Trump defense: Ukraine 'quid pro quo' not impeachable

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In this image from video, personal attorney to President Donald Trump, Jay Sekulow, speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a striking shift from President Donald Trump’s claim of “perfect” dealings with Ukraine, his defense asserted Wednesday at his Senate trial that a trade of U.S. military aid for political favors — even if proven — could not be grounds for his impeachment.

Trump's defenders relied on retired professor Alan Dershowitz, a member of their team, who told senators that every politician conflates his own interest with the public interest. "It cannot be impeachable,” he declared.

Democrats pressed hard to force the Senate to call more witnesses to testify, but Republicans appeared intently focused on bringing the impeachment trial to a vote of acquittal, possibly in a matter of days. Even new revelations from former national security adviser John Bolton were countered by the president's lawyers, who used Wednesday's unusual question-and-answer session to warn off prolonging the proceeding, insisting senators have heard enough.

Democrats argued Bolton's forthcoming book cannot be ignored. It contends he personally heard Trump say he wanted military aid withheld from Ukraine until it agreed to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden — the abuse of power charge that is the first article of impeachment.

The vote on calling witnesses is expected by Friday.

As Chief Justice John Roberts fielded queries, Texas Republican Ted Cruz asked if it mattered whether there was a quid pro quo?

Simply, no, declared Dershowitz, who said many politicians equate their reelection with the public good. “That's why it's so dangerous to try to psychoanalyze a president,” he said.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democrat leading the House prosecutors, appeared stunned.