Donald Trump’s lawyers have begun defending him at his impeachment trial, accusing Democrats of seeking to overturn the result of the 2016 election.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said: “The president did absolutely nothing wrong.”
President Trump’s defense will last three days and follows the Democrats’ prosecution case which ended on January 24.
Donald Trump faces two charges linked to his dealings with Ukraine.
The articles of impeachment accuse the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
President Trump is alleged to have withheld military aid to pressure the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, into starting a corruption investigation into Donald Trump’s political rival, Democrat Joe Biden, and his son Hunter.
Democrats also accuse President Trump of making a visit by Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House contingent on an investigation.
The president is charged with obstructing Congress by failing to co-operate with the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry.
The trial in the Senate will decide if Donald Trump should be removed from office. This is unlikely as the Republicans control the Senate and any such move would need a two-thirds majority.
Echoing a line heard from many Republicans, Pat Cipollone said Democrats were “asking you not only to overturn the results of the last election… they’re asking you to remove President Trump from the ballot in the election that’s occurring in approximately nine months.”
“They are asking you to do something very, very consequential and, I would submit to you … very, very dangerous,” he said.
Much of the abuse of power charge centers on a phone call in July between President Trump and President Zelenksy.
Donald Trump’s defense lawyer Mike Purpura insisted there was no quid pro quo – as asserted by the Democrats.
He said: “Zelenksy felt no pressure. President Zelensky says he felt no pressure. The House managers tell you they know better.”
In a news conference after January 25 hearing, Adam Schiff, the Democrats’ lead prosecutor, raised the disputed issue of calling witnesses.
He said: “The one question they did not address at all is why they don’t want to give the American people a fair trial, why they want this to be the first impeachment case in history without a single witness and without a single document being handed over.
“That ought to tell you everything you need to know about the strength and weaknesses of this case”.
The leader of the Democrats in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, told reporters that President Trump’s defense team had inadvertently “made a really compelling case for why the Senate should call witnesses and documents”.
Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate have clashed over the rules of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
Democrats want assurances witnesses and documents will be allowed, to enable what they term a fair trial.
Chuck Schumer says the recent release of an “explosive” email about aid to Ukraine is a reminder of why openness is necessary.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell says he has not ruled out witnesses.
However, he stopped short of agreeing ahead of time to take testimony during the trial.
President Trump was formally impeached by the House last week for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Donald Trump is the third president in US history to be impeached. However, he is unlikely to be removed from office, as his Republican party has a majority in the Senate, where the trial will be held as stipulated in the US Constitution.
He is accused of pressuring Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to start an investigation into his political rival, Democratic presidential front runner, Joe Biden.
President Trump is accused of doing this by withholding military aid and making a White House visit contingent on co-operation.
The trial is expected to begin next month, after the holiday break.
However, Democrats have so far refused to hand over the articles of impeachment voted through in the House – the charges – to the Senate.
They want assurances from Mitch McConnell that their chosen witnesses – at least four current and former White House aides with knowledge of the Ukraine affair – will be allowed to testify.
He suggested holding a trial similar to former President Bill Clinton’s in 1999, in which senators decided which witnesses to call after opening arguments and a written question period.
Mitch McConnell accused Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of holding “an absurd position” for delaying handing over the impeachment articles and said she is “apparently trying to tell us how to run the trial”.
Democrats renewed their demand for witnesses over the weekend after an email emerged suggesting the White House sought to freeze aid to Ukraine just 91 minutes after President Trump spoke to President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone in July. That call is at the center of the allegations against President Trump – charges he denies.
Chuck Schumer said he and his Republican counterpart remain at an impasse after holding a “cordial” meeting on December 19 to discuss trial rules.
During a news conference in New York on December 22, Chuck Schumer said Republicans “have come up with no good reason why there shouldn’t be witnesses, why there shouldn’t be documents”.
He added: “We don’t know what the witnesses will say. We don’t know how the documents will read. They might exonerate President Trump or they might further incriminate him. But the truth should come out on something as important as an impeachment.”
Democrats argue that Republicans will not act as impartial jurors during the impeachment trial, after Mitch McConnell pledged last week to work in “total co-ordination” with the White House. Meanwhile, House of Representatives officials raised the possibility of a second impeachment if new evidence of obstruction by President Trump came to light. The suggestion came in court papers filed by Democrats as they seek the testimony of White House counsel Don McGahn.
President Trump opened the Oval Office meeting calling it a “great honor” to have Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi present, in their firstmeeting since Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in theNovember mid-term elections.
The meeting soon turned contentious as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer argued that the Republican-controlled Congress could pass legislation before funding for some agencies was set to expire on December 21.
President Trump contended that it could only pass if it met his demands for more funding for his proposed borderwall along the US southern border.
He said: “If we don’t get what we want, one way or the other, whether it’s through you, through military, through anything you want to call, I will shutdown the government.
“And I am proud to shut down the government for bordersecurity. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.”