‘Leave It to the Voters,’ Trump’s Defense Says

Jay Sekulow, President Trump’s personal lawyer, called for the Senate to reject articles of impeachment and “protect the Constitution and the separation of powers,” by allowing voters to deliver a verdict on the president’s conduct in an election year.

“This was the first totally partisan presidential impeachment in our nation’s history, and it should be our last,” Mr. Sekulow said. He declared that Democrats “have cheapened the awesome power of impeachment and unfortunately, of course, the country is not better for that.”

He, like other members of the president’s defense team, pointed to the first caucuses of the 2020 election, being held in Iowa on Monday, as further reason to reject removing a president exactly nine months before Election Day.

“You are being asked to do this when tonight citizens of Iowa are going to be caucusing,” Mr. Sekulow said. “The answer is elections, not impeachment.”

Mr. Sekulow also played two videos for the senators to underscore his argument: a montage of Democrats calling for the president’s impeachment beginning in 2017 set to ominous music, and a shorter montage of Senate Democrats joining Mr. Trump at bill signing ceremonies, celebrating bipartisan accomplishment.

Taking aim at the second article of impeachment charging President Trump with obstruction of Congress, Patrick Philbin, the deputy White House counsel, upbraided the House for “jumping straight to the ultimate nuclear weapon of the Constitution.”

To support the charge of obstruction, Mr. Philbin argued, would “fundamentally alter the balance between the different branches of government.”

“The idea that there is no time for dealing with that friction with the executive branch is antithetical to the proper functioning of the separation of powers,” Mr. Philbin said. Mr. Trump vowed in April to stonewall all subpoenas issued by the House. His attorneys have argued that his defiance relies on an executive prerogative that presidents have asserted for decades.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“If I was him, I would avoid the subject,” said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri. “But I have no idea.”

Mr. Blunt and other Republicans told reporters that President Trump should take an opportunity to tout his administration’s successes. But they conceded that might be a lot to ask of an unpredictable president on the brink of an all but certain acquittal vote.

“I think there’s plenty to talk about, and it’s an opportunity to move on,” Mr. Blunt said. “But the other option is to address it head on — and he is often a head on kind of guy.”

When former President Bill Clinton delivered the 1999 State of the Union address amid his own impeachment, he did not bring up the trial.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said Mr. Trump might want to talk about trade, the Middle East, the economy and school choice. Impeachment, Mr. Rubio added, would seize the headlines and distract from the president’s agenda. “There’s no way you talk about that and that not be the takeaway, right?” he said.

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said he expects “the worst” — that is, for the president to gloat.

“I expect that he’s going to be over the top,” Mr. Murphy said. “I’d be surprised if he wasn’t bombastic and self-congratulatory. I’d be surprised if he didn’t take potshots at the press and Democrats and impeachment managers.”

Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, said he would welcome a presidential address about bipartisan issues such as lowering the costs of prescription medications.

“Does anybody imagine that they know what the president’s going to do?” he said with a laugh. “Not me!”

The key to the House’s abuse of power charge against President Trump has always been whether he conditioned official acts — nearly $400 million in military aid and a White House meeting for Ukraine’s leader — on investigations into his political rivals.

As they closed their defense on Monday, Mr. Trump’s team insisted again that he did not — but the denial was narrowly tailored in light of new disclosures. “First, the president did not condition security assistance or a meeting on anything in the July 25 call,” said Michael Purpura, deputy White House counsel. That is strictly accurate, but it ignores the broader pressure campaign that was unfolding around the phone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky, described in testimony by more than 15 American diplomats and White House aides.

Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, testified explicitly that there had been a quid pro quo around the White House meeting and he, like other witnesses, said he was given indication there was also one around the military aid.

Mr. Purpura also said that “none of the House witnesses ever testified that there was any linkage between security assistance and investigations.” Again, that is strictly true. But John R. Bolton, the former White House national security advisor, has written in a manuscript that Mr. Trump told him directly that he would only release the assistance on help with the investigations. He has also offered to testify, but senators refused to call him to the trial.

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

The White House defense team has begun its closing argument, imploring senators to “leave it to the voters” to choose their president.

Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, cast the effort to remove Mr. Trump from office as “an effort to overturn the results of one election and to try to interfere in the coming election that begins today in Iowa.”

That argument has been invoked by some Republican senators who Democrats had hoped would defect from their party and vote to hear from additional witnesses, most notably Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee.

