Recapping Day 1 Of The Trump Impeachment Trial

Jan 21, 2020
Originally published on January 21, 2020 6:04 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Senate impeachment trial kicked off today with arguments about the rules for the hours of arguments and debate to come in the days ahead. Today we got our first preview of President Trump's defense from White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PAT CIPOLLONE: They have no case. Frankly, they have no charge. When you look at these articles of impeachment, they're not only ridiculous. They are dangerous to our republic.

SHAPIRO: White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez has been watching Cipollone and the trial, and he joins us now.

Hi, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: You've told us before that Pat Cipollone is known for working behind the scenes, and so this was unusual. What did we see from him today?

ORDOÑEZ: It was unusual. It's very interesting because it is really hard to find examples of Cipollone speaking. He is much better-known for writing aggressive letters to Congress. He's such a new figure that Representative Schiff and Chief Justice Roberts struggled to pronounce his name. Today we got to see him in action, though. Cipollone himself seemed a little uncomfortable at first in the spotlight, but he certainly warmed up and gave us a taste of the fiery rhetoric we have come to accept from the Trump team.

SHAPIRO: And what did he show us about what the White House defense will be?

ORDOÑEZ: He made a very political argument, accused Democrats of not only trying to overturn 2016 election, which Trump won. But he also said the Democrats are trying to use impeachment to interfere with the upcoming election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CIPOLLONE: They're asking the Senate to attack one of the most sacred rights we have as Americans - the right to choose our president in an election year. It's never been done before.

ORDOÑEZ: Cipollone also said that Democrats will - said things that Democrats will likely fight back on. For example, he accused Democrats of barring Republicans from depositions given to House investigators, and that's simply not true. Republicans were there. Something else that could play a big role later on - Cipollone criticized Schiff for not letting the courts weigh in on subpoenas and whether the White House had a right to block some of them.

SHAPIRO: We also heard today from other members of the president's defense team, including Jay Sekulow, who has spent more time on television than Cipollone. What did Sekulow have to say?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. He is a private attorney who representative President Trump during the special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling. He's there to kind of share the outline of the defense, to kind of give the big picture from Trump's perspective.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAY SEKULOW: Why are we here? Are we here because of a phone call, or are we here before this great body because since the president was sworn into office, there was a desire to see him removed?

ORDOÑEZ: Sekulow also said Trump is being haunted by the ghost of the Mueller report, referring, obviously, to the Russia investigation. You know, these are themes we've heard from the president himself, and he says that Democrats just can't accept that he was elected in the first place.

SHAPIRO: As our White House correspondent, you're here giving us the White House argument today. But I'd also like you to just tell us a little about what Democrats said and the message from lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff.

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. Schiff argued strongly for allowing witnesses in the Senate trial, and he did it by using Trump's own words against him. He played tape of Trump saying he would love to have members of his cabinet and other top officials testify in a fair Senate trial. He also showed a clip of Trump saying that, on article two, he could do whatever he wanted as president. You know, basically, Schiff was saying he told senators they should not reward President Trump's obstruction.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.

Thanks, Franco.

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