‘The president did absolutely nothing wrong’: Trump’s lawyers kick off impeachment defense

President Donald Trump’s lawyers began delivering their opening arguments in his historic impeachment trial on Saturday, telling senators the president “did absolutely nothing wrong” and charging that Democrats are trying to keep the Republican off the ballot in the upcoming election.

“For all their talk about election interference, they’re here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history,” said White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. “And we can’t allow that to happen.”

During a rare Saturday session, Trump’s team began its defense by reading from a summary of a call between the president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as showing a clip of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff reading his interpretation of the call. White House deputy counsel Mike Purpura said Schiff’s rendering of the call was “fake.”

Trump’s lawyers began presenting their case a day after House Democrats closed theirs, with Schiff warning that the president would keep abusing his power unless Congress stepped in.

“You cannot leave a man like that in office,” said the California Democrat.

Read: Democratic House managers on the need to remove Trump in impeachment trial.

House Democrats impeached Trump last month, saying the president abused his office by asking Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden while withholding aid from the country. The House also approved an obstruction charge against Trump.

The Senate trial wrapped up for the day early Saturday afternoon, with Trump’s team saving the majority of its arguments for Monday and Tuesday, when more people would be watching on television.

Trump complained on Friday that his team would be presenting its case during what he called “Death Valley in T.V.” on Saturday.

Trump’s attorneys also harked back to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian election-interference case. Jay Sekulow, another one of Trump’s lawyers, accused House Democrats of having “tried once again to re-litigate the Mueller case,” which Trump has frequently attacked.

While Trump’s team has argued the president was cleared of obstruction of justice, that report laid out some 10 instances in which Trump may have obstructed justice.

As Trump’s lawyers were presenting their case, the president was taking to Twitter to blast Democrats. Trump has consistently denied any wrongdoing in his dealings with Ukraine and calls impeachment a hoax.

With Trump’s acquittal in the Republican-controlled Senate widely expected, U.S. stocks have largely ignored the impeachment drama in Washington.

While coronavirus-inspired fears helped to send stocks lower on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.58%, S&P 500 index SPX, -0.90%  and Nasdaq COMP, -0.93%  are all up for the year to date, after enjoying strong gains over the past 12 months. The Dow is up more than 17% over the past year.

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