Trump’s defense team begins arguments in U.S. Senate impeachment trial

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lawyers for U.S. President Donald Trump began his defense at the Senate impeachment trial on Saturday, arguing that Democrats’ efforts to remove the president from office would set a “very, very dangerous” precedent in an election year.

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, the head of the defense team, told Senators they would be denying voters their right to give their opinion on Trump at the Nov. 3 presidential election if they found him guilty and ousted him now.

“They are asking you to do something very, very consequential and, I would submit to you … very, very dangerous,” Cipollone said.

In only the third U.S. presidential impeachment trial, Democrats argued earlier this week that Trump should be removed for pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, and then trying to cover it up by impeding a congressional investigation.

“You’ll find that the president did absolutely nothing wrong,” Cipollone said.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives impeached Trump last month on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, setting the stage for the trial in the Republican-led Senate.

Trump is expected to be acquitted in the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required to convict and remove a president from office. No Republican senator has voiced any support for his ouster.

Saturday’s session will be a relatively short one of up to three hours because Republicans want to save the bulk of their arguments for early next week when they expect television viewership to be higher.

Reporting by Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis

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