Donald Trump's lawyers say he 'did absolutely nothing wrong' as impeachment defence case opens

Nick Allen
Donald Trump's lawyers opened their case in his impeachment trial - Anadolu

Donald Trump did "absolutely nothing wrong" and removing him from office would set a "very, very dangerous" precedent for America, the president's lawyers told his impeachment trial.

After three days of evidence from Democrat prosecutors Mr Trump's legal team opened the defence case on Saturday arguing that the people, not politicians, should give their verdict at the election in November.

Addressing the US senate Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel, said: "They [the prosecution] have the burden of proof, and they have not come close to meeting it. When you hear the facts you will find the president did absolutely nothing wrong.

"They are asking you not only to overturn the results of the last election, but to remove the president from the ballot in an election in nine months time. They're asking you to tear up all of the ballots across this country, and take that decision away from the American people."

He added: "They're asking you to do something no senate has ever done, and to do it with no evidence. They are attempting to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history, and we cannot allow that to happen."

Mr Cipollone said removing Mr Trump would violate the US Constitution, the history of the country, and "our obligations to the future". It must be "the American people who decide elections," he added.

Pat Cipollone, the White House Counsel, said Mr Trump did nothing wrong Credit: Senate TV

Mr Trump is charged with two articles of impeachment - abuse of power, and obstruction of Congress.

He is accused of withholding $391 million in military aid to pressure Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the president of Ukraine, to publicly open a corruption investigation into Joe Biden, Mr Trump's domestic political rival.

While Mr Biden was vice president his son Hunter sat on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. Mr Trump has accused Mr Biden of stopping an investigation into the company. The Bidens have vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

The president's legal team have been internally debating whether to pursue a line-by-line rebuttal of the Democrat case, or to aggressively use the televised trial as an opportunity to further attack Mr Biden.

Before the defence case began Jay Sekulow, one of Mr Trump's lawyers, said: "Believe me, you'll hear about that issue. We will address it."

In a statement Mr Biden's campaign responded: "Donald Trump is so terrified of facing Joe Biden that he became the only president in American history to attempt to coerce a foreign nation into lying about a political rival."

Mr Trump allegedly pressured Mr Zelenskiy during a phone call on July 25 last year.

As part of their opening argument his lawyers introduced comments by Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, who was listening to the call, and said he found "nothing wrong" with it.

The president's lawyers accused Democrats of omitting to tell the senate about such evidence.

Mr Trump has criticised the decision to have his legal team open its case on Saturday, calling it the television equivalent of "Death Valley". Millions of Americans have been watching the daily live coverage of the trial.

After the defence finishes its case next week senators are expected to take a vote on whether to hear witnesses.

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the senate, meaning four Republicans would have to vote to allow it. Several Republican have indicated they are open to the possibility.

At the end of the trial a two-thirds majority would be required to convict Mr Trump and remove him from office, meaning an acquittal is highly probable.

It is only the third impeachment trial in US history, and no president has ever been convicted.