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Trump beefs up legal team as Biden calls for impeachment

Trump beefs up legal team with former US representative Trey Gowdy

ROCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE : US President Donald Trump added muscle to the legal team defending him against an investigation led by congressional Democrats, after 2020 re-election rival Joe Biden called for the first time for his impeachment.

Mr Biden, who is at the centre of a controversy over Mr Trump's dealings with Ukraine that led the Democratic-led US House of Representatives to open an impeachment inquiry, had previously refrained from making an outright plea for impeachment.

Mr Trump continued to paint the probe as a partisan smear, and accused the US intelligence officer who filed the whistle-blower complaint that sparked the furore of having political motives.

He also added former US representative Trey Gowdy, best known for his investigations of the administration of Mr Trump's Democratic predecessor, to his outside legal team.

During a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Mr Biden took the gloves off.

"With his words and his actions, President Trump has indicted himself.

"By obstructing justice, refusing to reply with a congressional inquiry, he's already convicted himself.

"In full view of the world and the American people, Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts. To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should be impeached."

Mr Trump fired back on Twitter. He wrote: "So pathetic to see sleepy Joe Biden, who with his son, Hunter, and to the detriment of the American taxpayer, has ripped off at least two countries for millions of dollars, calling for my impeachment - and I did nothing wrong."

POLLS

Despite Mr Trump's allegations, which he made without evidence, that Mr Biden engaged in improper dealings in Ukraine, there are few signs the controversy has damaged the Democratic former vice-president's 2020 prospects.

Public opinion polls, including those taken by Reuters/Ipsos, have shown Mr Biden's support remaining relatively stable.

Mr Trump again described the inquiry as a partisan attack.

"It turns out that the whistle-blower is a Democrat, strong Democrat, and is working with one of my opponents as a Democrat," he told reporters.

Lawyers for the whistle-blower responded in a statement, denying that political factors had influenced the complaint.

"Our client has never worked for or advised a political candidate, campaign or party," they said in a statement.

"Our client has spent their entire government career in apolitical, civil servant positions."

The day after the White House declared its refusal to cooperate with the impeachment probe, Mr Trump said he would respond if House Democrats "give us our rights".

The addition of Mr Gowdy to Mr Trump's legal team marked a pivot from late last month, when outside lawyer Jay Sekulow said there were no plans to beef up the legal team.

Mr Sekulow announced Mr Gowdy's hiring on Wednesday. - REUTERS

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