President Trump’s defense is only beginning but already senators on both sides are preparing for the next phase — written questions to the House prosecutors and lawyers for the White House delivered through Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
Members of both parties say they have begun considering what questions they might ask when the time comes next week and the leadership offices will be coordinating the queries to prevent repetition and to frame the best questions. The questioning in the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999 was highly organized and senators were even provided sample questions they could submit under their names.
But many lawmakers will no doubt have their own ideas about what should be asked.
“I’m not going to forsake my right to submit my question directly,” said Senator Christoper S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. “There are parts of the House manager’s case that can afford a little more elaboration, so I have three or four areas where I would just like them to fill in the details.”
During the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999, senators posed more than 150 questions over two days. The ground rules for the Trump trial allow 16 hours for questioning. Mr. Murphy suggested that Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and majority leader, might try to squeeze the questioning into one day to wear senators down.
Immediately after the White House lawyers finished their opening arguments on Saturday, Democrats sought to pick the presentation apart.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said the president’s defense team had done a good job of making the case for seeking the very witnesses and documents that House managers had been demanding.
“They kept saying are no eyewitness accounts,” Mr. Schumer told reporters. “But there are people that have eyewitness accounts. The very four witnesses, and the very four sets of documents that we have asked for.”
After Mr. Schumer, House managers held a news conference to rebut the White House case, point by point. Over 30 minutes, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead manager, and Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, another manager, accused the president’s lawyers of having little substance.
Mr. Schiff said their case amounted to a single argument: that the president has the power to do whatever he wants.
“That is so deeply destructive of our national security, the integrity of our elections. It’s hard to overstate the matter,” Mr. Schiff said.
President Trump’s lawyers wrapped up a brief opening argument against his impeachment on Saturday much as they had begun, seeking to turn accusations of wrongdoing back on Democrats and insisting that there were innocent explanations for Mr. Trump’s actions toward Ukraine.
“They’ve come here today and they’ve basically said, ‘Let’s cancel an election over a meeting with the Ukraine,’” said Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel. “It would be a completely irresponsible abuse of power to do what they’re asking you to do: to stop an election, to interfere in an election and to remove the president of the United States from the ballot.”
The president’s legal team spent only two of the 24 hours allotted to them on Saturday opening his defense, in what Mr. Trump’s lawyers said was a preview of a fuller set of arguments to come on Monday. Their focus was on dismissing the House impeachment inquiry as a partisan ploy that ignored the facts in order to cast Mr. Trump’s actions in the worst possible light.
Instead, they sought to offer an alternative version of events in which Mr. Trump withheld military assistance from Ukraine not for leverage to get its leaders to smear his political rivals, but instead because he was concerned about getting other countries to share the cost of helping defend Kyiv, and about corruption inside Ukraine.
The strategy is aimed at giving Republican senators who have already shown they are not inclined to convict Mr. Trump — or even to vote to hear more evidence in the trial — an explanation to embrace as they ponder voting against the impeachment charges.
“They have the burden of proof,” Mr. Cipollone said of the Democrats, “ and they have not come close to meeting it.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has tried to distance himself from what he calls “the noise” of the impeachment proceedings, issued an extraordinary official statement Saturday accusing a veteran NPR reporter who pressed him about his role in the Ukraine affair had “lied” to him and was a “shameful” example of the “unhinged” anti-Trump news media.
Mr. Pompeo issued the official statement — a medium typically used for things like condemnations of human rights violations and rigged foreign elections — to denounce the reporter, Mary Louise Kelly, who said on the air this week that he had privately lashed out at her with profanities after she asked why he had not done more to defend State Department officials like the ousted American ambassador to Kyiv, Marie L. Yovanovitch.
Mr. Pompeo insisted that Ms. Kelly had agreed ahead of their planned sit-down interview to ask only about Iran and not Ukraine, and that she had agreed that their private confrontation after the interview, in which he erupted in anger, would be off the record. She denied both claims on the air on Friday.
Ms. Kelly “lied to me, twice,” Mr. Pompeo insisted in the statement. “It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency. This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this administration.”
Mr. Pompeo also appeared to imply that Ms. Kelly was unable to situate Ukraine on an unlabeled world map she says he handed to her, writing cryptically, “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.” Ms. Kelly, a highly regarded national security reporter who has reported from around the world, including from Tehran, said on Friday that she had correctly identified Ukraine on the map. Mr. Pompeo also did not deny using an expletive, or Ms. Kelly’s claim that he had told her Americans do not care about Ukraine.
Patrick Philbin, one of the White House lawyers who argued on behalf of President Trump on the Senate floor on Saturday, once worked for James B. Comey, not exactly a favorite of his current boss.
Mr. Philbin was a senior official in the Justice Department during President George W. Bush’s administration and an ally of Mr. Comey, then the acting attorney general, in a now-famous fight over the legality of a secret surveillance program. He accompanied Mr. Comey to the hospital room of Attorney General John D. Ashcroft in a confrontation with White House officials over renewing the program.
Mr. Philbin later paid a price for his position on the surveillance program. Vice President Dick Cheney, who defended the surveillance program against Mr. Comey and Mr. Philbin, blocked Mr. Philbin from an appointment as principal deputy solicitor general a few months later in what other administration officials called payback.
Mr. Philbin was a fan of Mr. Comey. “If there’s a crisis and you want somebody in your foxhole, Jim is the guy you want in your foxhole,” he said in 2007.
On Saturday, it was Mr. Philbin who was coming to the president’s defense, arguing that Mr. Trump’s blanket defiance of the House impeachment inquiry was not an impeachable offense, as the Democrats have argued, but a perfectly appropriate exercise of his power.
“In every instance, when there was resistance to a subpoena — resistance to a subpoena for a witness or for documents — there was a legal explanation of the justification for it,” Mr. Philbin said.
Patrick Philbin, another deputy White House counsel, used a portion of his time to suggest that Representative Adam B. Schiff initially wanted to hear testimony from the whistle-blower whose complaint helped force the Ukraine matter in to the open.
But, Mr. Philbin argued, he “changed” his mind when he learned that there could be partisan issues related to the whistle-blower. He played clips showing how Mr. Schiff’s position on whether they needed to hear from the whistle-blower changed from a yes to a no.
But Mr. Schiff’s position changed as President Trump began making public efforts against the whistle-blower, trying to push his name into the public despite laws that exist to protect his anonymity.
“I think initially, before the president started threatening the whistle-blower, threatening others, calling them traitors and spies and suggesting that, you know, we used to give the death penalty to traitors and spies,” Mr. Schiff said in a CBS News interview on Oct. 13. “Our primary interest right now is making sure that that person is protected.”
President Trump’s lawyer, Pat A. Cipollone, opened the defense arguments by saying that the Trump administration’s hold on military assistance to Ukraine — which was fighting a Russian-backed incursion on its eastern border — was driven by the president’s belief that other nations were not doing their share in supporting the former Soviet republic.
Democrats have given little credence to that argument, and text messages and comments from participants in the debate over the hold suggest they believed that Mr. Trump was trying to pressure Ukraine to open an investigation into his political rivals at home.
But the records examined by The New York Times — as the freeze on military aid was playing out — does show that some officials were pursuing the question of burden-sharing, or how many other nations were aiding Ukraine.
On June 24, shortly after Mr. Trump first requested the hold on military aid, Pentagon officials sent an email asking for more information about the funds.
“Can you all provide additional detail on the recent security cooperation funds to Ukraine?” Eric D. Chewing, then a senior official in the defense secretary’s office, wrote to other top Pentagon officials. Mr. Chewing added, “What do other NATO members spend to support Ukraine?”
Republicans continued to complain Saturday about Representative Adam B. Schiff’s “head on a pike” comment from the night before, with one saying it was so offensive because of its implication that senators were running scared and were intimidated by President Trump. That suggest did not go down well on the Senate floor.
“I’m not intimidated,” said Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, as he headed to the trial. “That was probably a little bit overboard.”
Others, including potential key votes like Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, were visibly upset at Mr. Schiff’s words and denied that any Republicans had been threatened.
The Republican reaction was provoking considerable eye-rolling by Democrats who saw it mainly as a search for an outrage to justify coming Republican votes against calling witnesses and acquitting President Trump.
“I’ve been there — it’s easy to get a little bit heated, but generally speaking, I thought they did a very good job of presenting their case,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a manager during the Clinton trial. “I thought they were professional, very, very, very, very thorough. To the point of being too thorough.”
“Not a single witness testified that the president himself said that there was any connection between any investigations and security assistance and a presidential meeting or anything else,” said Michael Purpura, one of the president’s lawyers.
The president’s defense team zeroed in on the testimony from the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon D. Sondland, who said that President Trump himself never told him that the military assistance depended upon an announcement by the Ukrainians that they were investigating the Bidens. Mr. Trump’s lawyers insist that Mr. Sondland assumed that was so — but he was wrong.
Mr. Sondland said other top administration officials could back him up, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But the White House blocked their testimony.
A deputy White House counsel, Michael Purpura, correctly pointed out that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has publicly denied that President Trump pressured him. But Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, testified that he told Mr. Zelensky’s top advisers of the demand by Mr. Trump to announce investigations. Veteran diplomats say that Mr. Zelensky could not be expected to publicly criticize Mr. Trump when he so badly needs the United States’s support.
Mr. Purpura also said that the Ukrainians “did not even know that the security assistance was on hold until the end of August.” But our reporting has shown that Ukrainian officials knew about the suspension in assistance by late July.
A former Ukrainian deputy foreign minister said she learned of it July 30, and one Defense Department official said in congressional testimony that Ukrainian diplomats knew about it by July 25.
Mr. Purpura also said that there was a presidential meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky on Sept. 25. But that meeting took place in New York, when both leaders were in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. What Mr. Zelensky wanted — and still has not received — is an invitation to the Oval Office, which would bolster his credibility in and outside Ukraine
President Trump’s lawyers appear to have noticed how restless senators got during the more than 21 hours of arguments by the House Democratic managers over three days.
In the first 90 minutes of their case, the president’s team has repeatedly jabbed at the managers for extending their presentations for hours, reminding the senators of how long they had to sit through the Democratic arguments.
Mike Purpura, one of the White House lawyers, noted several times the “21 hours, or more than 21 hours,” that Representative Adam B. Schiff, the lead House manager, and the other Democrats spoke.
Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, opened the arguments with a promise: We’re going to be very respectful of your time, he told the senators, promising to take “about two to three hours at most, and to be out of here by one o’clock at the latest.”
The strategy appears to have two goals: Remind senators of how much repetition there was in the House managers’ case. And perhaps to earn some good will from the senators as they put on a case that apparently will be much shorter.
President Trump’s defense lawyers echoed one of their client’s frequent lines of attack as they began their arguments on Saturday: that Democrats have been out to get him since long before Ukraine was a household word.
Standing at the lectern in the well of the Senate, Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s lawyers, raised in one hand a copy of the report on Russian election interference submitted by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
Mr. Sekulow accused the House Democratic managers of having “tried once again to re-litigate the Mueller case,” which he described as costing the taxpayers $32 million and involved 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants and 500 interviews with witnesses.
Despite all that, the investigation “did not establish that the campaign coordinator will conspired with the Russian government in its election related interference activities,” Mr. Sekulow said, quoting from the report.
He did not mention the report’s conclusions that there were at least 10 instances where the president’s actions raised serious questions about whether he had obstructed justice in trying to block Mr. Mueller’s inquiry.
As the trial moved into a new phase after three days of arguments by the House managers prosecuting President Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors, the president’s lawyers presented the senators a radically different view of the facts and the Constitution, seeking to turn the Democrats’ charges back on them while denouncing the whole process as illegitimate.
“They’re asking you to tear up all of the ballots all across the country on your own initiative, take that decision away from the American people,” Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, said of the House managers. “They’re here,” he added moments later, “to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history, and we can’t allow that to happen.”
From the White House, Mr. Trump weighed in on Twitter with attacks on Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead prosecutor for Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, portraying his impeachment trial as a forum for convicting them instead.
“Our case against lyin’, cheatin’, liddle’ Adam “Shifty” Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nervous Nancy Pelosi, their leader, dumb as a rock AOC, & the entire Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrat Party, starts today at 10:00 A.M.,” he wrote.
Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House manager, saw it coming. As he closed out opening arguments Friday night, he warned senators that they would soon hear from President Trump’s defense team about how unfair his impeachment inquiry was — and not by accident.
“When you hear those attacks, you should ask yourself, away from what do they want to distract my attention?” Mr. Schiff said.
It is a classic trial strategy by a seasoned former prosecutor: Try to prepare the jury so it is not swayed by the defense.
Sure enough, Mr. Trump’s defense team wasted little time on Saturday coming straight after the House managers on the process, playing a clip at the outset of Mr. Schiff at a hearing last year in which he embellished on Mr. Trump’s July 25 conversation with Ukraine’s leader for dramatic effect.
“That’s fake,” Michael M. Purpura, a White House lawyer, said after the recording ended. “That’s not the real call. That’s not the evidence here.”
Mr. Schiff had his own assessment Friday night, reminding senators that he had made clear at the time he was exaggerating Mr. Trump’s words.
“I discovered something very significant by mocking the president,” Mr. Schiff explained. “And that is, for a man who loves to mock others, he does not like to be mocked.”
Another of President Trump’s lawyers, Michael Purpura, the deputy White House counsel, repeatedly pointed to aspects of the testimony during the House inquiry that he said undermined the argument that Mr. Trump was engaging in a quid pro quo.
“We know there was no quid pro quo on the call, we know that from the transcript,” Mr. Purpura said. “There couldn’t possibly have been a quid pro quo because the Ukrainians didn’t know the security assistance was on hold” until a Politico article reported that, he said.
“There can’t be a threat without the person knowing he’s being threatened,” Mr. Purpura said. He played testimony from the House hearings where administration officials testified they did not learn of the freeze until the article published.
But others have said the Ukrainians did become aware of it before the Politico article.
Senate allies of President Trump, hoping to keep Republicans from breaking ranks and joining Democrats in voting to subpoena witnesses and documents, have argued that the president would invoke executive privilege — raising the question of how such a clash would be resolved.
Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, who is leading the House impeachment managers, has proposed that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. could rule on the validity of any executive privilege claim, saying the trial has “a perfectly good judge sitting behind me.”
But Chief Justice Roberts is functioning as the presiding officer of the Senate trial; he does not embody the Supreme Court. Several legal specialists said that even if he were to rule against any invocation of the privilege, a recipient of a subpoena could choose not to acquiesce and continue to defer to the president’s contrary view. The Senate would still then have to go through the normal court process to seek a judicial order — starting with the Federal District Court, and going through any appeals.
However, everything changes if the person being subpoenaed is willing to testify. A president’s invocation of the privilege, by itself, is not a sword that can stop witnesses from showing up and talking if they want to do so. John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, has already said he is willing to testif if the Senate subpoenas him, notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s instructions to the contrary.
Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, led off for President Trump’s team by saying they would focus on aspects of the Ukraine controversy that he accused Democrats of trying to hide.
He read from portions of the reconstructed transcript of Mr. Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine on July 25, and pointed out that Mr. Trump mentioned burden-sharing with European countries.
That has been part of the argument that Mr. Trump’s defenders have offered for why he held up congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine.
Mr. Cipollone closed by referring to the election campaign that is underway, after saying it is Democrats’ true goal.
The Democrats, he said, “are engaged in the most massive interference in an election in American history.” He added, “They’re asking you to remove President Trump from the ballot.”
Their argument finished, the House managers made one last stab on Saturday morning to underscore the power of their impeachment case against President Trump by marching from the House to the Senate with boxes filled with 28,578 pages of transcripts and other evidence collected during their inquiry.
Shortly after 9:45, the impeachment managers, led by Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, emerged from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and walked to the Senate as their aides wheeled four carts of white bankers boxes stuffed with binders of documents behind them.
But the show of documentary force may have had an unintended effect as well, visually undercutting the Democratic argument that the Senate desperately needs to seek additional documents and witnesses for the trial to be fair.
On the first full day of the trial, Republicans repeatedly rejected Democratic attempts to subpoena more documents and call new witnesses. That question will come up again after arguments from both sides and questions from senators.
President Trump was up early Saturday, lashing out at “lyin’ cheatin’ liddle’ Adam ‘Shifty Schiff” and other Democrats, starting what could be his Twitter play-by-play of his lawyers finally mounting a defense in his impeachment trial.
The tweet underscores what his lawyers already know: that as they begin defending him, Mr. Trump will be watching. That, more than anything else, could shape what is expected to be a fierce attack on the House and its impeachment case.
In keeping with their combative client’s own style, President Trump’s lawyers plan not only to insist he did nothing wrong, but also to go after his accusers in unrelenting terms, painting them as partisans not prosecutors. The lawyers hope to turn the tables on the Democrats by hurling back at them some of the same allegations they have made against their client. By their account, the Democrats are the ones who are corrupt liars who sought foreign help and are now abusing their power to steal an election.
“They don’t trust the American people to make a decision,” one of the president’s lead lawyers, Jay Sekulow, told reporters in the halls of the Capitol on Friday as he previewed the White House argument.
The White House seems likely to go after Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat leading the House managers, who angered some Republican senators with his closing speech on Friday night by citing an anonymously sourced CBS News report that they had been warned their heads would be “on a pike” if they broke from Mr. Trump.
President Trump faces two articles of impeachment, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, stemming from his effort to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into his Democratic rivals while withholding nearly $400 million in congressionally approved security aid in what a government agency called a violation of law.
His lawyers maintain that he had every right to set foreign policy as he saw fit and that he had valid concerns about corruption in Ukraine that prompted him to suspend the aid temporarily. They also argue that he was protecting presidential prerogatives by when he refused to allow aides to testify or provide documents in the House proceedings.
Much of their case, however, may focus on the actions of the other side. They plan to discuss in detail former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son, Hunter Biden. The younger Mr. Biden earned large paychecks sitting on the board of a Ukrainian energy company at the same time his father managed Ukraine policy for the Obama administration. They plan to assail the F.B.I. for its surveillance of a onetime Trump campaign aide, which has been criticized by an inspector general report.
Mr. Trump’s team also plans to highlight what they call a “rigged process” that the House Democrats undertook to orchestrate his impeachment along party lines and argue that they are trying to remove him from office before the November election because they fear he will win a second term. And they will almost surely quote the Democrats themselves who in the past spoke against party-line impeachments.
With the odds stacked against him in the Democratic-run House, President Trump refused to send lawyers to participate in Judiciary Committee hearings last month, complaining that he was not given sufficient due process. But he faces a more receptive audience in the Republican-controlled Senate, where the White House has been working in tandem with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader.
While the House managers presented a damning case against the president over three days of arguments that wrapped up Friday night, Mr. Trump still appears certain to win acquittal in a trial that requires a two-thirds vote to convict and remove him from office. So the main priority for the president’s legal team as it opens its arguments is not to undermine their own advantage or give wavering moderate Republican senators reasons to support Democratic requests for witnesses and documentary evidence.
A vote on that question will not come until next week, and it remains the central question of the impeachment trial, with the potential to either prolong the process and yield new revelations that could further damage Mr. Trump, or to bring the proceeding to a swift conclusion. But after three days of exhaustive arguments by the House managers, there was little indication that there would be enough Republican support to extend the trial by considering new evidence.
The video cameras in the Senate are controlled by government employees, trained mostly on one area during the impeachment trial — the front of the room where the chief justice and those speaking at the lectern appear.
Those feeds are the only view of the chamber available to the public since taking photos and other footage of the space is not permitted. To offer a more comprehensive look at how the chamber has been transformed into a courtroom, The New York Times sent a graphics editor to draw it.
See the 3D rendering here, and look for details like the busts along the gallery walls of 20 vice presidents, whose constitutional duties include serving as presidents of the Senate.
When President Trump’s defense lawyers begin to outline their case on Saturday, they will consider everything that Democrats have raised in their own presentation to have opened the door for discussion.
That includes Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., whose work with a Ukrainian company while his father was in office prompted Mr. Trump to press Ukraine for investigations.
Democrats have rejected any “swap” by which a witness the Democrats want, like John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, would be called in exchange for the younger Mr. Biden. But Mr. Trump’s lawyers still plan to mention Hunter Biden repeatedly, saying that Democratic impeachment managers introduced that window in referring to him during their opening statements.
The Trump team, for its part, appears to feel fairly confident that the Democrats will not have enough votes to call witnesses at the trial.
Among those lawmakers the lawyers have been watching closely is Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, one of four Republicans who have signaled a willingness to call new witnesses. But the lawyers say they have had no indication so far from his public statements that he will deviate from the party line.
As Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House impeachment manager, wrapped up the Democrats’ 24-hour presentation of the case for removing President Trump, he took a few moments on Friday night to forecast the defense team’s counterarguments — and sought to shoot them down.
Mr. Schiff predicted that the president’s team would attack the impeachment process as unfair, charging that Mr. Trump was not given due process, the inquiry was unauthorized and the investigation was conducted in secrecy without a fair opportunity for Republicans to participate.
But Mr. Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee that steered the inquiry, noted that the House voted on ground rules for the investigation. Republicans had been afforded the same opportunity to attend the proceedings and question witnesses as Democrats had, he added, and Mr. Trump was given a chance to participate as well — just as Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard M. Nixon had been before him — although he declined.
“When they say the process was unfair, what they really mean is don’t look at what the president did,” Mr. Schiff said.
He also sought to dismantle the theory Mr. Trump’s lawyers have signaled they will invoke — one rejected by most constitutional scholars — that the president cannot be impeached if he is not charged with a specific crime.
That argument, Mr. Schiff said, was tantamount to a declaration by the president’s legal team that, “We can’t defend the indefensible, so we have to fall back on ‘Even if he abused his office, even if he did all the things he’s accused of, that’s perfectly fine. There’s nothing that can be done about it.’ ”
Mr. Schiff also suggested Mr. Trump’s team would accuse Democrats of impeaching him because “they hate the president.”
“Whether you like the president or you dislike the president is immaterial,” he countered. “If it meets the threshold of impeachable conduct, as we have proved, it doesn’t matter whether you like him. It doesn’t matter whether you dislike him. What matters is whether he is a danger to the country.”