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Trump indicates White House counsel Cipollone will play lead role in Senate trial

President Trump on Thursday indicated White House counsel Pat Cipollone would serve as his lead defense attorney in an upcoming Senate impeachment trial.

“It looks like that, yeah,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “We have a couple of others that we’re going to put in, but Pat’s been fantastic as White House counsel.”

The president’s comments confirmed that his defense strategy was falling into place as the White House gears up for a likely Senate trial after the House voted to impeach him on Wednesday night.

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The White House has discussed bringing Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz on to serve some role on the defense team, and the president’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, may also work in some capacity.

A few of Trump’s fiercest defenders in the House are also under consideration to play a role in the Senate trial.

The House on Wednesday night voted to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Two Democrats voted against the abuse of power article and three voted against the obstruction article. No Republicans voted for either article.

“It doesn’t feel like impeachment,” Trump said Thursday. “And you know what? It’s a phony deal, and they cheapen the word. It’s an ugly word, but they cheapen the word impeachment.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has indicated she may wait to submit the articles of impeachment to the Senate in an effort to secure more favorable terms for a trial. House Democrats rallied behind the Speaker on Thursday over the idea, even as Republicans scoffed at it as a political tactic.

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The president claimed that Democrats were “playing games” and suggested what they were doing was “unconstitutional,” though there is no indication that is the case.

The White House is seeking a relatively brief trial that concludes with Trump’s exoneration, and several Republican senators have indicated they’d prefer a quick process to acquit the president.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) were scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss parameters for a trial. 

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