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”.
Robert Ray succeeded Ken Starr as the independent counsel.
Monica Lewinsky tweeted on January 17 shortly after President Trump’s team was announced: “This is definitely an ‘are you kidding me?’ kinda day.”
In 2016, Ken Starr was forced out of his position as president of Baylor University after an inquiry found the school had mishandled rape accusations against its football players.
He later also resigned from his roles as chancellor and law professor at the university.
Alan Dershowitz is a retired Harvard University law professor and constitutional law expert whose past celebrity clients have also included boxer Mike Tyson.
He said in a statement that he had also opposed Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Donald Trump sought Alan Dershowitz’s advice, too, during the 2017-2019 special counsel investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election.
Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr both represented disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein during his 2008 abuse trial.
On January 17, President Trump shared Alan Dershowitz’s comments criticizing a Government Accountability Office ruling that the White House had broken the law by withholding aid to Ukraine.
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has also been asked to join the team.
Pam Bondi, a longtime Trump ally, joined the White House communications team last November to focus on “proactive impeachment messaging”.
Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a central figure in the Ukraine investigation, had also hoped to join the defense, but he did not make the cut.
Rudy Giuliani told CBS he might be called as a witness in the impeachment trial and “understood this may happen if I uncovered the 2016 Ukrainian corruption”.
The former NYC mayor was apparently referring to a discredited theory that Ukraine intervened in the last White House election.
One of Rudy Giuliani’s associates, Ukrainian-American businessman Lev Parnas, has said he went to Ukraine to pressure local officials on behalf of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani.
President Trump’s allies have rubbished Lev Parnas’ claims, pointing out that he is facing unrelated campaign finance charges.
Last month, Donald Trump was impeached by the House on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Democrats have accused the president of withholding military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country into investigating his political rival, former VP Joe Biden. President Trump denies the claims, and calls the impeachment proceedings a partisan “hoax”.