The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 25, 2020
** BACKGROUND PRESS CALL
BY SOURCES ON THE PRESIDENT’S LEGAL TEAM
** 2:35 P.M. EST
MR. GIDLEY: Thank you so much. Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for taking the time to join this background briefing call on impeachment.
The ground rules are as follows: Information on the call is on background and can be attributable to “sources on the President’s legal team.” “Sources on the President’s legal team.” And the call is also embargoed -- the content on the call, rather, is embargoed until the conclusion of the call.
As a reminder, you -- by participating, you are agreeing to the ground rules. And with that, I’ll turn the call over to [sources on the President’s legal team].
Gentlemen, go ahead.
SOURCE ON THE PRESIDENT’S LEGAL TEAM: Thanks, Hogan. We were pleased to have an opportunity to begin presenting the President’s defense today. Obviously we had not had any opportunity in the House proceedings to do that.
And as we have said in the past, we intend to present a robust defense on both fact and the law. We think that people got to see a taste of that today. And we’ll look forward to continuing to present the defense and go through the bulk of it in the coming days.
And with that, I’ll open it for questions.
Q Hi. It’s Andrew Feinberg with Breakfast Media. Thanks for doing the call. Today, as you were speaking, you had said that no prior impeachment investigation conducted closed depositions before public hearings. In fact, during the Nixon impeachment, initial depositions were conducted by staff, and members were not permitted or involved in those depositions.
So I’m wondering why it is you (inaudible) make such a false statement, and why it’s necessary to defend the President without seeming to have any need to constantly tell the truth?
SOURCE ON THE PRESIDENT’S LEGAL TEAM: Well, I don’t think I said that there were never any closed depositions in any impeachment proceeding. What I had said was that there was never an impeachment proceeding in a presidential impeachment inquiry that was not started without a vote of the full House to authorize the inquiry.
And what I pointed out was that there was not a situation in the Clinton or Nixon impeachment hearings where there were open hearings. And I’m quite sure that I said this -- where there were open hearings where the President was excluded. Because it's the open hearings that the President was permitted to have counsel present and to cross-examine people.
So I don’t think that you heard me correctly. I suppose it’s possible I misspoke, but I don’t think that’s that what I said.
Q Hi, this is Kelly O'Donnell from NBC. Is it your intention -- and we do thank you for doing the call, by the way. Is it your intention to argue that it was not the President’s intent to get Ukraine’s help doing this investigation? Are you going to go at that sort of underlying premise that Democrats have presented, that the President had an intention for his own personal benefit?
I know that you talked today -- well, maybe it was [source on the President’s legal team] who did, about this being for the country’s benefit. But are you going to try to attack that singular premise of Democratic House managers, that the President was trying to extract from Ukraine something for his own political benefit?
SOURCE ON THE PRESIDENT’S LEGAL TEAM: I am not going to get into, sort of, the strategy of what we’ll be presenting in the coming days. I think you’ll see that as we present it. And that’s best left to be developed, you know, in the Senate Chamber as we present the case.
SOURCE ON THE PRESIDENT’S LEGAL TEAM: Next Question.
Q Hi, this is Jeremy Diamond with CNN. Thanks for doing the call. A number of Democrats today, after your presentation, said that you actually made the case for why there should be witnesses in the Senate trial by focusing on the lack of eyewitness accounts -- accounts of people who had spoken with the President to connect the investigations to security assistance. What’s your response to that?
And, secondly, do you plan to focus more on former Vice President Joe Biden in your subsequent presentations? Because obviously we didn’t hear much about him today, despite the President’s obvious focus on him.
Thank you very much.
SOURCE ON THE PRESIDENT’S LEGAL TEAM: Well, the first part of the first question, I think that’s really a desperate interpretation -- a desperate spin to try to put on that. The fact is that the House Democrats used to say that they had overwhelming evidence, but now that they don’t have overwhelming evidence they’re saying that they need to have more evidence. So I wouldn’t put too much stock in that.
In terms of the Bidens and that, I’m not going to get into what we’ll be presenting in court. You know, as I said, I think it’s best left to be developed as the case proceeds in the Senate.
