Pelosi says Trump lawyers have ‘disgraced’ themselves, suggests disbarment
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday hammered the lawyers leading President Trump’s impeachment defense, saying they’ve trampled on the Constitution while questioning how they’ve been allowed to keep their licenses.
“I don’t know how they can retain their lawyer status, in the comments that they’re making,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.
Pelosi was responding largely to comments made Wednesday evening by Alan Dershowitz, a celebrity lawyer on Trump’s legal team, who asserted on the Senate floor that presidents cannot be impeached for actions designed to boost their reelections — if they believe that retaining a grip on the White House is in the best interest of the country. And “every public official I know,” he added, considers that to be the case.
“If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” Dershowitz said.
The exception, said Dershowitz, an opinion contributor to The Hill, would be cases where the conduct violated a specific law. The Democrats’ two impeachment articles, charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, fall outside the federal criminal code.
“The articles of impeachment violate the Constitution,” Trump’s leading lawyers, Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone, said at the outset of the Senate trial. “They are defective in their entirety.”
Democrats have vehemently rejected the White House arguments, saying impeachment is an inherently political — not judicial — response designed to protect the country from elected officials who violate the public trust, crime or none. Their impeachment case hinges on allegations that Trump violated that trust in withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine to press the country’s leaders to find dirt on his political rivals.
Pelosi on Thursday accused Trump’s Republican allies of trying “to dismantle the Constitution” in their defense of the president.
“Some of them are even lawyers,” she said. “Imagine that you would say — ever, of any president, no matter who he or she is or whatever party — if the president thinks that his or her presidency … is good for the country, then any action is justified — including encouraging a foreign government to have an impact on our elections.”
“[That] is exactly what our Founders were opposed to — and they feared,” she added. “I don’t think they made the case. I think they disgraced themselves terribly in terms of their violation of what our Constitution is about and what a president’s behavior should be.”
Pelosi’s comments came several hours before the Senate launched the ninth day of the impeachment trial, featuring the second day when senators will be allowed to ask questions of Trump’s defense team and the House Democrats prosecuting the case.
A central battle throughout the Senate process has revolved around questions of whether new witnesses and material evidence, which has emerged since the House voted to impeach Trump last month, will be allowed to appear.
Democrats have argued for the new information, noting that every other Senate impeachment trial in the nation’s history has featured witnesses. Republicans are virtually united in their opposition to that plan, saying it was the job of the House, not the Senate, to conduct the underlying investigation.
One witness, in particular, is a focus of the fight: John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, has offered to testify before the Senate under subpoena. And his forthcoming book includes first-hand allegations of the president telling him directly that he was withholding aid to Ukraine to secure politically tinged investigations into his Democratic rivals — a direct contradiction of Trump’s defense.
The Senate is expected to vote on the question of whether to call witnesses on Friday. At least two Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Mitt Romney (Utah) — have indicated they’re likely to support that strategy. Democrats, however, need four defectors to secure the new information.
A wildcard in that debate is John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court who’s presiding over the Senate trial.
Pelosi on Thursday said a Senate vote to acquit Trump would be invalid without calling new witnesses.
She also called on Roberts to step in and break a tie vote, in the event that three Republican senators vote for witnesses, creating a 50-50 tally.
“I would think that they would have confidence in the chief justice of the United States,” she said. “That’s interesting to me that they’re afraid of breaking a tie with the chief justice of the United States.”
Pelosi declined to say if the House committees that have investigated Trump’s pressure campaign in Ukraine — the issue that led to Trump’s impeachment last month — would move to subpoena Bolton if the Senate does not.
“This is in the Senate now,” she said. “We’ll see what happens after that.”