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Trump's Lawyers Present a Laughable Defense

White House

Trump's attorneys try to belittle and downplay a crucial summit. Anyone who took a civics class knows better.

If you've ever been inside the Oval Office, it is akin to being in a revered sanctuary. I wouldn't say it's like being in the Sistine Chapel. The Oval is much smaller than you'd imagine. But nevertheless, it is awe-inspiring. You feel the weight of history, a strong sense of nostalgia, and resolute power, hence the famous resolute desk that sits at the top of the office.

The presentation of the House managers' case at the Senate impeachment trial was nothing short of brilliant. The way they have pieced together a timeline, interwoven the articles of impeachment to the constitution's true meaning of high crimes and misdemeanors (Congressman's Nadler's comment that the constitution isn't a suicide pact was spot on), and got granular -- though spell binding presentations packed with reasoned facts has been nothing short of convincing.

It was fascinating to hear so much more about, for instance, the deconstruction of the July 25 "perfect" call, Giuliani's barbaric role in the scheme, the real explanation of the Bidens, Burisma and corruption, and Ukraine's reliance on the United States. All of it was interspersed with video testimony, Trump's own words, text messages, phone logs, the words of people sitting in the chamber. It was an avalanche of evidence that was too overwhelming to rebut.

And that's why the president's defense presentation is hardly worth analyzing. They didn't rebut anything. Their arguments were flat, devoid of logic and pieced together in a slapdash way that lacked any depth or deep-dive. It was mostly political speeches, Trump's groveling grievances, and warped readings of the constitution, and unbelievably hypocritical statements (Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz need to retire and go away). And then they just abruptly ended their arguments. Strange doesn't even begin to describe the counsels' behaviors. What could they really say in the end? How could they even attempt to defend what is indefensible?

To prove just how ridiculous their points were, all one needs to do is see how they twisted, tangled, mischaracterized and downplayed the critical White House meeting that the Ukrainians sought. They made it sound like the meeting was no big deal, that it could happen anywhere, and that a quick sit-down at the UN General Assembly between Trump and Zelensky was suffice. That's pointless. There are hundreds of one-on-one quick meetings with hundreds of world leaders at the General Assembly.

Every single senator in that chamber knows, and deeply understands just how important an Oval Office meeting is for a foreign leader with the President of the United States. Representative Hakeem Jeffries brought it all into focus by explaining that it was not something that seems so innocuous, so simple and modest. Ukrainian President Zelenksy had an almost desperate desire for an Oval Office meeting, which is absolutely justified. Jeffries explained how that crucial Oval summit was wrongly and grossly predicated on doing Trump's political dirty work.

When you read the charges, and all the details surrounding this sordid plot of threats, manipulations, illegalities, and one person's nonsensical immaturity, the average person can become confused, unconcerned or worse -- like some of the Senators in the chamber -- bored. But the need for the Oval Office meeting not only showed just how petty Trump was, but how he endangered an ally in need at a very crucial time.

To be invited to sit with the president of the United States in the Oval Office is the most important offer that can be extended to any head of state in the world, particularly one that has been just elected in a free and fair election, like Zelensky, who ran and won as an anti-corruption reformist. It's even more essential for an ally like Ukraine that is fighting a bareknuckle war with Russia, our mutual adversary. The symbolism of Ukraine's newly elected president sitting side-by-side the most powerful person in the world, in the most awesome and famous office in the world sends a potent message not only globally, but to the Ukrainian people and to Russia.

When you hear the accusation that a meeting of this stature wouldn't occur until President Zelensky agreed to "announce" an investigation into the 2016 election and the Bidens, you can almost think that it sounds trivial, not that urgent. After all isn't it just a photo opp? That's what the president's counsels' silly argument tried to illustrate.

However, it was paramount to the new government and leadership in Ukraine to be seen in that room with the president of the United States. The meeting was even important to our diplomats and surprisingly to Trump's minions as well. They, according to Ambassador Sondland, agreed to participate in the Trump/Giuliani scheme because they thought they had a better chance of getting that vital White House meeting on the calendar.

To hear how many times the Ukrainian authorities and diplomats asked their American counterparts about when that Oval Office meeting would happen was unnerving. It meant the world to the Ukrainians. Literally. They needed to show the world that the U.S. had their back. And each time they asked, they were told to investigate. Over and over again, meeting for investigation; meeting for investigation. Quid pro quo. This for that, as Jeffries repeated.

Trump's lawyers said that he invited Zelensky three times. Sure, he did. Then he hung up the phone and said "this for that."

The saddest part was hearing Zelensky's repeated and futile attempt to secure that consequential meeting. Trump invited the newly elected president in their first phone call in April of 2019, and then never followed up. Then, during that infamous July 25 call, Zelensky asked when he could visit the Oval Office, and Trump directed him to Rudy. Zelensky knew what that meant, and he was loath to get in the middle of American politics and be used as a pawn.

At the United Nations General Assembly in September, Zelenksy had that side meeting with Trump, and during their brief conversation in front of the media, Zelensky again, almost sheepishly, but still determined, and in a joking manner, asked Trump when the Oval Office meeting would take place. Trump laughed it off. No investigation, no monumental meeting. A newly elected democratic president and our ally being shut down and shut out.

That meeting still hasn't happened.

It was, and is, vitally important to Zelensky and to Ukraine to be in the Oval Office. Its significance cannot be overstated, and its repulsive that it didn't, and hasn't, happened because Trump in all his narcissism and selfishness, held it up the because he needed a "favor."

Treating Zelenksy as a lackey and forcing him to announce those phony political investigations is criminal. Trump completely and willfully ignored, almost purposefully (after all, Zelensky in the Oval would piss off Putin) the need to show our ally America's unwavering support. To think that Trump refused to grant Zelensky this critical pictogram is sickening.

It's beyond my or anyone's comprehension why the president's attorneys tried to downplay the magnanimous meeting. They never explained why Zelensky wasn't afforded that Oval Office meeting. Of course they couldn't justify their client's pitiless ignorance and self-centered motivations, and why their client didn't welcome Zelensky to the West Wing with open arms.

At least for me, I'm just grateful that I was able to visit the Oval Office before it became soiled on January 20, 2017.

John Casey is a PR professional and an adjunct professor at Wagner College in New York City, and a frequent columnist for The Advocate. Follow John on Twitter @ john tcaseyjr .

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