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Defense resumes in impeachment

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial enters a pivotal week as his defense team resumes its case and senators face a critical vote on whether to hear witnesses or proceed directly to a vote that is widely expected to end in his acquittal.

The articles of impeachment charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The Capitol Hill maneuvering will be complemented by high-stakes efforts on both sides of the aisle to claim political advantage from the proceedings as the presidential nominating season kicks off in Iowa on Feb. 3.

After a two-hour opening argument Saturday, Trump’s defense team will lay out its case in depth beginning today when the Senate impeachment trial resumes at 1 p.m.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone said Trump’s lawyers don’t expect to take the full 24 hours allotted to them, but there will be arguments from some familiar faces.

Harvard law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, former independent counsel Ken Starr and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will speak on specific topics.

Dershowitz said Sunday he would argue that the charges against Trump are too minor to warrant the president’s removal from office under the Constitution. “Even if true, they did not allege impeachable offenses,” Dershowitz told “Fox News Sunday.”

The Trump team has also teased the notion that it would draw attention to Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukraine gas company Burisma, while the elder Biden was vice president. An extended focus on Joe Biden, one of the leading Democratic presidential contenders, could mean blowback from even some of the GOP members of the Senate.

Once Trump’s team concludes, senators will have 16 hours to ask questions of both the House impeachment prosecutors and the president’s legal team. Their questions must be in writing.

Chief Justice John Roberts will read the questions aloud. He is expected to alternate between both sides of the aisle.

Under the Senate rules passed last week, senators will get another chance to vote whether to consider new witnesses and evidence after the Q&A time is elapsed. Four Republicans would have to break ranks to join Democrats in the GOP-controlled Senate to extend the trial.

If the vote fails, the Senate could move swiftly to its vote.

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