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What to watch on Day 5 of Trump's impeachment trial
President Trump's legal team gets its first crack at defending the president Saturday in a truncated Senate session before a more fulsome presentation on Monday.
The Senate is scheduled to convene at 10 a.m., and Trump's attorneys are expected to argue their case for no more than three hours. Members of the legal team insisted the abbreviated schedule was agreed to in order to accommodate senators' schedules, though it is also likely meant to satisfy Trump, who bemoaned that the public might tune from impeachment coverage out over the weekend.
"After having been treated unbelievably unfairly in the House, and then having to endure hour after hour of lies, fraud & deception by Shifty [Adam] Schiff, Cryin' Chuck Schumer & their crew, looks like my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.," Trump tweeted Friday.
Trump's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, indicated Friday that the first day of arguments from the defense team would not delve too deeply into the case, characterizing Saturday's remarks as the "coming attractions" for the bulk of the case that will be presented early next week.
"Obviously we have three hours to put it out, so we'll take whatever time's appropriate during that three hours to kind of lay out what the case will look like," Sekulow told reporters at the Capitol. "But next week is when you'll see the full presentation."
Saturday will offer a reprieve of sorts for senators who have listened to about 40 hours of arguments since Tuesday. The Senate will be out on Sunday before reconvening Monday, with trial proceedings slated to commence that afternoon.
The shortened schedule on Saturday will also allow the handful of senators who are seeking the Democratic presidential nomination to travel to Iowa for campaign events roughly a week before the state's Feb. 3 caucuses.
Saturday's arguments, however, will set the tone for the defense team, which is expected to aggressively defend Trump while taking swipes at Democrats and former Vice President Joe Biden, a frontrunner in the 2020 race for the White House.
A source on the president's legal team said they would present a "thorough rebuttal" to Democrats' charges.
"We're going to present a robust defense on both the facts and the law on the substance of the president's conduct because the president didn't do anything wrong and that is clear from the transcript of the call," the person said, referring to Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine's president that's at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
Sekulow voiced astonishment on Friday that Democrats had "opened up the door as wide as a double door on the Hunter Biden-Joe Biden-Burisma issue." He assured reporters the defense team would use the opening to paint the Bidens as corrupt.
"I guess they figured that was their way of getting ahead of it," he said. "We will address it."
Trump's team is stocked with well-known figures in the legal community, but not all of them will step to the microphone on Saturday. White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Sekulow will be the most prominent figures to do so.
Alan Dershowitz, whose clients have included Jeffrey Epstein and O.J. Simpson, is expected to argue Monday against Trump's impeachment on constitutional grounds.
Kenneth Starr, the former independent counsel who investigated then-President Clinton, is another member of Trump's defense team, but one who is not expected to take on a speaking role until next week.
This is the first time the Senate will be in session on a Saturday for Trump's trial, and could be the last if the proceedings wrap up as quickly as the White House and Trump's allies have predicted.
The defense team's goals will be twofold: to rebut evidence laid out over three days of arguments by Democrats and convince moderate Republican senators the case against Trump is so weak that there is no need to hear from additional witnesses.
If at least four Republicans vote with every Democrat and independent senator to hear additional evidence, it could set up a protracted fight over executive privilege and who can testify at the trial.
GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mitt Romeny (Utah) have all indicated an openness to hearing from additional witnesses. As Republicans aim to close ranks and bring the trial to a quick end, Trump's defense team will be under even more pressure when presenting its arguments.