Washington — White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says the administration is prepared to mount a robust legal and political defense of President Trump if House Democrats vote to impeach him and the Republican-controlled Senate holds a trial to decide whether to remove him from office.
"Defense will go on offense if there is a Senate trial," Conway said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "We'll be able to call witnesses, we'll be able to challenge their witnesses, produce other evidence and those witnesses may include the whistleblower and I would say his attorney."
Public hearings by the House Intelligence Committee concluded last week. Several current and former administration officials detailed a campaign by Mr. Trump and his allies to pressure the Ukrainian government for political favors. The efforts included the abrupt ouster of the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, a 30-year career diplomat who said she was smeared by the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, who said the Mr. Trump assigned him to handle his Ukraine dealings, told lawmakers there was a "quid pro quo" arrangement in which the president expected the Ukrainian government to conduct political investigations, including one into the Biden family, in exchange for a White House meeting. Sondland also said he presumed that a military aid package to Ukraine would not be released by the White House unless Ukraine announced these probes.
Despite failing to garner any public support from any of their Republican colleagues, House Democrats have said they believe they have amassed enough evidence to prove Mr. Trump abused his power and potentially engaged in impeachable conduct. If Democrats draft and approve articles of impeachment, the Senate would then hold a trial to ultimately convict and remove the president or acquit him.
North Dakota Congressman Kelly Armstrong, a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee, said his Democratic colleagues could lose control of the inquiry after his panel starts debating whether to draft articles of impeachment against the president.
"Regardless how you feel about this, this has been the most narrowly tailored and controlled thing by Chairman Schiff, both in the depositions, which I was a part of, and in the Intelligence Committee," Armstrong. "But as it moves over to the Judiciary Committee, they're going to lose more and more of that control."
Echoing criticism Republicans have leveled against the Democratic-led inquiry, Conway on Sunday said the Senate trial would be "more familiar to most Americans" than the investigation the House has run for months.
"This process is unfamiliar to them," she said of the House probe and hearings. "The president couldn't even have his own attorneys in there. And that's not very fair to the, quote, 'defendant.'"