Trump lawyer argues Democrats have 'absolutely no case' in first impeachment trial remarks

White House counsel Pat Cipollone insisted in his first remarks during the Senate impeachment trial that senators would conclude that President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE “has done absolutely nothing wrong.”

“We believe that once you hear those initial presentations, the only conclusion will be that the president has done absolutely nothing wrong and that these articles of impeachment do not begin to approach the standard required by the Constitution,” Cipollone said in brief remarks at the outset of Tuesday’s proceedings.

He insisted the trial would show that House Democrats have “no case” for impeaching and removing Trump from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

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The White House counsel also backed the resolution setting the rules for the trial offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Trump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (R-Wis.), calling it a “fair way to proceed with this trial.”

“It is modeled on the Clinton resolution,” Cipollone said, referring to the impeachment trial of former President Clinton. “It requires the House managers to stand up and make their opening statement and make their case.”

“It is long past time to start this proceeding, and we are here today to do it,” Cipollone added, knocking House Democrats for delaying the submission of the articles to the upper chamber after the lower chamber voted nearly along party lines to impeach Trump on Dec. 18.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMalaysia says it will choose 5G partners based on own standards, not US recommendations Pelosi warns allies against using Huawei Budget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight MORE (D-Calif.) withheld the articles for several weeks while expressing concerns the trial in the GOP-controlled Senate would not be fair, seeking leverage for Democrats as they push for witnesses to be called and new evidence to be introduced.

Cipollone is leading the president’s legal team along with Trump’s personal attorney Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowWhat the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber Senate votes to acquit Trump on articles of impeachment Roberts emerges unscathed from bitter impeachment trial MORE.

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While a key force behind the scenes, the White House counsel has not been a major face of the Trump administration, and his remarks Tuesday served as his first public introduction to many Americans.

The Trump legal team has also brought on high-profile attorneys, including Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzDershowitz files defamation suit against Boies, alleging extortion Sunday shows - 2020 Democrats make closing arguments in New Hampshire Dershowitz: 'Schumer and Pelosi have to go' MORE and former independent counsel Ken Starr, who investigated Clinton, to have speaking roles in the trial.

Both Cipollone and Sekulow spoke on the Senate floor on Tuesday, seeking to challenge House Democrats’ allegations on procedural and constitutional grounds. 

They insisted that Trump was asserting his right to protect privileges of the executive branch by blocking current and former officials from testifying in connection with impeachment inquiry – which formed the basis of Democrats’ allegation that Trump obstructed the congressional inquiry.

At one point, Cipollone called it an “act of patriotism" by Trump "to defend the constitutional rights of the president.”

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Trump’s attorneys filed a brief Monday that urged the Senate to swiftly reject the charges against the president, describing them as deficient and accusing House Democrats of a “brazen political act.”

Trump’s attorneys also argued that he had legitimate reasons to raise a debunked theory about 2016 election interference and unfounded claims about former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenJoe Biden lost his fastball — can he get it back before South Carolina? Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes Bloomberg hits Sanders supporters in new ad MORE during the July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president that is at the heart of the impeachment proceedings. Democrats have accused the president of pressuring Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that could benefit his reelection campaign.

“President Trump’s brief confirms that his misconduct is indefensible,” the seven Democratic impeachment managers wrote in a 32-page memo in response Tuesday.

The Senate will debate McConnell’s resolution Tuesday, setting up opening arguments to begin Wednesday. The House impeachment managers will begin with their own arguments, followed by the president’s attorneys.

Cipollone on Tuesday accused House Democrat of a “partisan impeachment” that he likened to “stealing an election.”

“Talk about the framers' worst nightmare,” Cipollone said, harkening back to a phrase in the House managers’ brief laying out their “overwhelming” evidence against Trump.

“It's a partisan impeachment they've delivered to your doorstep in an election year,” he continued.