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Photo: Senate Television via Getty Images

President Trump's legal team took their turn before the Senate on Saturday to rebut Democrats' lengthy arguments for removing Trump from office.

Why it matters: The two-hour session was a first look at Trump's defense. The Trump team methodically tried to poke holes in the House impeachment managers' case, rather than going after the Bidens, as they previously suggested they will.

  • Trump's defense team noted during two hours every bit of evidence they say the managers skipped, trying to cast doubt whenever it could on linking Trump's requests to investigate the Bidens to delaying military aide to Ukraine.

Highlights:

  • Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow held up a copy of the Mueller report and quoted, "'ultimately this investigation did not establish that the campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government and its election interference activities."
    • Context: The Mueller investigation established multiple links between Trump campaign officials and people tied to the Russian government — including Russian offers of campaign assistance that the campaign was occasionally receptive to.
  • Trump deputy counsel Michael Purpura pointed to testimony from Bill Taylor, George Kent, Kurt Volker, and Tim Morrison to argue that Ukrainian officials did not know key military aid was withheld at the time of Trump's infamous July 25 call with Ukraine's president, so withholding aid could not have been a threat.

The mood in the chamber: Of the five Republicans who are being watched most closely as possible votes for witnesses, Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Cory Gardner were the most prolific note-takers.

Of the Democrats seeking the White House:

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders sat slumped at his desk, resting his chin on his hand or fidgeting with his fingers clasped in front of his face.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren sat hunched over a legal pad for a long time, writing furiously and not appearing to pay attention to the trial.
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar took some notes and watched some of the Trump team's remarks, but often looked away and stared around the room.

The other side: Democratic House impeachment managers marched 28,578 pages of impeachment trial and witness records to the Senate on Saturday morning.

What you need to know:

Go deeper:

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.