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Impeachment trial: Trump lawyers blast Democrats for "flimsy" case

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How Trump's team will defend him at trial
How Trump's team will defend him at trial 03:21
  • President Trump's legal team argued in a new brief that the impeachment articles are an "affront to the Constitution" and based on "flimsy" evidence.
  • The Senate trial is set to officially get underway on Tuesday, when senators debate a motion laying out the ground rules.
  • The first phase of the trial will likely feature opening arguments by the House impeachment managers, who will argue for the president's removal from office.
  • The president unveiled his legal team who will argue his case on Friday, which includes Kenneth Starr and Alan Dershowitz.
  • Download the free CBS News app for complete coverage of President Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate.
 

Trump announces House "impeachment team"

The White House on Monday released a list of House surrogates for Mr. Trump who will "serve as part of his team working to combat" the impeachment against the president. The lawmakers are not members of Mr. Trump's formal legal team.

"We are not planning for them to present statements on the Senate floor," a senior administration official tells CBS News. "The group will continue to give critical guidance on the case because of their strong familiarity with facts and evidence, and they will continue to push those and the message in the media."

The announced members are:

  • Doug Collins 
  • Mike Johnson 
  • Jim Jordan 
  • Debbie Lesko 
  • Mark Meadows 
  • John Ratcliffe 
  • Elise Stefanik 
  • Lee Zeldin  

Ben Tracy contributed reporting.

By Jordan Freiman
 

Chuck Schumer blasts proposed trial rules

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to the proposed rules for Mr. Trump's Senate impeachment trial Monday night, calling the resolution "a national disgrace."

Schumer criticized Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for releasing the proposal at the last minute, claiming the Kentucky Senator, "didn't want people to study it or know about it." Schumer also complained that McConnell's proposal does not follow precedent set in the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, even though McConnell promised they would. 

"Senator McConnell's rules dramatically depart from the Clinton precedent in ways that are designed to prevent the Senate and the American people from learning the truth about President Trump's actions that warranted his impeachment," Schumer said.

Schumer then gave examples of the differences, noting McConnell's proposal doesn't "even allow for the simple basic step of admitting the House record into evidence at the trial."

"He's saying he doesn't want to hear any of the existing evidence and he doesn't want any new evidence," Schumer stated, adding that a trial with no witnesses, documents or evidence isn't a trial but "a cover up."

Schumer then accused McConnell of trying to bury evidence, saying the GOP leader wants "key facts to be delivered in the wee hours of the night, simply because he doesn't want the American people to hear them. Plain and simple."

The New York senator also noted the rules make it much harder to add witnesses and evidence once arguments are heard. 

"We will be able to force votes on witnesses and documents before his resolution is adopted tomorrow, and we will," Schumer said. "But, they've all said, so many senators, 'Let's hear the arguments and then we'll decide on witnesses and documents.' McConnell throws language in that makes that much harder to happen."

"Finally, Clinton resolution allowed for dismissal only after arguments were heard. This resolution allows for dismissal at any time," Schumer pointed out.

"It is a national disgrace" he said. "Impeachment is one of the few powers that Congress has when a president overreaches. To so limit impeachment, and make it so much less serious, is so, so wrong, and we will fight that tooth and nail."

By Jordan Freiman
 

Senate readies text of organizing rules for Senate trial

The Senate's Republican leadership has released the rules that would govern the president's impeachment trial should they be approved by the chamber. 

The four-page resolution allows for the House managers and the president's legal team to have the same amount of time offered in President Clinton's impeachment trial. Both sides will be given 24 hours over two days each, which could mean four 12-hour days of testimony for opening arguments alone.

Only after opening arguments and another 16 hours of questioning from senators will there be a vote on whether to consider witnesses. 

"If the Senate agrees to allow either the House of Representatives or the president to subpoena witnesses, the witnesses shall first be deposed and the Senate shall decide after deposition which witnesses shall testify, pursuant to the impeachment rules," says the organizing resolution spelling out the rules for the trial. 

"No testimony shall be admissible in the Senate unless the parties have had an opportunity to depose such witnesses. At the conclusion of the deliberations by the Senate, the Senate shall vote on each article of impeachment." 

The rules must be approved by a majority of the Republican-controlled Senate to take effect. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a scathing response to McConnell's rules.

