Trump team presents at impeachment trial

Constitutional law professor John Mikhail breaks down the defense in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
3:11 | 01/28/20

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Transcript for Trump team presents at impeachment trial
I want to bring in our law professor of John Mikhail Georgetown law professor to talk more about this defense from the trump team. John thanks so much for joining us. We we've heard repeatedly. From the defense team throughout the day this idea that the president does it the president has to commit an actual crime as its defined by law and order. For him to be impeach. What is your take on the defense and and how the defense team presented this Tibet. Well that is a central argument that the president's lawyers would like to make. They'd like to argue in effect that there's no valid constitutional claim here even if everything that the house managers say is true. There's no valid claim because they're not alleging that the president committed a crime. And a crime is required for an impeachable offense that's the crux of their. Argument the problem of course is that many times in American history government officials have been impeached. For offenses other than crimes so if you go back to you the first. Impeachment in US history it was against senator by the name of William blunt. And there were several articles of impeachment and some of those were not. Alleging. Crimes. Other early impeach mints follow the same pattern so it's a hard argument for the president's lawyers to make I think that's why Ken Starr today invoked this notion of a common law. Of presidential impeachment see an effect wants to. Re directs the Senate's attention away from the early history of the United States which is really not very favorable for the president. And more toward the presidential impeachment that we've had when Andrew Johnson Nixon and and then Bill Clinton and he's trying to argue that in effect there's a pattern there that's favorable to the president. Namely that a crime has always been alleged in each of those cases. I want to ask you about the second article of impeachment obstruction of congress because pat Philbin the deputy White House counsel also brought this up in. And and said this about about that article a civil rights. That the president has asserting are based on constitutional privilege to call that obstruction is to turn the constitution on its head. Accepting that approach would do permanent damage to the separation of powers what about their case if there can't be obstruction of congress because the president. Has the privilege to be able to withhold that information. Why thought missiles mr. Philbin does an effective job when I listen to his testimony. I think this may be actually one of the president's stronger arguments in the sense that. The senators are quite familiar we did litigation. In the courts around the scope of presidential. Privilege and executive privilege so that's a familiar matter to them. And in fact. The president's lawyers mr. Feldman and others are arguing this belongs. In the courts in the ordinary course of events and for the president to really. Raise the kind of argument that would probably properly be adjudicated by the courts couldn't possibly be an impeachable offense. I do a thank you so much John really appreciate.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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