Trump defense team uses videos to show Democrats once opposed single-party impeachment
Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, closed the defense of President Donald Trump in the Senate trial with a warning that lowering the bar for impeachment and removal from office would set a historic precedent that would leave future presidents vulnerable to a Congress led by a different party.
He argued that the accusations in the two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – were too vague to justify removing a president from office.
“They fall far short of any constitutional standard and they are dangerous,” Cipollone said.
To make his point, Cipollone played a series of videos from Democrats decrying the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton in 1998. Clinton was tried, but not removed from office. Two of the lawmakers – Reps. Jerry Nadler of New York and Zoe Lofgren of California – are managers prosecuting Trump’s case. Three others – Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Chuck Schumer of New York and Bob Menendez of New Jersey – were Democratic House members at that time and are now senators sitting in judgment of Trump.
Nadler warned against an impeachment of Clinton that would be supported by one party. So far no Republicans have supported Trump’s impeachment in committee or on the House floor.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone: “It is time for this to end, here and now. We urge the Senate to reject these articles of impeachment for all of the reasons we have given you.”
Watch full video here: https://t.co/nj5srbfURfpic.twitter.com/IIMTSI5jMx
“Such an impeachment will produce the divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come, and it will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions,” Nadler said.
Lofgren said removing Clinton would be unfair to the American people and undo the 1996 election.
“Future presidents will face election, then litigation, then impeachment,” Lofgren said. “The power of the president will diminish in the face of the Congress, a phenomenon much feared by the founding fathers.”
Markey suggested that Republicans were pursuing a constitutional coup against Clinton. Menendez warned against making impeachment a political weapon. Schumer feared that lowering the bar for impeachment would make it “a routine tool to fight battles” between Congress and the White House.
“You were right,” Cipollone said to laughter in the Senate chamber. “But I’m sorry to say, you were also prophetic.”
The historic arguments from Democratic House members echoed what Trump’s defense lawyers have been telling senators. Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s private lawyers, argued that the impeachment was based on policy differences between Democrats in Congress and the Republican administration, rather than crimes worthy of removing Trump from office.
“If that becomes the new norm, future presidents Democrats and Republicans will be paralyzed the moment they are elected,” Sekulow said. “The bar for impeachment cannot be set this low.”
He repeated a phrase as a warning to senators: “Danger, danger, danger.”
“These articles must be rejected,” Sekulow said. “The Constitution requires it. Justice demands it.”
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