Cipollone launched the defense by suggesting that Democrats omitted crucial contextual evidence that paint Trump’s actions in a less incriminating light. “They didn’t tell you that,” was Cipollone’s repeated refrain as he suggested that Trump expressed genuine concern about corruption — and complaints that Europe wasn’t doing its part to support Ukraine — when he spoke to Zelensky.
“They have the burden of proof and they have not come close to meeting it,” Cipollone said.
Trump’s attorneys also went directly after Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager.
In Purpura’s initial comments, he played footage of Schiff paraphrasing Trump’s July 25 call during a congressional hearing last year. Schiff had said he was parodying the president by filling in sinister inferences, but Trump has fixated on the episode to suggest Schiff has tried to defraud the public about the nature of the call.
Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow also linked Democrats’ case against Trump to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which he said unfairly dogged Trump for much of his presidency.
Unmentioned in the first hours of the trial was Joe Biden, who Trump asked Zelensky to investigate during their July 25 call, a request that Democrats said amounted to a violation of Trump’s oath of office — using his power to obtain a personal, political benefit. Biden is a front-runner to challenge Trump in the 2020 election.
But Sekulow has foreshadowed that Biden will be a feature of the defense.
“Believe me, you’ll hear about that issue,” Jay Sekulow, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, told reporters Friday in the Capitol during brief remarks where he previewed how the president’s legal team planned to use its allotted 24 hours of time to air a long list of familiar Trump grievances, including unsubstantiated charges of corruption against Biden.