Democrats, Trump offer duelling arguments on impeachment

Democratic legislators say Trump should be removed from office, as defence claims trial unconstitutional.

    US President Trump, with son Barron, headed to his Mar-a-Lago resort before the start of his impeachment trial on Tuesday [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]
    US President Trump, with son Barron, headed to his Mar-a-Lago resort before the start of his impeachment trial on Tuesday [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

    The Democratic legislators leading the impeachment case against Republican President Donald Trump in the United States have said the president must be removed from office to protect national security and preserve the country’s system of government.

    In a brief filed ahead of a Saturday deadline, the lawmakers laid out their arguments supporting charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress against the president.

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    "The Senate should convict and remove President Trump to avoid serious and long term damage to our democratic values and the nation's security," the legislators said, for the first time formally calling for the Senate to convict the president and remove him from office.

    "The case against the president of the United States is simple, the facts are indisputable, and the evidence is overwhelming," they said.

    Trump's defence lawyers, meanwhile, dismissed the impeachment trial as unconstitutional and called the charges a "dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president".

    "This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election," the team, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, said in a six-page statement released on Saturday.

    It was the first time Trump had formally addressed the merits of the two articles of impeachment - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress - that the Democratic-led House approved late last year.

    Senate trial

    The two articles, aimed at removing Trump from office, form the basis of a trial that will begin on Tuesday in the Republican-controlled Senate.

    Trump is accused of abusing his office to try and force Ukraine to launch an investigation into leading Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden by withholding $400m in military aid and a White House meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

    He was also impeached for allegedly obstructing Congress.

    "President Trump categorically and unequivocally denies each and every allegation in both articles of impeachment," the defence team's document said. 

    Trump has denied wrongdoing and has accused Democrats of a partisan-driven effort to undo his 2016 election victory.

    “An acquittal would also provide license to President Trump and his successors to use taxpayer dollars for personal political ends,” the Democratic legislators' brief said.

    The Senate trial is unlikely to lead to Trump's removal, as no Republican senators have voiced support for doing so.

    Trump was at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida for the weekend, and played a round of golf on Saturday.

    His lawyers, in their document, argued that Trump acted at all times with full constitutional legal authority, said one of three sources close to Trump's legal team who briefed reporters on a conference call on Saturday.

    "We will take the facts head-on and we believe that the facts will prove, and have proven, that the president did absolutely nothing wrong," the source said.

    SOURCE: News agencies