Schiff huddles in Capitol with impeachment managers

The House Democrats soon to prosecute the impeachment case against President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE huddled in the Capitol on Sunday for eleventh-hour preparations ahead of the Senate trial, which opens Tuesday.

The rare Sunday meeting, which took place in the office of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally CDC causes new storm by pulling coronavirus guidance Overnight Health Care: CDC pulls revised guidance on coronavirus | Government watchdog finds supply shortages are harming US response | As virus pummels US, Europe sees its own spike MORE (D-Calif.), was led by Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffChris Matthews ripped for complimenting Trump's 'true presidential behavior' on Ginsburg Trump casts doubt on Ginsburg statement, wonders if it was written by Schiff, Pelosi or Schumer Top Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence MORE (D-Calif.), the head prosecutor in the coming trial to decide Trump's fate.

Other attendees included at least four of the seven Democratic impeachment managers — Reps. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenTop Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence DHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility House passes legislation to boost election security research MORE (Calif.), Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsFlorida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Sunday shows - Trump team defends coronavirus response Demings slams GOP coronavirus relief bill: Americans 'deserve more than the crumbs from the table' MORE (Fla.), Sylvia GarciaSylvia GarciaHispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants Texas Democrat proposes legislation requiring masks in federal facilities Hispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs MORE (Texas) and Jason CrowJason CrowClark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race Trump-Afghan deal passes key deadline, but peace elusive Cook shifts 20 House districts toward Democrats MORE (Colo.) — as well as a handful of senior aides and attorneys on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees.

All were acutely tight-lipped about the details surrounding their last-minute strategy session.

"I'm really not going to comment except to say we're just doing our trial preparation," Schiff said as he left the gathering. The process, he added, is "coming along fine."

It appeared that the two additional Democratic managers — Reps. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerSchumer: 'Nothing is off the table' if GOP moves forward with Ginsburg replacement Top Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence House passes bill to protect pregnant workers MORE (N.Y.) and Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesPelosi: House will stay in session until agreement is reached on coronavirus relief Races heat up for House leadership posts Postmaster general earned millions from company with ties to Postal Service: report MORE (N.Y.) — did not participate in the noon meeting. Pelosi, too, was not in attendance.

After nearly a month of delay, Pelosi tapped her team of Democratic impeachment managers last Wednesday — the same day the House passed two impeachment resolutions on the chamber floor — and the seven lawmakers marched the articles across the Capitol to the Senate just hours later.

It remains unclear how the roles and responsibilities will be divvied up between the seven managers when the Senate trial launches Tuesday. Schiff on Sunday declined to comment on the issue.

As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff was a natural fit to lead the trial phase of the impeachment proceedings. It was his committee that spearheaded the Democrats' impeachment investigation, which centered on allegations that Trump had withheld $391 million in foreign aid to Ukraine in an effort to coerce that country's leaders to investigate the president's political opponents.

Trump and his Republican allies have argued that the administration was simply fighting foreign corruption generally without targeting anyone specifically. The pressure campaign was designed to protect U.S. taxpayer dollars, they say, not damage Trump's opponents.

But Democrats — armed with testimony from 17 diplomats and national security officials, among other evidence — accused Trump of using his office illegally for personal political benefit.

Last month, Democrats passed their two articles, charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. In doing so, Trump became just the third president in the country's history to be impeached.

On Saturday, House Democrats unveiled a lengthy trial brief, outlining the arguments they intend to make as the Senate trial gets under way this week.

The document includes several new bits of evidence that have emerged since the Dec. 18 House impeachment votes. But the central thrust of the Democrats' allegations remains unchanged heading into the trial: Trump, they say, abused his office and threatened national security in pressing a foreign leader to interfere in a domestic election and then covered it up as Democrats sought to investigate. That, Democrats contend, merits his removal.

The White House has a decidedly different view. And shortly after the Democrats released their trial brief Saturday evening, two lawyers representing Trump offered a short response to the specific impeachment charges.

Among other arguments, Trump's lawyers accuse Democrats of launching a politically motivated attack on the president designed to both overturn his 2016 victory and undermine his prospects for reelection this year.

The administration also maintains that abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are not crimes, let alone offenses meriting impeachment.

"The articles of impeachment violate the Constitution," said Trump's lawyers, Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowNow, we need the election monitors Judge denies Trump's request for a stay on subpoena for tax records Judge throws out Trump effort to block subpoena for tax returns MORE and Pat Cipollone. "They are defective in their entirety."

Democrats were quick to fire back, attacking the White House for pushing a "dangerous" argument that, they contend, disregards Congress's constitutional responsibility to be a check on presidential powers.

"If the president were correct, it would represent a fundamental alteration in the American constitutional order," said a Democratic aide working on impeachment.

Schiff and his team of impeachment managers are slated to meet in the Capitol again on Monday, when they're expected to perform a walk-through of the Senate chamber ahead of Tuesday's trial.