Ken Starr, one of the president’s defenders, went further in his argument, contending that the impeachment managers did not meet the burden of proving Mr. Trump committed an impeachable offense — and charged that they did not play by their own rules.

“Have the facts as presented to you as the high court of impeachment proven trustworthy?” Mr. Starr said. “Has there been full and fair disclosure in the course of these proceedings?” He concluded: “It’s not liberty and justice for all.”

In his allusion-heavy remarks, Mr. Starr referenced both Martin Luther King Jr. (“The long moral arc of the universe bends toward justice”) and the lyricist Irving Berlin’s composition of “God Bless America.”

Every day of the trial, the Senate diplomatic gallery has had a handful of people sitting in on the proceedings, witnessing the workings of American democracy up close. Some people have dropped in for short periods of time. Others have appeared to stay for much of any given day.

The Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms allocates 21 tickets a day for the diplomatic corps, and embassies can request a ticket and pick it up from State Department staff. The State Department, however, does not release the names of those embassies or their personnel.

Credit…Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York and one of the impeachment managers, invoked Senator John McCain in his closing arguments in a subtle jab at President Trump, who has continued to nurse his grudge against the lawmaker even after his death.

“Senator McCain understood the importance of this body, this distinguished body, and serving the public,” Mr. Jeffries said, “once saying, ‘Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself, to a cause, to your principles.’”

It is not the first time the impeachment managers have referenced Mr. McCain, known for his maverick sensibility and penchant for breaking with his party. But Mr. Jeffries’s decision to invoke him once more underscored one last attempt by the managers to appeal to Republicans to cross party lines, an outcome that seems improbable. And it served as one last dig at Mr. Trump, who frequently clashed with Mr. McCain, who had been one of his fiercest Republican critics.

After only an hour of arguments, the Senate broke just afternoon for a 30 minute lunch break. When the trial resumes, the president’s defense team will present its closing case, and the House Democrats have left themselves some time for one final rebuttal.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York and one of the impeachment managers, sought to counter a growing argument among Republicans in the Senate: acknowledging that President Trump’s decision to withhold critical military aid as part of an effort to pressure Ukraine into investigating a political rival was not appropriate, but not to the level of removing him from office.

“As many of you in this chamber have publicly acknowledged in the past few days, the facts are not seriously in dispute,” Mr. Jeffries said during closing arguments. “We have proved that the president committed grave offenses against the Constitution. The question that remains is whether that conduct warrants conviction and removal from office.”

“Absent conviction and removal, how can we be assured that this president will not do it again?” he added. “If we are to rely on the next election to judge the president’s efforts to cheat in that election, how can we know that the election will be free and fair?”

Multiple Republicans, including moderate senators like Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, have said Mr. Trump’s behavior was inappropriate, but did not warrant his removal in an election year.

“I think he shouldn’t have done it — I think it was wrong,” Mr. Alexander said Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “Inappropriate, was the way I’d say it. Improper, crossing the line. And then the only question left is: Who decides what to do about that?”

“The people,” he added. “The people, is my conclusion.”

Asked on Monday if she agreed with Mr. Alexander’s assertion that the conduct was inappropriate, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said “I would concur.”

President Trump once again insisted on Monday that he did nothing wrong with regard to Ukraine, even as House Democratic managers described him as a corrupt president in their closing arguments in his Senate trial.

The House managers used their time on Monday to summarize the case they have been building for months: that the president pressed a foreign government to cheat in the upcoming election and then tried to cover it up.

“President Trump weaponized our government and the vast powers entrusted to him by the American people and the Constitution to target his political rival and corrupt our precious elections,” Representative Val Demings told senators. “He put his personal interest over those of the country.”

That’s not how Mr. Trump sees it. Taking to Twitter even as Ms. Demings was talking, the president once again called the impeachment proceedings “a hoax” and lashed out at the Democrats in Congress.

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Inside the chamber, the four senators competing in Monday night’s Democratic caucuses in Iowa — Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — took their seats. Ms. Klobuchar stared intently as the first two House managers, Representatives Jason Crow of Colorado and Val Demings of Florida, presented their closing arguments.

Mr. Sanders pressed his palms together in front of his face. Jane Sanders, Mr. Sanders’s wife, watched from the gallery, which was emptier than it has been in previous days of the trial. A couple of senators straggled in late, briefcases and folders in hand.

The few remaining senators who have stayed mum on whether they will vote to acquit President Trump rebuffed more attempts to gain insight into their thinking on Monday morning.