"After reading his resolution, it's clear Senator McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through. On something as important as impeachment, Senator McConnell's resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace," Schumer said. 

— John Nolen contributed to this reporting 

By Kathryn Watson
 

Lawyers for Parnas ask Barr to recuse himself from case

Lev Parnas implicates Trump officials 07:03

Attorneys for Lev Parnas, the associate of Rudy Giuliani who recently turned over hundreds of new documents about the campaign to pressure Ukraine, have asked Attorney General William Barr to recuse himself from their client's criminal case in New York.

Parnas was indicted in October on federal campaign finance charges, and last week handed over to House investigators records of conversations and interactions with Giuliani and other Trump allies. 

In a letter to Barr, Parnas' attorneys Joseph Bondy and Stephanie Schuman asked Barr to recuse himself from the case in the Southern District of New York, citing the attorney general's involvement in events at the center of the impeachment case. Bondy asked Barr to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee Parnas' prosecution.

The lawyers cited Mr. Trump's insistence to the president of Ukraine that he work with Barr to investigate supposed Ukrainian interference in the 2016 campaign, as detailed in the White House's summary of the two leaders' July 25 phone call. They also cited the August 2019 whistleblower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry, which alleged Barr was involved in the campaign to pressure Ukraine. 

In their letter, Bondy and Schuman said Barr's alleged conflict of interest "appears to have caused actual harm to Mr. Parnas." They revealed that prosecutors have "refused to meet with Mr. Parnas and to receive his information" about the president, Giuliani and others, material they said "would potentially benefit Mr. Parnas if he were ever to be convicted and sentenced in his criminal case."

The attorneys called on Barr to allow the appointment of a special prosecutor "to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest and to preserve the public trust in the rule of law." 

The Justice Department declined to comment on the request when asked for reaction Monday afternoon.

By Clare Hymes
 

House managers: Trump is the "Framers' worst nightmare come to life"

House impeachment managers called Mr. Trump the "Framers' worst nightmare come to life," urging the Senate to "place truth above faction" and convict the president on both articles of impeachment

The managers submitted a new nine-page filing to the secretary of the Senate in response to Mr. Trump's answer to a trial summons, which his legal team submitted Saturday.

In their filing, the House managers rejected the arguments raised by the president's lawyers and said Mr. Trump violated his oath of office by using his presidential powers to pressure Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election for his own gain.

"President Trump maintains that the Senate cannot remove him even if the House proves every claim in the Articles of impeachment. That is a chilling assertion. It is also dead wrong," the impeachment managers wrote. "The Framers deliberately drafted a Constitution that allows the Senate to remove presidents who, like President Trump, abuse their power to cheat in elections, betray our national security, and ignore checks and balances. That President Trump believes otherwise, and insists he is free to engage in such conduct again, only highlights the continuing threat he poses to the nation if allowed to remain in office."

The impeachment managers said Mr. Trump "offers an unconvincing and implausible defense against the factual allegations" detailed in the first article, abuse of power, and note that none of his predecessors have ordered officials to defy an impeachment subpoena. Mr. Trump's order for White House officials not to comply with those subpoenas are at the heart of the second article, obstruction of Congress.

"President Trump did not engage in this corrupt conduct to uphold the Presidency or protect the right to vote. He did it to cheat in the next election and bury the evidence when he got caught," the impeachment managers wrote.

By Melissa Quinn
 

White House legal brief calls impeachment "an affront to the Constitution"

In a legal brief ahead of his Senate trial, President Trump's legal team argues that the articles of impeachment passed by the House are "an affront to the Constitution" and should be rejected by the Senate.

The 110-page brief was written by Mr. Trump's personal attorney Jay Sekulow and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who are leading his impeachment defense. The White House filed it with the Senate ahead of a noon deadline. 

The document lays out many of the same assertions that appeared a six-page brief the president's team filed over the weekend, largely that the "flimsy" impeachment articles "allege no crime or violation of law whatsoever" and don't warrant his removal from office.

Read more here.

By Kathryn Watson
 

Trump denounces push for witnesses in Senate trial

Mr. Trump condemned efforts by Democrats to compel testimony from witnesses during his impeachment trial.

