By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump's defense team said Saturday the commander-in-chief is the victim of a flawed impeachment process, alleging Democrats are trying to "overturn" the 2016 election and keep Trump from running in this year's polls.
Speaking during an abbreviated weekend session, White House counsel Pat Cipollone told assembled senators the president "did absolutely nothing wrong," charging Democrats with attempting an unprecedented effort to interfere in elections.
"They’re asking you not only to overturn the results of the last election, but as I’ve said before, they're asking you to remove President Trump from the ballot in an election that is occurring in approximately nine months. They're asking you to tear up all of the ballots across this country on your own initiative, take that decision away from the American people," he said. "That's wrong."
Trump is facing two separate articles of impeachment passed by the House in December tied to his repeated attempts to get Ukraine to declare criminal investigations into leading Democratic candidate Joe Biden, and his subsequent decision to refuse to cooperate in the congressional probe into the matter.
The abuse of power article is centered on Trump's decision to hold up millions of dollars in security assistance to Ukraine as well as a coveted Oval Office meeting sought by President Volodymyr Zelensky while he was pushing to have the probes declared. The second article, obstruction of Congress, is tied to his refusal to cooperate with the congressional investigation and his directive that top officials and government agencies do the same.
Trump's defense team accused House managers prosecuting the impeachment case of purposefully omitting key evidence that would exonerate the president of any wrongdoing, claiming there is nothing to indicate Trump made the aid contingent on the investigations.
"If they don't want to be fair to the President, at least out of respect for all of you, they should be fair to you," Cipollone said. "They should tell you these things, and when they don't tell you these things it means something. Impeachment shouldn't be a shell game. They should give you the facts."
Democrats who prosecuted the case said the president sought to push for the investigation was founded squarely in his personal interests to win re-election, not root out corruption in Ukraine.
"The President's conduct is wrong. It is illegal. It is dangerous. And it captures the worst fears of our founders and the framers of the Constitution," impeachment manager Jerry Nadler said. "No president has ever used his office to compel a foreign nation to help him cheat in our elections."
Trump's defense team will continue arguments on Monday, and are expected to conclude their case the following day.
Following the trial, Trump said he had been "unfairly" 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 wrote on Twitter. "This should never be allowed to happen again!"