On the first day of the Senate impeachment trial, President Trump’s lawyers were caught off guard and unprepared.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone and a crew of several other lawyers for the president arrived for their first day of the trial, apparently expecting things to start off slowly with sleepy arguments over the rules for the trial. Opening arguments were not expected until Wednesday.
Cipollone was granted an hour to speak a few minutes after Chief Justice John Roberts entered the Senate chamber and the trial began in earnest. He used only three of those minutes. He spoke in a halting voice, and he said little of substance, simply asserting that Trump “has done absolutely nothing wrong.” And then he sat down, yielding the floor to the lead House impeachment manager, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
Schiff ambushed Cipollone and Trump’s team of lawyers, launching immediately into a passionate, comprehensive, and piercing set of arguments about why the House impeached the president in December for withholding $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to pressure its government to announce an investigation into a political rival, former vice president Joe Biden.
…. As Schiff spoke, Republican senators began to fidget. Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, chewed on a pen. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., picked at his right pinkie cuticle. A Senate Republican aide seated next to Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., was visibly flushed, his face a brilliant shade of red. He and Laura Dove, a top aide to McConnell, began furiously scribbling notes on their legal pads. Cipollone, who was seated at a table to Schiff’s left, facing the Republican senators, flipped through a black binder, while another Trump attorney seated to his left, Jay Sekulow, wrote down notes.