Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Trump rages at impeachment as lawyers demand swift acquittal in Senate trial

Democrats dismiss president’s legal argument as ‘chilling’ and ‘dead wrong’

Andrew Buncombe
Monday 20 January 2020 12:49 GMT
Donald Trump says John Bolton 'would would know nothing about what we're talking about' ahead of impeachment trial

Donald Trump has raged about the alleged unfairness of the impeachment process confronting him, as his lawyers have urged the Senate to swiftly reject the charges.

Less than a day before the upper chamber of congress convenes for only the third time in history to consider impeachment charges against a president, Mr Trump blasted Democrats for having overseen a process he said was skewed against him.

“Cryin’ Chuck Schumer is now asking for ‘fairness’, when he and the Democrat house members worked together to make sure I got ZERO fairness in the house, he tweeted. “So, what else is new?”

The president’s comments on Twitter came as his lawyers urged senators to reject the two articles of impeachment that were approved by the House of Representatives, and sent up for trial – one of abuse of power, and one of obstruction of justice. ​In a 110-page document filed before a noon deadline, his lawyers claimed the president had done nothing wrong, that the case against him involved a twisting of the constitution, and that it was part of a broader “illegitimate partisan effort to take him down” by Democrats.

Later, the Republican leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell, proposed a condensed, two-day calendar for each side to give opening arguments. It also pushed off any votes on witnesses until later in the process, rather than up front, as Democrats demanded.

The case against Mr Trump was triggered after revelations emerged last autumn from a member of the US intelligence community that the president had on a 25 July phone call with the leader of Ukraine, improperly asked him to launch an anti-corruption probe into Democrat Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

The former vice president is among a handful of Democrats vying to take on Mr Trump later this year.

It was alleged that in exchange for Kiev’s launching of such a probe, the White House would invite the newly elected Volodymyr Zelensky to Washington DC, and lift the freeze on around $400m in military aid that had been assigned by congress to help Ukraine bolster its defences against Russia, amid long-running hostilities.

Donald Trump may discuss hacking of firm at heart of Ukraine scandal with Putin, Kellyanne Conway says

After the House voted almost strictly on party lines to approve the two articles – the lower chamber voted 230-197 on abuse of power, and 229-198 on obstruction of congress – the drama was expected to move swiftly to the Senate, where Republicans hold a majority and the president would expect to be acquitted.

But in a sharp display of political manoeuvring, house speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed sending the articles to the Senate, claiming Republican leader Mitch McConnell had made clear he would not permit a fair trial, and dismissed efforts by Democrats to call witnesses.

Even at this stage, many of the details of how the process will play out remain unclear, and late on Monday, Democrats assigned by Ms Pelosi to oversee the prosecution of the case against Mr Trump, were still in discussions with Republicans in the Senate.

Before senators from either side make any progress in making the case against the president or seeking to dismiss it, the Senate will have to vote on a resolution to govern the hearings. Late on Monday, Mr McConnell proposed a condensed, two-day calendar for each side to give opening arguments, and sought to claim witnesses would only be permitted if there was a separate vote. Democrats termed his proposal a “cover-up”.

Republicans control the chamber 53 – 47, so Mr McConnell can expect considerable leverage in setting the terms. In recent days, he and other party lawyers from both sides have been studying the way the Senate handled the 1999 case against Bill Clinton.

On that occasion, when Democrats controlled the chamber, a total of three witnesses, including former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, gave video depositions, excerpts of which were played. No live witness testimony was permitted in the chamber.

The Senate could vote for witnesses with just a simple majority. As a result, Democrats could need to persuade just four Republican senators – they are targeting the likes of Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – to hear from them.

On Monday, The New York Times pointed out Mr Trump’s legal team did not deny he pressured Ukraine to announce investigations into Mr Biden. Yet they claimed he had the authority to conduct relations with other countries as he wished.

After Mr Trump’s lawyers filed their legal brief, Democrats in the House responded.

They wrote: “President Trump maintains that the Senate cannot remove him even if the house proves every claim in the articles of impeachment. That is a chilling assertion. It is also dead wrong.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in