Editor’s note: This is the second installment of ongoing coverage of the Senate impeachment trial.
Day Four, continued
On Friday, the Tribune report included the first three days and a portion of the fourth day of the Senate Impeachment Trial. Picking back up on Thursday afternoon, the House impeachment managers laid out the constitutional law concerning article one. Once again, they walked through the timeline.
As the day’s arguments adjourned, various news agencies captured the Senators leaving the Capitol building. Among them, Pat Roberts strode down the stairs and out of the gallery with a determined look on his face. Moments later, Jerry Moran was glimpsed leaving in much the same way. They were not among the Senators that lingered to share their comments about the day’s affairs.
The first part of the day, managers once again reviewed the timeline in respect to the first article of impeachment, with Jason Crow, D-Colo., addressing the “no harm, no foul” defense for the delay in releasing the aid to Ukraine. Any signal or sign that U.S. support for Ukraine was wavering would transmit to Russian president Putin to strengthen his own hold on Ukraine.
Regardless of whether it was released, the fact it was public insured the damage was done.
To underscore the fact that there was knowledge of a quid pro quo, video testimony of Chief of Staff and head of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney’s was shown.
“We do that all the time,” he said. “Get over it.”
Mulvaney said it was a quid pro quo for announcing investigation.
Several other managers took the stand throughout the remainder of the afternoon and into the evening, addressing the second article, obstruction of Congress. Finally, Manager Adam Schiff gave concluding arguments, and it was announced the president’s counsel would begin their opening arguments the next morning.
Finally, the White House took up their opening arguments on Saturday morning. After the Senate chaplain opened the proceedings once more with prayer, Pat Cippoloni provided opening statements, promising the team would be brief, keeping arguments to about three hours, then taking back up again on Monday. They too will have three days, a total of 24-hours to lay out their case.
Cippoloni promised the White House would present evidence that the House team did not, from its own record from the House impeachment investigation. That evidence included many video taped clips of testimony from several witnesses that agreed to come forward, and from the previously released record of the July 25 call between President Trump and President Zelensky. That record, which has been referred to as a transcript, is based on the recollections of the many witnesses to the call put in writing. In this way it differs from a true word-for-word transcript, but is also the accepted norm for recording calls of this nature.
Mike Purpura, deputy counsel to the president, was the first called to the stand. He said he would highlight six key facts that have not and will not change. They are: the president did not condition assistance or a meeting on anything, President Zelensky and others have stated there was no pressure, Zelensky did not even know security assistance was paused until August 28 when the Politico report was published, not a single witness has testified taht the president has said there was a quid pro quo, that assistance flowed to the Ukraine on Sept 11 without any announcement of investigations having been made, and that President Trump has done more to strengthen the Ukraine than his predecessor.
“Each one of these six facts, standing alone, is enough to sink the Democrats’ case,” he said. “Combined, they establish what we have known since the beginning, the president did absolutely nothing wrong.”
He would share facts the House managers did not, he said. He asked them to consider that when they heard something new, to question why the Democrats had not told them during the previous 21 hours of opening arguments.
He then began to lay out their own timeline, beginning on July 25 with the phone call to Zelenski, reading portions of the call transcript, concentrating on two points — burden sharing and concern over corruption. He highlighted Trump’s references to burden sharing, particularly the lack of Germany’s and France’s lack of assistance, and Zelensky’s responses. He also brought up his concerns about corruption, noting that the new Ukrainian president appeared to be surrounding himself with some of the same people his predecessor had, and expressed his concern for how a previous prosecutor general had been “shut down by some very bad people.” Purpura also noted there was no discussion about the paused security assistance on the July 25 call.
Again, the transcript was highlighted, showing that Zelensky’s appreciation for the U.S. support in the area of defense was not about the paused assistance, but about the U.S. allowing Ukraine to purchase Javelins from the U.S. for defense purposes.
Purpura said the previous administration had not made them available to Ukraine, but Trump had allowed them access to the technology designed to destroy Russian tanks. He also said the purchase of Javelins had nothing to do with the paused assistance.
Later, Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal attorney, said Shchiff didn’t like that the president didn’t blindly trust his intelligence community. That is not an impeachable offense, he said. He brought up a Foreign Assistance Surveillance Coordinator, otherwise known as the FASA Court. On Dec. 17, 2019, the FASA court issued a scathing order in response to the FBI’s crossfire hurricane report detailing the FBI’s systematic abuses of obtaining surveillance orders. The reports stated the FBI provided false information to the National Security Division of the Department of Justice and withheld material information from the NSD that was detrimental to the FBI’s case. This and other reports provided the rationale for the president’s decision to depend on others besides the U.S. intelligence community to investigate corruption in foreign governments.
Concerning the House assertion that the president only held back aid from Ukraine, Sekulow noted Trump has placed hold on aid numerous times, to Afghanistan, South Korea, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Lebanon, Pakistan. Witnesses Hale and Hill deposition transcripts also indicated that aid had been withheld often during the Trump administration.
On the issues of obstruction and due process, Patrick Philbin, the deputy counsel to the president provided some insight. The House asserted it was blanket defiance, that Trump’s objections were not rooted in the law and were not legal arguments, and that was simply untrue, he said. He explained how procedure was not followed properly on behalf of the House. A vote was never taken to execute subpoenas for the information. He also refuted that Trump had not attempted to accommodate the House request. He read a letter from Cippoloni to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicating their willingness to explore an accommodation process.
The rationals didn’t depend on executive privilege, and that is the reason executive privilege was not executed.
According to Philbin, the whistle-blower had political bias. The president’s council has never seen a transcript of the whistle-blower’s testimony taken in executive session. Public reports suggest the person had previously worked with Vice President Biden on Ukraine matters, he said. Early on, Schiff had agreed it would be good to hear from the whistle-blower, and publicly stated this, but later changed and publicly stated they didn’t need to hear from this person, Philbin said. He wondered why.
Cippoloni provided concluding arguments. He stated a meeting had been set for Trump to visit Zelensky shortly after the invitation was made for the president to visit Kyiv. However, according to Cipollone, the vice president was asked to take his place because a hurricane in the United States occurred and Trump was needed at home. This was not brought out in House arguments. This, he said, was just one of the questions they had.
“Given the fact you’ve heard today, that they didn’t tell you, who doesn’t want to talk about the facts,” Cippollone said. “If they don’t want to be fair to the president, at least out of respect to you, they should tell you. Impeachment shouldn’t be a shell game.”
The hearing was then adjourned until 1 p.m. ET on Monday, Jan. 27.