Who's on trial? Trump's defense team turns impeachment toward major counteroffensive

Molly O'Toole, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- President Trump's defense lawyers said their opening foray this weekend in the impeachment trial was only a "trailer" and "sneak preview" of "coming attractions" -- making it clear that Monday is the main event.

A partial roster of Trump's legal team addressed senators for just two hours on Saturday, arguing that the president "did nothing wrong" when he pushed Ukraine to open investigations into his political opponents as he withheld a White House meeting and millions in military aid.

Trump's team has reserved its more incendiary attacks for Monday, when they plan to try to shift scrutiny onto former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter -- effectively giving Trump the public inquest against his potential rival in the 2020 presidential election that he sought from Ukraine.

Kenneth W. Starr, the prosecutor whose investigation led to President Clinton's impeachment, and Alan Dershowitz, the veteran defense attorney, have yet to appear in the Senate chamber as part of Trump's defense team. But they are expected to take the lead for the bulk of the counteroffensive this week, which could last just one day.

Last week, seven House managers argued that Trump abused the power of the presidency and then obstructed Congress to cover it up, filling the 24 hours allowed by Senate rules with three days' worth of PowerPoint presentations, video clips, detailed timelines and impassioned speeches.

Dershowitz said the Democrats were overcompensating for a dearth of evidence with political persuasion.


"Much of what was presented by the Democrats were not impeachable offenses," Dershowitz said Sunday on Fox News. "They were campaign ads."

Trump's counsel made clear they won't use their full 24-hours to make the case that Trump should be acquitted, an almost certain outcome in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Trump, the most important audience for the Republican Party, as well as his lawyers, trumpeted his approval on Sunday for the abrupt, aggressive defense strategy.

"The Impeachment Hoax is a massive election interference the likes of which has never been seen before," Trump said in one of a number of tweets Sunday morning about the trial. "In just two hours the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats have seen their phony case absolutely shredded."


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