Impeachment trial of President Trump
President Trump's lawyer Patrick Philbin cherry-picked accusations of political bias against the Ukraine whistleblower today during the impeachment trial.
“The whistleblower, we know, from a letter that the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community sent, that he thought that the whistleblower had political bias,” Philbin said Saturday morning on the Senate floor.
Facts First: That’s not the full story. Philbin picked the part that helps the President but ignored other relevant facts.
Michael Atkinson, the inspector general, said his review of the whistleblower complaint “identified some indicia of bias of an arguable political bias on the part of the complainant in favor of a rival political candidate.”
But Atkinson continued, “such evidence did not change my determination that the complaint relating to the urgent concern 'appears credible' particularly given the other information the ICIG obtained during its preliminary review.”
In other words, the inspector general deemed that the indications of potential bias weren’t so severe that they negated the contents of the whistleblower’s complaint, which was filed in August. The whistleblower raised serious concerns about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and accused Trump of trying to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election. The vast majority of the claims in the complaint were corroborated by the impeachment inquiry.
CNN previously reported that one of the potential indications of bias was that the whistleblower is a registered Democrat. Republicans have claimed that this is only the tip of the iceberg, and previously called on the whistleblower to testify during the House inquiry. Trump has also said he wants the whistleblower to testify.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walked past reporters on the second floor outside the Senate chamber without responding to shouted questions about how he reacted to the defense presentation today.
He has now left the Capitol.
White House counsel spent just two hours today arguing the President's case, compared to the Democratic House managers, who spoke for around eight hours during their first day of arguments this past week.
"You've heard the House managers speak for nearly 24 hours over three days. We don't anticipate using that much time," White House counsel Pat Cipollone said at the start of the day.
"We don't believe that they have come anywhere close to meeting their burden for what they're asking you to do," he said.
Trump's defense team used just under two hours of their time on Saturday morning. They have about 22 hours left to argue their case.
During the presentation from House managers Friday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said he spoke with President Trump after one of the proceedings this week and he gave him his thoughts about them so far.
Graham, an ally of the President, said Trump thought Democratic House manager Adam Schiff "did a bad job." But Graham said he told Trump that Schiff did a "pretty good job."
He added that Trump was "bored" by the proceedings.
Following the conclusion of their opening arguments today, Rep. Adam Schiff tweeted that President Trump's legal team is "trying to deflect, distract from, and distort the truth."
Here's his tweet:
White House counsel Pat Cipollone concluded the first two hours of the President's team's opening argument.
"We ask you out of respect to think about, think about whether what you've heard would really suggest to anybody anything other that would be completely irresponsible abuse of power to do what they're asking you to do. To stop an election, to interfere in an election and remove the President of the United States from the ballot? Let the people decide for themselves."
He concluded: "That's what the founders wanted, that's what we should all want, and with that, I thank you for your attention and I look forward to seeing you on Monday."
The trial has been adjourned until Monday afternoon.
Hear the final remarks from today's proceedings:
Trump's team finished their arguments for the day. They will reconvene on Monday at 1 p.m. ET.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone just said at the podium, "I have good news. Just a few more minutes from us today."
The Trump team said earlier that they would be wrapping up by 1 p.m. ET at the latest.
In his opening argument on Saturday morning, White House counsel Pat Cipollone alleged that Democrats are asking Americans to “remove President Trump from the ballot” in the 2020 election and “tear up all of the ballots.”
Facts First: If the Senate does vote to convict Trump, it does not automatically disqualify him from holding future public office. It would take an additional vote on that specific question to bar him from ever holding public office. Democrats however have said that Trump’s actions do warrant disqualification.
Conviction in an impeachment trial requires the support of two-thirds of the Senate. Disqualification requires only a simple post-conviction majority.
In their articles of impeachment, the House Democrats said: “ Wherefore President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States."
On the first day of the White House counsel's arguments, Republican senators did not play with fidget spinners or doodle. Instead, many were seen taking notes.
When attorney Pat Cipollone talked about how impeachment would overturn the results of the last election, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, picked up her pen.
When Cipollone said impeachment would remove the President from the ballot in November, Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, picked up her pen as well.
Sens. Joni Ernst, Lamar Alexander, Cory Gardner, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and David Perdue were all seen writing after counsel Mike Purpura gave a list of claims refuting the Democrats' arguments from the past week.
Collins and Murkowski picked up their pens again when Purpura cited Marie Yovanovitch, the former US Ambassador to Ukraine, and White House adviser Tim Morrison in saying that the Javelin anti-tank missiles sales mentioned on the Trump-Zelensky July 25 call "were unrelated" to the withheld security assistance.
Sen. Mitt Romney picked up his pen when Purpura said "it's absolutely fatal" to the House managers' case that Ukraine didn't know the aid was held up until Politico reported it.
Some of the Democrats were holding up their heads with their hands. Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, paid close attention to the clips and Sen. Doug Jones, of Alabama, continued to take notes.
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, was mentioned a few times, but maintained a deadpan demeanor.