Trump impeachment: President’s legal team brands charges against him ‘brazen and unlawful’

Samuel Osborne
AFP/Getty

Donald Trump’s legal team has called the charges in the impeachment trial against him “brazen and unlawful”.

The US president’s team was responding to the Senate’s official summons for the trial ahead of opening arguments on Tuesday.

House Democrats said the president had betrayed public trust with behaviour that was the “worst nightmare” of the founding fathers.

“President Donald J Trump used his official powers to pressure a foreign government to interfere in a United States election for his personal political gain”, the House prosecutors wrote, “and then attempted to cover up his scheme by obstructing congress’s investigation into his misconduct”.

Mr Trump’s legal team said the president “categorically and unequivocally” denies the charges of abuse and obstruction against him. “This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election, now just months away,” the president’s filing states.

The competing filings give a glimpse into the arguments both sides plan to make during the impeachment trial.

Their aim will be to make a strong enough case to persuade the 100 senators who will give the verdict and for the American public preparing for a presidential election in 10 months.

Senators swore an oath to do “impartial justice” as the chamber convenes to consider the two articles of impeachment approved by the House last month.

The House’s 111-page brief outlined the prosecutors’ narrative, beginning with Mr Trump’s phone call with Ukraine and relying on the private and public testimony of a dozen witnesses, consisting of ambassadors and national security officials at high levels of government, who raised concerns about the president’s actions.

The House managers wrote: “The only remaining question is whether the members of the Senate will accept and carry out the responsibility placed on them by the framers of our constitution and their constitutional oaths.”

Mr Trump’s team called the two articles of impeachment “a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president”.

The US president’s team encouraged politicians to reject “poisonous partisanship” and “vindicate the will of the American people” by rejecting both articles of impeachment approved by the House.

The Senate is still debating the ground rules of the trial, particularly the question of whether new witnesses will be permitted as fresh evidence emerges of Mr Trump’s actions with Ukraine that led to impeachment proceedings.

New information from Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, is being incorporated in the House case.

At the same time, Senate Democrats want to call John Bolton, the former national security adviser, and other potential eyewitnesses, after the White House blocked officials from appearing in the House.

As Republicans control the Senate 53-47, they can set the trial rules, though four Republicans could join with the Democrats to change course.

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