'If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts...'
I listened in a bits and pieces of the House managers case, which was laid out over 3 days. They hit the evidence very hard. Lots of video, lots of evidence discussed. I didn't hear any histrionics, which also makes sense because histrionics and hyperbole would damage a case based on fact.
They do have a strong case. The testimony and other evidence all points to Trump putting a hold on aid to Ukraine while trying to extract a favor--the announcement of an investigation into the Biden family's role in Ukraine corruption. This looks like extortion, coercion, election chicanery, strong-arm tactics--otherwise known as abuse of power.
And now, the defense...
I haven't seen any good explanation refuting this interpretation of the evidence. The laughable arguments against the charge of abuse of power have been that it's hearsay (not once the phone call was released), that the president has the right to make these choices, that blocking the president's choices is treason or usurpation, that it's not extortion or coercion because the Ukrainian president denies feeling pressured, and that the money was released, so no harm and no foul, everything is OK.
The best defense was attempted by Mick Mulvaney, who said there were three conditions for releasing the aid: progress on corruption, Ukraine persuading other countries to provide aid, and cooperation with the Justice Department investigation of 2016 election interference.
If any of the that had indeed been the reason aid was withheld, then the abuse of power charge would have been severely weakened. However, the 'three conditions' seem to have been a whitewash. There isn't evidence that they were ever the conditions. Oh dear. Someone should have been on the ball with the cover story back during the summer. But no one was, perhaps because Trump is not only corrupt but he is also inept, as are his toadies.
'If you have neither the facts nor the law, pound the table'
So what will Trump's team offer as a defense? So far it seems like a mishmash. The largest point seems to be that the charges are false and are a fabrication by angry officials who want to oust the president. This isn't so much an argument about specific pieces of evidence as a denunciation of everything to do with the impeachment.
However, not being able to refute the evidence is a problem. One can claim that the charges are totally bogus, but usually you'd get into the particulars. "No, Your Honor, I couldn't have robbed the bank because I was at work that entire morning as twenty co-workers will testify."
So Trump supporters are trying to say the charges are bogus without being able to refute any of the details. They can make the point that many Dems have been trying to stymie Trump since he was elected. That is true. But it doesn't quash all those particulars related to Ukraine--the aid, the phone calls, the directions to work with Giuliani, etc.
Unfortunately, virtually no one from the GOP camp has been honest about this situation with the evidence. Justin Amash was, but that was months ago, and Amash was a renegade who was easily dismissed. No one of stature in the GOP has stood up and pointed out the evidence and said that it's a pretty huge, heaping pile of evidence that doesn't seem to be crumbling.
The lonely honest defense
Only National Review has made a reasonable argument: that Trump's actions were wrong, but the electorate can and will have the final say in just a few months, so let them do that. No one else seems to be interested in doing so. I guess the Republicans as a whole will stick with ignoring the evidence and mouthing talking points. They have to hope that most people are such partisans that no one will notice. There's an excellent chance of that. So, really, do the arguments even matter?
Should I have sympathy for the GOP senators? They have to listen to the evidence and then pretend it doesn't add up to anything. They're reenacting a version of the Emperor's New Clothes, which is a painful situation. However, if they are just going to be mice, maybe they don't deserve the respect generally given to senators.
Extras. Direct quotes from a large cross-section of senators. Now that the defense presentation is done, here is a summary along with notes as largely shooting huge holes in it. Lots of embarrassed reactions from senators here. Humor here, as senators claim to be blindsided. More humor, as lawyers like Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz reverse their earlier positions. Pay no attention to all that Giuliani talk--a version of there's nothing to see, so don't even look? The same with Bolton--no need for him to testify. On the other hand, Biden really is an issue.
Update 12/31/20. News that Giuliani lobbied for a Ukrainian connection to the same Zelensky adviser who was receiving directions on how to placate Trump. There had been a question on who was paying for Giuliani's travel during the question portion of the impeachment trial. Now we have a clue.
Update Februaryish. This whole Ukraine scandal has been a parade of lies and lame excuses from the Trump administration and their GOP/conservative supporters. Somehow these public servants want to know more about the whistleblower than the actions he blew the whistle on. Hell, there's hardly any interest in that. A few GOP senators are agreeing that Trump did something wrong. How the GOP smears: Stories about the whistleblower.