Q Hey, guys. Good afternoon. Mark Meredith from Fox News. Just a quick question for you: In terms of Monday, have you guys gotten any idea of how long you guys plan to present on Monday? Will it be the full eight hours, nine hours, or are we looking for something shorter like we saw today?
Also curious, though: How will you guys be preparing Sunday? Was the President, kind of, given a brief after today’s proceedings? We saw you tweeting about it. I’m just curious, did you guys, kind of, give him a post-session review? Or any thoughts you can, kind of, give us on what’s happening behind the scenes would be helpful. Thank you as always for doing the call.
SOURCE ON THE PRESIDENT’S LEGAL TEAM: In terms of Monday, it certainly won’t be as short as today’s session, but exactly how long it will go, I’m not sure.
And in terms of communications with the President, I’m not going to get into that.
And prepping, you know, we’ve been working hard a long time and we’ll be working hard tomorrow. We’ll be working hard until the whole thing is done.
Q Hi, Zach Cohen from National Journal. Thanks for doing the call. Just following up on that, I think Mr. Cipollone said today that you all don’t anticipate using as much floor time as the House managers did. Does that mean that you all will rest your case Monday afternoon? Or are we talking about two shorter days, Monday and Tuesday?
SOURCE ON THE PRESIDENT’S LEGAL TEAM: Again, I don’t want to predict anything definite. I think we are going to be more efficient. I doubt that there’s any scenario where we approach 24 hours of presentation. But how that will be split over Monday and Tuesday is sort of hard to predict at this point.
And one more question.
Q Hi, this Jeff Mason with Reuters. Can you walk us through the discrepancy between your side and the House impeachment managers with regard to the President -- you guys alleging that the President was shut out from representation during the hearings? They preemptively said that that was false.
You also said today, I believe, that the reason the White House didn’t take -- didn’t allow or go through with the subpoenas is because the subpoenas were invalid. Can you just walk us through the discrepancies between the two sides on that?
SOURCE ON THE PRESIDENT’S LEGAL TEAM: Sure. On the subpoena question, first: There are one of several different legal reasons that apply to different requests for documents or witnesses. And this will be explained further in our presentation, but I’ll just sort of recap what I was saying today.
One problem was that they began this impeachment inquiry in the HPSCI and the other committees that were meeting in the SCIF without any vote from the House to authorize it. And the essential point is that the Constitution gives the impeachment power to the House as a chamber -- the whole House. For any committee to exercise part of that authority to a compulsory process, the committee has to be authorized by the House. That takes a vote of the House. And it could be in a resolution, it could be in a rule. It could be something that’s -- but it has to be voted on by the House to actually delegate authority to the committee. There was no such vote here. And there was no jurisdiction in the standing rule to use the impeachment power for those committees.
So those subpoenas were issued without authority and they were invalid. And that’s a pretty standard analysis for how you examine and have the committee (inaudible) issue a subpoena. The courts have said you have to look at the authorizing resolution that gives it its investigatory powers, and that was our point. And this was explained in letters at the time. I put up on the screen an October 18th letter that we explained at the time this reasoning. So that’s on the invalidity of the subpoenas.
In terms of locking the President out of the process: You know, as I went through today, there was sort of an illusory offer to allow the President to have some rights in proceedings before the House Judiciary Committee. But before the deadline had even come for the President to specify how he would like to participate and what rights he would like to exercise, the Judiciary Committee had already decided they weren’t going to have any factual hearings -- hear from any fact witnesses. And the Speaker had already announced the outcome of the proceedings by directing the committee to start drafting articles of impeachment.
So it was clear that the process was already a foregone conclusion, and there wasn’t going to be any real process. It was just going for show. And so the President determined that he would not sort of lend an air of legitimacy to that by participating.
And I think that that's it.
MR. GIDLEY: Yeah, that concludes the call. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it. Just remember, everyone, the content is now open for reporting. The embargo has lifted. And a reminder, "sources working on the President's legal team." This call is attributable to "sources working on the President's legal team." Thank you, everybody.
END 2:46 P.M. EST