Those moderate senators, some of whom are up for re-election in November, have left the door open to breaking with their party or splitting their votes. Senator Doug Jones, Democrat of Alabama, who is running for re-election, said that he is still undecided as to how he will vote, but said he was “getting there.”

”I’m going through all my notes,” Mr. Jones said. “I really do want to hear the arguments and some conversations from colleagues.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, who voted against hearing from witnesses like John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, told reporters on Monday morning that she has decided whether she will vote to acquit Mr. Trump, but declined to elaborate.

Asked if she agreed with Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, that Mr. Trump’s conduct was inappropriate, she replied, “I would concur.”

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The House Democratic impeachment managers began one final overview of their case on Monday, making a raw and likely vain appeal to Republican senators to reconsider their intended acquittal of President Trump. They seemed to be eying the public, and history, though, as much as the hearing room.

In recapping the highlights of Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, the managers argued that their case had only grown stronger since they first presented it two weeks ago, with revelations from John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, and admissions from Mr. Trump’s defense team.

“As I stand here today making the House’s closing argument, President Trump’s constitutional crimes, his crimes against the American people and the nation remain in progress,” said Representative Val Demings, Democrat of Florida.

Representative Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado, invoked ghosts of impeachment past, reminding Republicans how their party had finally decided when enough was enough of President Richard M. Nixon’s conduct. He contrasted that with today’s party: “How many falsehoods can we take,” he said. “When will it be one too many?”

With the debate over witnesses finished and a not-guilty verdict for President Trump all but assured, senators began arriving Monday morning for closing arguments by the House managers and the president’s legal defense team. Each side will have two hours to bring their case to an end.

The day after the Super Bowl, senators straggled in just before the trial resumed and few raced to the microphones to deliver remarks. The Senate Press Gallery just off the chamber was largely empty — a stark contrast to the last two weeks, when reporters crammed into every available seat. Capitol Police continued to impose extra security measures, but many could be seen yawning more frequently than before.

After the closing arguments, senators will finally get their chance to offer their own assessments during remarks on the Senate floor. Each senator will get up to 10 minutes to speak during floor sessions Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning and Wednesday. The final vote is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

As he made his way toward the chamber shortly before the 11 a.m. scheduled start of the trial, Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, told reporters: “We’ve still got some time. We’ve still got some work to do.”

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

The Iowa caucuses are Monday night, but the three Democratic senators mounting competitive efforts in the state are in Washington for the impeachment trial. All three — Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — are expected to return to Iowa in the evening as results roll in.

Mr. Sanders almost won Iowa four years ago and is poised to claim what would be a seismic victory Monday night. Leading in some recent polls, Mr. Sanders has drawn big crowds to rallies when he’s been able to slip away from the impeachment trial over the last week. Popular especially with working-class voters and young people, Mr. Sanders’s biggest advantage may be that he figures to reach the 15 percent viability threshold in more caucuses than any of his opponents, giving him more chances to accrue delegates than anyone else.

There was a time this fall when Ms. Warren was the Iowa front-runner. She led the field in the Des Moines Register’s September poll, then got eclipsed in polling first by Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and then by Mr. Sanders. Still, she is widely said to have the strongest field organization, which can boost a candidate on caucus night. She figures to be strongest among college-educated women in the state’s suburban enclaves.

Ms. Klobuchar’s bet is that Iowans will pick someone who stresses the just-like-them argument in searching for a moderate candidate who can carry the Midwest. But she’s never broken double digits in Iowa’s polling, leaving her well behind the top-tier candidates. Ms. Klobuchar would declare Iowa a victory if she sneaks into the top four, especially if she winds up ahead of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. or Ms. Warren. But she has run a very Iowa-centric campaign and a poor finish there risks her chances of advancing in the other states.

A fourth Democratic senator running for president, Michael Bennet of Colorado, is in Washington for the trial as well, but he is focusing his campaign efforts on the next primary contest, New Hampshire.

Credit…Jordan Gale for The New York Times

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in an interview broadcast on Monday that the impeachment trial of President Trump had not diminished his confidence in being able to work with Republicans if he were to be elected president.

“It hasn’t shaken my faith in being able to work with at least somewhere between seven and 15 of the Republicans who are there,” Mr. Biden said on NBC’s “Today” show. “I think you’re going to see the world change with Trump gone.”

On the campaign trail, Mr. Biden stresses the need to work with Republicans and seek consensus, an approach that some critics see as unrealistic given the sharply polarized political climate on Capitol Hill.

