LIVE UPDATES: Impeachment Defense Argues Trump’s Actions Not Impeachable

WASHINGTON — The question-and-answer period of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial continued Thursday in the Senate, a day after Trump’s defense team expanded its strategy to include more reasons to justify the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

Since the start of the impeachment inquiry, Trump has referred to his phone call with the president of Ukraine as “perfect,” but now his defense team is honing in on a new message.

It argued that even if Trump’s actions weren’t perfect, they aren’t impeachable.

Defense attorney Alan Dershowitz doubled down on that theme this week as senators submitted more than 90 questions Wednesday. Dershowitz told senators that it’s acceptable for a president to combine their own interest with the public interest.

The argument would render former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s testimony unnecessary.

Senators wouldn’t have to call Bolton to shed light on the events surrounding Trump’s alleged pressure campaign on Ukraine if, as Dershowitz argues, the whole episode was appropriate.

“The president seems to be emulating a French king who said, “l’etat c’est moi (the state, it’s me).” No. Article II doesn’t say you can do whatever you want,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Both sides finished their arguments Wednesday with pleas to make a decision that restores unity and civility to the country.

“We live in extrodinarily dangerous times. I’m not suggesting this impeachment by the House has brought that on us, perhaps it’s merely a symptom of a terrific problem we have facing us and likely will face us in the future,” Dershowitz told senators. “I think it’s the responsibility of this mature Senate whose job it is to look forward, whose job it is to assure our future, to make sure the division doesn’t grow even greater.”

House Democrats say the only way to restore that unity and civility is to first remove the president from office.

“To solicit foreign interference in a 2020 election, that is not acceptable in America,” House impeachment manager Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York said. “That undermines our democracy. That’s a stunning corrupt abuse of power, and yes, it’s akin to a crime.”

The Democrats’s push for witnesses to testify under oath is running out of time. Senators had eight hours Thursday to continue asking questions before the debate over witnesses begins. If the Senate decides to move on without hearing from witnesses, Trump could be acquitted in the Republican-led Senate as soon as Friday.

Live updates from our reporters in DC