President Trump’s defense began its presentation Saturday in an abbreviated session of a historic impeachment trial by arguing that Trump had done nothing wrong in his dealings with Ukraine and that Democrats had presented a selective record.

The two-hour presentation, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, followed a three-day opening argument by House managers, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who urged Trump’s removal from office for alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The crux of House Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a political rival, as well as his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president.

When the trial resumes next week, Trump’s lawyers are expected to argue that the president was justified in seeking the investigation because of a history of corruption involving the company.

●Democrats focus on Trump’s character as they argue for removing him from office in impeachment trial.

●Trump’s defense team to target Bidens in counterpunch to impeachment charges.

●Trump is allegedly heard on a recording demanding the firing of then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

9:15 p.m.
Link copied
link

Democratic senators criticize Pompeo for attacks on reporter

Five Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “express our profound disappointment and concern” about his statement Saturday morning maligning the media and an NPR reporter.

They called it “irresponsible” and said it has “corrosive effects ... on American values and standing in the world.”

“At a time when journalists around the world are being jailed for their reporting — and as in the case of Jamal Khashoggi, killed — your insulting and contemptuous comments are beneath the office of the Secretary of State,” the senators wrote. Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist and prominent critic of the Saudi Arabian government, was killed in October 2018 at the order of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the CIA.

Pompeo issued the statement in response to an NPR reporter’s account of his swearing and yelling at her because she asked about Ukraine in an interview.

9:00 p.m.
Link copied
link

Senators seeking Democratic presidential nomination benefit from abbreviated trial day

Among the bigger beneficiaries of Saturday’s truncated trial session were the senators seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, who scrambled to get out of town to spend precious time in Iowa ahead of the Feb. 3 caucuses.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) planned evening rallies in Marshalltown and Ames. He originally had not planned to make the Marshalltown event, but his fortunes changed when Trump’s legal team announced it was done for the day after only two hours.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was aiming to get to the nation’s first nominating state in time to speak at a middle school in Muscatine.

When word came Friday that senators could expect an early finish on Saturday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) added a house party in Hiawatha to her Saturday schedule. She also planned an evening town hall in Muscatine and a speech at a Democratic party gala in Bettendorf.

8:25 p.m.
Link copied
link

White House eyes Sen. Manchin as Trump wants a Democrat to vote for acquittal

Trump and White House officials are looking for at least one Senate Democrat to vote against removing the president from office at the end of his impeachment trial, and they see Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) as the most likely candidate.

Trump took particular pride that three House Democrats voted against his impeachment, White House officials said, and he would like to be able to get at least one Senate Democrat to vote for his acquittal so he can claim the decision was bipartisan.

Manchin has sided with Trump on tough votes before, such as the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. But voting to acquit the president would be an even more politically charged decision, one that could help him maintain his reputation as a moderate back home but that would likely make him a pariah within his own party.

Read more here.

8:15 p.m.
Link copied
link

Trump shares reviews of his legal team by GOP lawmakers, other allies

Trump returned to Twitter to share glowing reviews of his legal team’s performance by several GOP lawmakers and other allies.

Among the assessements Trump retweeted was this one by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a staunch Trump supporter: “2 hours of truth beats over 20 hours of presumptions, assumptions, and hearsay.”

The president also shared a favorable tweet by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), another congressional ally.

“There is no other way to spin it: The response today from the President’s legal team has been absolutely devastating to the impeachment argument,” Meadows said. “The Democrats’ case has been thoroughly exposed.”

7:45 p.m.
Link copied
link

Democrats seek to rebut Trump’s six-point defense

Democrats working on the impeachment trial sought Saturday to rebut a six-point defense that Trump’s defense team presented on the Senate floor. Here’s an encapsulation of the six points and the Democratic rebuttal.

●Trump — A rough transcript of a July call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shows that Trump did not condition either security assistance or a White House meeting on anything. The paused security assistance funds aren’t even mentioned on the call.

