Donald Trump’s legal team began their much anticipated defense of the president on Saturday by warning it was a Democratic attempt to overturn the result of the 2016 election.
“They’re asking you not only to overturn the results of the last election, but as I said they’re asking you to remove President Trump from the ballot in an election that’s occurring in approximately nine months,” said Pat Cipollone, White House counsel, as he began a full-throated defense of the embattled president.
“They’re asking you to tear up all of the ballots across this country on your own initiative, take that decision away from the American people and I don’t think they spent one minute of their 24 hours talking to you about the consequences of that for our country. Not one minute. ”
Over an expected three hour period on Saturday, Trump’s lawyers are likely to argue multiple points in order to poke holes in Democrats’ basis for impeachment. The Trump team is expected to say that the president’s requests for Ukraine to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden were legitimate.
They are also expected to argue that Trump did not commit any crime and that Democrats’ impeachment efforts are merely politically motivated as a way to delegitimize his presidency.
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said on Friday that the trial proceedings would restart at 10am on Saturday and go for “several hours”, probably providing a foretaste for a longer, more meaningful session on Monday.
Meanwhile, earlier on Friday Trump tweeted dissatisfaction that his legal defense team would give its preliminary remarks on Saturday, a time when many Americans would not be watching TV.
Vice-President Mike Pence, on a trip in Italy, weighed in on the defense team’s case.
“I think you will hear a strong defense of this president and then senators will have a choice to make,” Pence said in a gaggle with reporters. “The outcome here is that the president should be acquitted.”
The launch of Trump’s defense follows an eventful day in the Trump impeachment trial. A new recording emerged on Friday seemingly of Trump calling for Marie Yovanovitch to be removed as ambassador of Ukraine. The recording of Trump making those remarks over dinner to associates was first reported by ABC.
Democrats in the House spent much of Friday laying their argument on how Trump obstructed Congress and why that merited his removal from office. The House intelligence committee chairman, Adam Schiff, called Trump an “imminent threat to the integrity of our democracy” and warned that the president would never change.
The ongoing impeachment proceedings do not seem to have dramatically moved voters, although the president remains underwater. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 44% of voters approve of the president’s job performance while 51% disapprove.
Trump’s job approval number is up slightly from 38% in October. That seems largely due to the strong American economy. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed said they approved of the president’s stewardship of the economy. But on impeachment, 39% approved of how the president has navigated the impeachment trial while 50% disapproved.