The stark divide between the parties has been evident yet again in the impeachment trial, where Republican senators largely stuck together to block consideration of new witnesses in the face of demands from Democrats.

Democrats are hoping to take control of the Senate in November’s elections, and Mr. Biden has pitched himself as someone who could help Democratic Senate candidates if he were to be at the top of the ticket. In the NBC interview, Mr. Biden said of Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, “My hope is he won’t be majority leader any longer.”

As House impeachment managers and President Trump’s lawyers prepared for their closing arguments late Monday morning and a final vote on Wednesday, some Democratic senators had already shifted their focus from the trial to defeating Mr. Trump in the general election.

On CNN on Monday, Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, acknowledged that some of her Democratic colleagues might vote in favor of acquitting Mr. Trump. But she said the party has universal agreement on major issues like health care, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

“We agree on certain fundamental things that have to do with helping people instead as opposed to screwing them over,” she said.

Democratic presidential candidates will compete for the first time on Monday during the Iowa caucuses, a contest that often narrows the field for the party’s nomination.

Four of the 100 senators who sat in judgment of Mr. Trump are running for the Democratic nomination.

Credit…Calla Kessler/The New York Times

On many levels, President Trump’s weekend — full of golf, catered salmon and plenty of patriotic-themed evening wear — could have been devised to offer relief and a sense of triumph to a president who spent the first month of an election year watching from the sidelines as the Senate debated his future.

With his acquittal all but final, the president passed from table to table in the dining room of his golf club on Saturday quizzing his buddies on the 2020 election, at times lingering long enough to complain about his impeachment ordeal. By Saturday night, the president was in a more celebratory mood when he greeted the band of supporters gathered at Mar-a-Lago, his private club.

Under a large illustration that depicted him dressed as a football player, Mr. Trump regaled them with his latest approval ratings — “We just had our best poll numbers that we’ve ever had,” he said to the group — and walked into the dining room to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” The song is played every time Mr. Trump takes the stage at one of his rallies, and Mr. Greenwood was performing it live for the special occasion.

“As usual, our president scored another victory,” Toni Kramer, the supporter who organized the party for him, said in an interview. “He won the Super Bowl of Washington.”

But that sense of celebration appeared to be fleeting as the evening went on and Mr. Trump’s anger over impeachment, and his antipathy toward his possible 2020 election opponents — in particular, Michael R. Bloomberg — spilled into public view. There were more pressing matters at hand, including the global spread of the coronavirus and his State of the Union address on Tuesday, but he made little mention of them.

Sunday night the president and Mr. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and a latecomer to the Democratic race who is not on the ballot in the Iowa caucuses on Monday, would face off in costly Super Bowl ads. But Mr. Trump, who seems to be increasingly fixated on Mr. Bloomberg and the fortune he is vowing to spend on the election, apparently could not wait.

Both sides hinted on Sunday at what could be part of their closing arguments. Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the lead House impeachment manager, rejected the argument made by Republican senators that Mr. Trump’s political fate should be decided in the 2020 election, stressing that the president has been charged with soliciting foreign interference in that same election.

“They need to remove him from office because he is threatening to still cheat in the next election by soliciting foreign interference,” Mr. Schiff said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And so the normal remedy for a president’s misconduct isn’t available here because the elections, he is already trying to prejudice and compromise with further foreign interference.”

Alan M. Dershowitz, a constitutional law scholar on Mr. Trump’s defense team, insisted that the charges presented by House Democrats were not impeachable offenses.

“If somebody were accused of the crime of ‘abuse of power’ or ‘dishonesty,’ something that’s not a crime, what you do is make a motion to dismiss,” Mr. Dershowitz said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The articles of impeachment did not charge an impeachable offense.”

What we’re expecting to see:
The impeachment managers and Mr. Trump’s lawyers are set to deliver their closing arguments.

When we’re likely to see it:
The Senate will reconvene for the trial at 11 a.m. Lawmakers will hear up to four hours of closing arguments, divided equally between impeachment managers and Mr. Trump’s lawyers.

How to follow it:
The New York Times’s congressional and White House teams will be following all the developments and streaming the trial live, on this page. Stay with us.

The days ahead:
Tuesday will bring a packed schedule on Capitol Hill. Senators will be given the opportunity to make floor speeches on the articles of impeachment. Mr. Trump will then deliver his State of the Union address to Congress later that evening, still technically under the cloud of a potential removal from office.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, the trial will conclude with a vote on the articles of impeachment.