Democrats — Trump would like to ignore the overwhelming evidence that he engaged in a scheme over many months to hold up aid to Ukraine and the White House meeting as leverage to get Ukraine to conduct investigations to help him politically. The July 25 call was an important part — but only part — of that scheme.

●Trump — Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said that there was no quid pro quo and no pressure on them to review anything.

Democrats — Ukraine’s security and democracy depends on support from the United States. Zelensky said privately that he did not want to be involved in U.S. domestic politics but ultimately relented and scheduled an announcement of the two investigations on CNN.

●Trump — Zelensky and high-ranking Ukrainian officials did not even know the security assistance was paused until the end of August, over a month after the July call.

Democrats — According to multiple witnesses, Ukrainian officials knew Trump placed a hold on security assistance soon after it was ordered in July. Regardless, no one disputes that everyone found out and Ukraine soon relented to Trump’s demands before the president got caught.

●Trump — Not a single witness testified that the president himself said that there was any connection between any investigations and security assistance, a presidential meeting or anything else.

Democrats — The president’s attorneys do not dispute that the White House meeting was conditioned on the investigations. Multiple witnesses also testified that there was a quid pro quo for security assistance and that Trump confirmed that directly.

●Trump — The security assistance flowed on Sept. 11, and a presidential meeting took place on Sept. 25 without the Ukrainian government announcing any investigations.

Democrats — The president released the security assistance only after he got caught, and he still has not given Zelensky the White House meeting. (The Sept. 25 meeting took place in New York during the U.N. General Assembly.)

●Trump — The Democrats’ blind drive to impeach the president does not and cannot change the fact, as attested to by the Democrats’ own witnesses, that Trump has been a better friend to and stronger supporter of Ukraine than his predecessor.

Democrats — If that is true, then it proves that there was no legitimate reason for the hold. The only difference between 2017 and 2018, when there were no issues with releasing the aid, and 2019, when it was held, is that Biden announced he was running for president.

7:00 p.m.
Link copied
link

Biden makes oblique reference to impeachment trial

SALEM, N.H. — Speaking to hundreds of people in the nation’s first primary state, Joe Biden obliquely mentioned the ongoing impeachment hearings, which ended for the day a few minutes before he began speaking at an elementary school.

“They said that I don’t understand this new Republican Party,” he told attendees. “Well, I think I understand them better than they do. I’ve been the object of their affection for a long time. And my guess is if you go home and turn your TV on, you’re going to find the name ‘Biden’ mentioned over and over again.”

The phrasing is similar to the way Biden has addressed questions about how he has handled the potential conflict of interest involving his son Hunter Biden on the campaign trail. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company when Biden was spearheading Ukraine policy as vice president.

Trump and Republicans have accused Biden, without evidence, of ousting a prosecutor to quash an investigation of the company, Burisma. Former U.S. and Ukrainian officials have said the prosecutor’s investigation into Burisma had been dormant.

Biden has been referring to Hunter recently as “my surviving son,” alluding to the 2015 death from cancer of Biden’s older son Beau. The former vice president has described Trump and Republican critics as unscrupulous for their attacks on Hunter Biden.

“I understand these guys. I understand this new Republican Party,” Biden said. “They’ve gone after me, telling lies about me. My surviving son, they’ve gone after him.”

6:45 p.m.
Link copied
link

Trump says trial proceedings show how unfairly he’s been treated

Trump weighed in on the presentation by his lawyers Saturday, claiming it showed how unfairly he had been treated.

“Any fair minded person watching the Senate trial today would be able to see how unfairly I have been treated and that this is indeed the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax that EVERYBODY, including the Democrats, truly knows it is,” Trump tweeted. “This should never be allowed to happen again!”

6:15 p.m.
Link copied
link

Schiff uses trial to raise money, says in ad he hasn’t had time to fundraise

Schiff’s campaign has purchased ads on Facebook asking for donations to “Help Adam Fight” – though they do not explicitly mention impeachment or Trump.