"They didn't want John Bolton and others in the House. They were in too much of a rush. Now they want them all in the Senate. Not supposed to be that way!" he tweeted Monday, referring to his former national security adviser. House investigators requested Bolton's testimony in the early stages of the impeachment inquiry, and he declined to appear for a deposition or testify publicly.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said Sunday he intends to force votes on whether the Senate should hear from four witnesses and consider three sets of documents during Mr. Trump's impeachment proceedings. 

The four witnesses Schumer wants to testify are Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, senior adviser to Mulvaney Robert Blair and Office of Management and Budget associate director Michael Duffey.

Bolton said he would appear for questioning during the Senate trial if subpoenaed.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Former GOP Senator Jeff Flake criticizes "cult of personality" around Trump

Jeff Flake's advice to party ahead of trial 04:37

Former Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who declined to seek reelection over his disagreements with the president, said Monday that the Republicans' "cult of personality" of Mr. Trump will hurt the party even after the president leaves office.

In a recent op-ed in The Washington Post, Flake wrote that Republicans are on trial along with the president.

"This president won't be there forever," Flake, a CBS News contributor, said on "CBS This Morning" on Monday. "He'll either be gone by this time next year or four years from now. Then what happens to the Republican Party? My fear is people out there know that, even if this is not an impeachable offense, that the president did something wrong, and for Republicans to maintain that he didn't is just wrong, and this has long-term ramifications for the party if we act as if we are just devoted to the president no matter what, and this cult of personality that we've seen, we certainly saw it in the House."

Read more here.

By David Morgan
 

What's next in the impeachment trial

Filing of legal briefs

The House designated seven impeachment managers on Wednesday, who will prosecute the case against Mr. Trump in the Senate trial. Although the Senate is in recess, the impeachment managers and Mr. Trump's attorneys worked over the long holiday weekend to prepare legal briefs for use in the trial. The House filed its brief on Saturday.

Monday, January 20, 12 p.m.: Trial brief by Mr. Trump's lawyers is due. 

Tuesday, January 21, 12 p.m.: House impeachment managers' rebuttal brief is due, should they wish to file one.

Senate impeachment rules

Tuesday, January 21, 12:30 p.m.: The Senate reconvenes and is expected to debate an organizing resolution to designate the rules for the trial, including the duration of the arguments. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will likely try to force a vote requiring the Senate to call witnesses, but Republicans have so far expressed unity in delaying decisions on witnesses until later in the trial.

Opening arguments

Tuesday, January 21: After the vote on the impeachment rules, the House managers and president's legal team will make their opening arguments. The senators are required to sit silently, without their electronic devices. And after the arguments, if they have questions, they may submit them in writing. Roberts will read each question aloud, and the legal team addressed in the question will answer.

By Grace Segers
 

Nadler: White House's impeachment rebuttal was "errant nonsense"

Nadler: White House rebuttal to impeachment ... 07:22

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, one of seven impeachment managers who will present the chamber's case in the Senate trial, called a response to the two articles of impeachment from the president's legal team "errant nonsense."

The articles, passed by the House last month, charge Mr. Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, and on Saturday, the White House released its formal response to the trial summons issued by the Senate last week.

The White House argued the articles "fail to allege any crime or violation of law" and that the president asserted legitimate "executive branch confidentiality interests" that cannot constitute obstruction of Congress.

"Both of those statements are errant nonsense," Nadler, a Democrat from New York, said on "Face the Nation" in response to the president's rebuttal. "There is ample evidence, overwhelming evidence. Any jury would convict in three minutes flat that the president betrayed his country by breaking the law."

Read more here.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Cornyn says Democrats are "getting cold feet" on impeachment

Cornyn says Democrats "getting cold feet" on ... 08:19

House Democrats are "getting cold feet" about their impeachment efforts against President Trump ahead of the start of the trial in the Senate, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas said Sunday.

The Senate proceedings involving Mr. Trump are set to begin Tuesday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expected to offer an organizing resolution laying out the rules for the trial. But a crucial question of whether witnesses will be called to testify remains unanswered.

A decision about additional witnesses will be deferred until after the House's impeachment managers and Mr. Trump's legal team lay out their respective cases for why the president should be convicted or acquitted, Cornyn said, adding the push for more officials to be called suggests Democrats may not be fully prepared.

"This seems to undermine or indicate they're getting cold feet or have a lack of confidence in what they've done so far," Cornyn, the majority whip, told "Face the Nation."

Read more here.

By Melissa Quinn
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