White House lawyers went on the offense Tuesday in the opening of the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, railing against Rep. Adam Schiff in personal terms and accusing Democrats of trying to overturn the will of the American people.
The president’s lawyers framed the impeachment trial as a political vendetta to oust Trump and said House Democrats have “no case.”
“It’s a partisan impeachment they’ve delivered to your doorstep in an election year,” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said.
“Some of you should be in Iowa,” Cipollone added as Democratic White House hopefuls Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren sat stone-faced. “Instead we’re here and they’re not ready to go. It’s outrageous.”
Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, took the lead in arguing the case for Democrats and spent his opening remarks before the Senate making the case on the procedure to allow new witnesses and documents into the trial – as is customary in past impeachment trials, he said.
“Right now…most Americans do not believe there will be a fair trial,” Schiff said, adding that Americans believe Trump will be acquitted not because of innocence but because of a partisan vote.
“Let’s prove them wrong,” he said.
While Schiff largely made a case about the issue at hand – the rules resolution that was up for debate, Trump’s lawyers went for the jugular.
“It is very difficult to sit there and listen to Mr. Schiff tell the tale that he just told,” Cipollone said.
He laid into Schiff for kicking off the House impeachment proceedings for taking dramatic liberties with the phone call Trump had with the president of Ukraine.
“He manufactured a false version of that call,” Cipollone said. “He read it to the American people, and he didn’t tell them it was a complete fake. Do you want to know about due process? I’ll tell you about due process. Never before in the history of our country has a president been confronted with this kind of impeachment proceeding in the House.”
Each time, Schiff’s name was invoked by Trump’s lawyers, Schiff sat at attention and stared them down. He was stoic, though at one point he nodded his head in disbelief to his attorneys when Cipollone accused him of blocking Republicans to the secret impeachment proceedings in the House basement known as the SCIF.
Republicans were welcome to the proceedings and could ask questions of the witnesses, but those who were not members of the committee or those who tried to bring in banned electronic devices were not allowed.
Democrats charged that Trump’s team had to resort to name-calling because Trump’s actions were indefensible.
“They have no witnesses to absolve the President of the facts,” Schiff said.
Earlier in the day, Democrats and Republicans were warring over the rules while Trump touted the U.S. economic boom several time zones away.
Sen. Chuck Schumer took to the Senate floor immediately before the proceedings began to rail against the rules proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to govern the trial, calling them a “national disgrace” and an attempt to conduct a trial at 2 a.m.
“The McConnell resolution will result in a rushed trial, with little evidence in the dark of night,” Schumer said.