By Dareh Gregorian

 

President Donald Trump's legal team began their defense of the president in Trump-ian fashion on Saturday, charging Democrats were the ones who are trying to interfere in the 2020 election and accusing lead House manager Adam Schiff of being dishonest.

Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow also gave an astonishing explanation for why his client turned to outsiders for his dealings with Ukraine — he doesn't trust his own officials.

 

Here are five takeaways from Saturday's abbreviated opening arguments in the president's Senate trial, which will continue on Monday.

 
1. Dems are the real danger

The House of Representatives impeached Trump for abuse of power, essentially charging that Trump was trying to force Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 U.S. election. In his opening argument, White House counsel Pat Cipollone argued the Democrats were the ones trying to interfere.

 

"They're asking you to remove President Trump from the ballot in an election that's occurring in approximately nine months, they're asking you to tear up all of the ballots across this country on your own initiative — take that decision away from the American people, and I don’t think they spent one minute of their 24 hours talking to you about the consequences of that for this country," Cipollone told the Senate.

Removing the president, he said, would be "an irresponsible abuse of power."

"Let the people decide," Cipollone said.

 
2. Targeting Schiff

Trump's team also took aim at Schiff, the California congressman who the president regularly derides as 'Shifty Schiff' (and did again on Saturday), telling the senators he'd made several misleading comments.

 
Trump defense lawyer begins by going after SchiffJAN. 25, 202001:59

"That's fake, that's not the real call," Purpura said. "That’s not the evidence here."

 
3. Matter of trust

Sekulow said Trump engaged in what Democrats have called "shadow diplomacy" in Ukraine because his faith in U.S. intelligence agencies was badly shaken by former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference.

"In his summation on Thursday night, Manager Schiff complained that the president chose not to go with the determinations of his intelligence agencies regarding foreign interference and instead decided he would listen to people that he trusted, and he would inquire about the Ukraine issue himself," Sekulow said. "Mr. Schiff did not like the fact that the president did not apparently blindly trust some of the advice he was being given by the intelligence agencies."

He also accused Ukraine of interfering in the 2016 election, something FBI Director Chris Wray has denied.

 
4. The Bidens

What happened?

After expectations that Trump's lawyers were going to after Joe and Hunter Biden and Burisma — Sekulow said earlier in the day that Democrats had "opened the door" to discussing the Bidens — it didn't happen. Joe Biden was mentioned only in passing.

But that doesn't mean they won't be in their crosshairs when the president's team picks up their arguments again on Monday.

 
5. Short day

Trump's team had said they anticipated Saturday's arguments, which they described as "coming attractions," would last about three hours but lasted only two.

A senior administration official told NBC News that Trump's defense won't take as much time as the House managers did to present their case, and might even wrap up their presentation on Monday. The trial resumes then at 1 p.m. ET.

 

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry/trump-s-senate-impeachment-trial-what-hap...