“I’ll be honest: I’m busier than I’ve ever been in my career,” the ad starts. “I’m working every day in the House to protect democracy and make progress for the American people. With all that’s been going on, I haven’t had much time to fundraise for my re-election. So I’m coming straight to you.”

6:10 p.m.
Link copied
link

Schiff responds to GOP umbrage following ‘pike’ remark

Schiff pushed back Saturday against expressions of Republican umbrage following his reference to a CBS News report that GOP senators were warned that if they vote against the president in his impeachment trial, their “head will be on a pike.”

Schiff mentioned the report during his closing remarks Friday in making the House’s case for the removal of Trump. The report did not say who had delivered the threat or which senators had been warned.

Republicans have since claimed Schiff crossed a line in suggesting they are blindly loyal to the president.

“If the worst they can point to is that I referred to a published report by CBS, that’s pretty thin gruel,” Schiff said at a news conference on Saturday. “They just want to attack the House managers – that’s what you do … when your client is guilty. ... You don’t want to talk about your client’s guilt, you want to attack the prosecution.”

6:00 p.m.
Link copied
link

Schiff says facts ‘uncontested in our presentation and in theirs’

In a news conference, Schiff sought to break down the White House lawyers’ arguments, asserting that they did nothing to contest the facts.

Schiff focused on the arguments that Trump was concerned with financial burden-sharing by other countries when he held back aid to Ukraine and that there was no explicit quid pro quo in the conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

If this had been about burden-sharing, “you wouldn’t have (Trump) saying, call ‘Giuliani,’ you’d have him saying call ‘Angela,’ ” Schiff said, referring to the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel.

He also argued that when Trump spoke to Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, he would have asked about an effort to get more funding from Europe instead of the question he allegedly did ask about Zelensky: “Is he going to do the investigations?”

Schiff hit back against the idea that two leaders would have explicitly stated on an official call how a “bribery is going to work.”

“That’s not how it works when done by organized crime,” Schiff said.

He said a clue to the “scheme” is that in the July 25 call, Zelensky said he would do the investigations and followed that up by saying that he was looking forward to a meeting at the White House.

5:50 p.m.
Link copied
link

Republicans say Trump’s lawyers ‘shredded’ House case

Republicans rallied around Trump’s lawyers Saturday, with many of them using the same word — “shredded” — to describe what the defense team had done, in their view, to the case presented by House prosecutors.

“In two hours, the White House counsel entirely shredded the case by the House managers,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told reporters. “What we saw today was factually relevant ... and (we) saw there were a lot of half-truths from the House managers and, frankly, pushed by the media.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) offered a similar take.

“It took less than two hours to completely shred and eviscerate Adam Schiff’s failed case for impeachment,” she said. “There is no case for impeachable offenses here. And it took less than two hours to do so. I think the American people understand that.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) echoed that sentiment in a tweet sent around the same time.

“3 days of Democrat arguments were just shredded in 2 hours,” he said.

5:30 p.m.
Link copied
link

Schumer says there are ‘gaping holes’ in defense testimony

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Trump defense team “did something they did not intend” by making the case for more witnesses and documents.

Schumer focused on the defense team’s argument that there were no eyewitnesses and that no one knows what the president intended when he held the aid.

“But there are people who do know,” Schumer said, mentioning that former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were among them.

“Today we thank the president’s counsel for one thing, they made our case even stronger.”

5:05 p.m.
Link copied
link

Schiff says Trump’s team didn’t contest facts of ‘Trump’s scheme’

Schiff weighed in on the defense presentation minutes after it wrapped up.

“After listening to the President’s lawyers opening arguments, I have three observations,” Schiff said on Twitter. “They don’t contest the facts of Trump’s scheme. They’re trying to deflect, distract from, and distort the truth. And they are continuing to cover it up by blocking documents and witnesses.”

5:05 p.m.
Link copied
link

Defense team wraps up for the day, will return Monday

About two hours after beginning the defense team’s opening arguments, Cipollone announced that the team was done for the day.

The trial has recessed until 1 p.m. Monday, when Trump’s defense will continue.