McConnell Made Remarks in Private Senate GOP Meeting

WASHINGTON—President Trump’s lawyers tried to cast doubts on the importance and credibility of allegations by former national security adviser John Bolton about the president’s motives for freezing aid to Ukraine, as they concluded their efforts to counter Democrats’ charges that Mr. Trump abused power and obstructed Congress.

The arguments on the third and final day of presentations by the Trump legal team in the Senate impeachment trial came as the White House grew more concerned that the Republican-controlled chamber may vote later this week to hear from more witnesses. Republicans had hoped to wrap up the trial with an acquittal of the president by this week, but Mr. Bolton’s account has thrown that time frame into doubt.

Using less than half of the 24 hours they were allotted, the president’s lawyers argued that House managers hadn’t established their case and that their accusations fell short of the threshold needed to remove a president from office, particularly in an election year.

“The bar for impeachment cannot be set this low,” said Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal attorneys, of the Democrats’ impeachment case. Deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin said the abuse-of-power article was “infinitely malleable” and allowed for too much subjectivity. “How are we supposed to get the proof of what’s in the president’s head?” he asked.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone, in closing, reminded senators that the presidential election was nine months away and said the choice should be left to voters. “Why tear up their ballots?” he asked.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), following the conclusion of the session, dismissed the Trump legal team’s arguments. “Their whole argument is diversion,” he said.

“If you don’t believe the newspaper report, call the witnesses,” he said of the Bolton account, which was first reported Sunday evening in the New York Times. He reminded senators that the witnesses Democrats have wanted to call but that have been blocked by the White House—which include Mr. Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney —are Republicans appointed by the president.

Democrats, who control 47 seats, need four Republicans to join them to approve motions for new testimony or documents, which need a simple majority to pass. Starting Wednesday, the Senate will have two days to ask each side questions, followed by a vote later this week on new evidence. Read more at WSJ