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”.
Democrats have announced the House will vote on January 15 on sending articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told fellow Democrats she would also name the House managers who will prosecute the case against President Trump in the Senate trial.
Nancy Pelosi has been withholding the articles of impeachment in a row with Republicans over allowing witnesses.
Donald Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House last month.
The president is accused of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
He denies trying to pressure Ukraine to open an investigation into his would-be Democratic White House challenger Joe Biden.
President Trump has been touting unsubstantiated corruption claims about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who accepted a lucrative board position with a Ukrainian energy company while his father handled American-Ukraine relations as US vice-president.
The impeachment trial by the Senate will be only the third ever of a US president.
Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans control the chamber 53-47, and are all but certain to acquit him.
Once the resolution is approved, the House managers will walk to the Senate and formally present the articles of impeachment in the well of the chamber, escorted by the sergeant-at-arms. The articles of impeachment will be read out.
On January 14, Senate leader Mitch McConnell met Republican senators behind closed doors to map out the ground rules.
He said the trial was likely to begin in earnest on January 21.
The first couple of days will involve housekeeping duties, possibly later this week.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will be sworn in to preside, and he will administer an oath to all 100 senators to deliver “impartial justice” as jurors.
Lawmakers may hear opening arguments next week. The House managers will lay out their case against President Trump, and his legal team will respond.
The trial is expected to last up to five weeks, with the Senate taking only Sundays off.
President Trump suggested over the weekend that he might prefer simply dismissing the charges rather than giving legitimacy to the “hoax” case against him.
Moderate Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah have made clear they would oppose any such motion.
On January 14, the White House said the president is “not afraid of a fight” in his trial.
Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said President Trump was in fact eager for witnesses to testify that “this man did nothing wrong”.
One of the biggest sticking points between House Democrats and Senate Republicans has been whether testimony will be allowed during the trial.
Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Mike Rounds said on January 14 the Senate’s trial plan will guarantee votes on whether to call witnesses and hear new evidence.
It takes just 51 votes to approve rules or call witnesses, meaning four Republican senators would have to side with Democrats to insist on testimony.
The White House is understood to have identified several possible defectors in the Republican ranks, including Susan Collins and Mitt Romney.
The others are Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is retiring this year.
Republicans say that if witnesses are allowed, they may try to subpoena Joe Biden and his son, and the unidentified government whistleblower whose complaint about President Trump sparked the whole impeachment inquiry.
House Judiciary Committee has approved two impeachment articles against President Donald Trump, moving the process towards a full House vote.
The articles are expected to be voted on by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives next week.
President Trump is the fourth US president in history to face impeachment.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Donald Trump again dismissed the process as a “sham” and a “hoax”.
Today’s hearing lasted just over ten minutes before the two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstructing Congress – were passed by 23 votes to 17.
The vote was delayed after more than 14 hours of rancorous debate. Republicans criticized that decision by Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Nadler, accusing him of pushing back the vote to ensure more TV coverage.
In the abuse of power article, President Trump is accused of soliciting a foreign country to help him politically by trying to force Ukraine to launch a corruption investigation into his political rival Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential contender.
The president is also accused of obstructing Congress by failing to co-operate with the House investigation.
Leading Democrats agreed the articles of impeachment described over nine pages. They say that President Trump “betrayed the nation” by acting “corruptly”.
Jerry Nadler made a brief statement to reporters after the vote, calling it a “solemn and sad day” and pledged that the House of Representatives would “act expeditiously”.
However, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz said: “For Democrats, impeachment is their drug.”
Speaking from the White House Oval Office alongside the president of Paraguay, President Trump called the impeachment process “a witch hunt”, “a sham” and “a hoax”.
Donald Trump said Democrats were “trivializing impeachment” adding that they are “making absolute fools out of themselves”.
House Judiciary Committee has unveiled charges against President Donald Trump, a key move in impeaching him.
The first article revealed by committee chief Jerry Nadler accuses President Trump of abuse of power and the second accuses him of obstructing Congress.
The Republican president is said to have withheld aid to Ukraine for domestic political reasons.
Donald Trump has urged the Senate to try him “sooner than later”.
He insists he has done “nothing wrong” and has dismissed the impeachment process as “madness”.
If the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives Judiciary Committee votes to approve the articles later this week, they will then be submitted to the lower chamber for a full vote.
If, in turn, the articles are approved by the House, an impeachment trial in the Republican-held Senate will take place, possibly early in January.
The impeachment process was launched after an anonymous whistleblower complained to Congress in September about a July phone call by Donald Trump to the president of Ukraine.
President Trump is alleged to have committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” (a phrase from the US Constitution) on two counts outlined by Jerry Nadler:
The first allegation is that he exercised the powers of his public office to “obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest”, by allegedly putting pressure on Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election;
The second allegation is that “when he was caught, when the House investigated and opened an impeachment inquiry, President Trump engaged in unprecedented categorical and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry”, thereby obstructing Congress.
President Trump “sees himself as above the law”, Jerry Nadler said.
“We must be clear, no-one, not even the president, is above the law.”
In the July phone call to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Trump appeared to tie US military assistance for Ukraine to its launching of investigations that could help him politically.
In return for those investigations, Democrats say President Trump offered two bargaining chips – $400 million of military aid that had already been allocated by Congress, and a White House meeting for President.
Democrats say this pressure on a vulnerable US ally constitutes an abuse of power.
The first investigation President Trump wanted from Ukraine was into former VP Joe Biden, his main Democratic challenger, and his son Hunter. Hunter Biden joined the board of a Ukrainian energy company when his father was President Barack Obama’s deputy.
The second Trump demand was that Ukraine should try to corroborate a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the last US presidential election. This theory has been widely debunked, and US intelligence agencies are unanimous in saying Moscow was behind the hacking of Democratic Party emails in 2016.
President Trump railed at the announcement of the charges, declaring again on Twitter that it was a “witch hunt”.