershowitz has argued that a president needs to be accused of a crime before being impeached. This is a departure from his claims in 1998, when he argued “you don’t need a technical crime” to impeach a president. Dershowitz acknowledged this change in his statement Monday, saying he had not done enough research at that time.
Bondi argues Biden corruption concerns are legitimate
Trump’s defense team turned to Trump’s debunked claims that the Bidens engaged in corruption in Ukraine. Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida and a member of Trump’s legal team, pointed to a number of news reports that questioned Hunter Biden’s appointment to the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
Citing news articles and Hunter Biden’s lack of professional experience in the energy sector, Bondi argued the president had valid reasons for wanting to investigate the Bidens.
“[Democrats] have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there is no basis to raise this concern, but that’s not what public records show,” Bondi said. Democrats argue Trump used corruption and a false conspiracy theory as a cover in order to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival.