Margaret Valenti breaks down the impeachment briefing on Monday that laid out the White House’s plan for the Senate impeachment trial.
In an impeachment briefing attributed to sources working closely with the President’s legal team, the White House calls for a swift end to the Senate impeachment and stresses the lack of basis for the House’s initial decision to impeach the President. There were no details mentioned about the exact arguments the President’s legal team will use or the strategies they will employ for a “swift” dismissal. The trial will take place over two days, twelve hours each day.
It is very clear that Republicans will steer the argument towards the Biden’s involvement with Burisma, which the White House feels was not properly investigated because of the bias in the House against President Trump, and focus on the articles of impeachment passed in the House which they feel unfairly, and unlawfully, implicates and judges the President. The Senate trial is also the first opportunity the President has to present his case to the U.S. population without being behind the lens of a camera. According to the White House, the only narrative shared in excruciating detail in this impeachment saga is the narrative the Democrats want to tell.
Strategy Of Trump’s Legal Team
Throughout the briefing, the team stressed that they would not reveal any of their strategies to tackle the impeachment hearing in the Senate, but were more than happy to discuss the faults in the arguments of the Democrats.
Firstly, they point out that the articles of impeachment historically have, for past Presidents, a basis in actual criminal offenses. It is safe to say that impeachment is a political process, not a legal one, and cannot be viewed through the lens of what would fly in the legal world, rather it must be viewed through the lens what would fly in the political world. In the political world, in the view of the framers, “Treason, Bribery, and other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” are the foundation by which Congress and the Senate are able to hold Presidents, and other members of the government, accountable to the U.S. populus for their actions.
That last part is up to interpretation, and often leads people to discredit the case against Trump. According to the Trump legal team, those words have their basis in Blackstone, one of the backbones of law in England that inspired a lot of U.S. laws as well. Blackstone, according to Trump’s legal team, says that impeachment must rely on a criminal offense, not a perception of negative intent. So, when the framers initially drafted the Constitution and defined how and why a member of the government should be impeached, they did it so that when a President commits a crime when in office, they can be held accountable and not use the office as a shield. Since President Trump did not commit a blatant crime, in the White House’s view, there is no basis for impeachment because Congress’ articles of impeachment “fail to state any violation of law” and Democrats base the articles entirely on “assumptions, presumptions, and speculation.” Essentially, the Democrats set up a “factual record that proves the President did nothing wrong [illegal].”
However, there is a U.S. Government Accountability Office (the GOA) report that concludes that the White House broke the law when they refused to release aid to Ukraine for reasons that the White House has yet to make clear. The White House violated a law that says that the White House cannot delay aid released by Congress. Essentially, Congress has the power of the Government purse, how much to spend, where it should be spent, and when it should be disbursed, not the White House. Since the White House provided no adequate reason for why they withheld the aid and did not alert Congress that they wanted to withhold the aid, they broke the law. Obviously, the White House disagrees with the GOA’s decision, but it is unclear whether the Democrats can present that evidence to the Senate.
Something else that the legal team points out is that this impeachment would destroy the separation of power that exists between the legislative and executive branches of government in the U.S. So that when the legislative branch “makes a demand for information” from the executive branch, the executive branch must turn it over, which the Trump team argues sets a dangerous precedent. That would “alter the balance set up by the framers.” Historically, the Executive branch and the Legislative branch usually work together to achieve common goals. Even when there are strifes, the sharing of information is something that Congress has a right to be a part of.
Arguably, the precedent Donald Trump and his team want to set is even more dangerous, as it would give the executive branch even more power than it already has, and many would say the executive branch already has a lot of or too much power. A Congress and a White House working together ultimately keeps both in check in case of an abuse of power from either side. Any power left unchecked by either side is not a proper way to run the U.S. government.
The Senate impeachment trial will occur on January 21st, 2020 when the Senate votes on the ground rules. It is still unclear what exactly the President and his legal team will cite to defend him and what evidence — if there is any additional evidence — the Democrats will present during the two day trial.