© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trump Lawyers Wrap Up Opening Arguments In Senate Impeachment Trial


President Trump's attorneys have wrapped up the third and final day of their opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial. Their message - removing the president from office would be an extreme move over what they argue was essentially a disagreement over policy. Attorney Jay Sekulow captured this message in a refrain he used several times.


JAY SEKULOW: Danger, danger, danger - to lower the bar of impeachment based on these articles of impeachment would impact the functioning of our constitutional republic.

KELLY: Sekulow also addressed the new revelations this week about the Ukraine affair. NPR's Ayesha Rascoe is at the White House yet again, and she joins us yet again.

Hey, Ayesha.


KELLY: All right, so yesterday, we were talking about how the president's attorneys were trying to sidestep the topic of John Bolton - former national security adviser Bolton and all of these leaked details about his book manuscript. There are more details coming out. How are they handling it today?

RASCOE: They basically dismissed the news reports. The New York Times, of course, broke the story about Bolton's upcoming book. The book will reportedly describe Trump telling Bolton, who was then his national security adviser, that Trump wanted to keep the hold on the aid to Ukraine until there was an investigation into his political rivals. Trump has denied this allegation, but Democrats are using these new reports to back up their call to have Bolton and others testify at the Senate trial. Today Sekulow addressed this head-on. He called the story unsourced and said that senators should not make any decisions based off of it.


SEKULOW: Responding to an unpublished manuscript that maybe some reporters have an idea of maybe what it says - that's what - I mean, that's what the evidence - if you want to call that evidence. I don't know what you'd call that. I'd call it an inadmissible, but that's what it is.

RASCOE: But senators will be making a decision on whether to hear from Bolton directly later this week.

KELLY: Stay with Sekulow. He kept going back to arguments that were made last night about abuse of power by another of the president's attorneys, Alan Dershowitz. What is the point that they were trying to make?

RASCOE: Yes, Dershowitz, the famous defense attorney, said last night that - basically, that abuse of power is too broad a charge to bring for impeachment. He said that so many things could fall under that umbrella that you would be hamstringing future presidents who would always have to be worried about getting impeached. Dershowitz also said - and this seemed to be key - that even if accusations made by Bolton were true, that the White House says - and the White House says those accusations are not true. But even if they were, they do not rise to the level of impeachment. And that seemed to be a point that Sekulow really wanted to emphasize again and again today.

KELLY: So was there a big wrapping-up shot that the president's team tried to deliver that they hope will stick with people as they wrapped today?

RASCOE: White House counsel Pat Cipollone was the last to speak. He said they wouldn't prolong their argument. They had more time left, but they felt that they had made their point. Here's more from him.


PAT CIPOLLONE: You know what the right answer is in your heart. You know what the right answer is for our country. You know right - what the right answer is for the American people.

RASCOE: And so Cipollone - he did play this video montage showing several long-serving Democrats, what they were actually saying during the - back during the Clinton impeachment - people like Chuck Schumer and Congressman Jerrold Nadler. And of course, back then, Democrats were on the other side arguing against impeachment. After the montage, Cipollone said, you were right, and that got a bit of a laugh. He's saying that Democrats were right. And that's basically how things ended - fairly quickly and not with, like, a lot of fire and fury or anger.

KELLY: That is NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, reporting there from the White House.

Thank you.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.