Lee Zeldin
U.S. Rep Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley)

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), the congressman representing the East End of Long Island, was appointed Monday to serve President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team.

Zeldin, who has become among Trump’s chief defenders in TV interviews, criticizing Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives and their handling of the impeachment inquiry since last fall, is one of eight Republican members of the president’s congressional defense team.

“The president never should have been impeached in the first place,” Zeldin tweeted Monday night, noting that he’s “honored to serve” on the team.

Zeldin’s appointment came a day before Trump’s impeachment trial is scheduled to start Tuesday in the U.S. Senate, where proceedings may last several weeks.

Also named to the team is Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.), Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Az.), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tx.) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-upstate New York).

“Throughout this process, these members of Congress have provided guidance to the White House team, which was prohibited from participating in the proceedings concocted by Democrats in the House of Representatives,” the White House said in a statement. “The President looks forward to their continued participation and is confident that the members will help expeditiously end this brazen political vendetta on behalf of the American people.”

The House voted to impeach Trump in December and delivered the articles of impeachment to the Senate earlier this month. The articles charge the president with abuse of power for withholding nearly $400 in military aid from Ukraine in exchange for Ukrainian officials investigating Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential elections — but Trump maintains he did nothing wrong. The articles also charge Trump with obstruction of Congress for failing to turn over documents to lawmakers investigating the incident.

“We are a country governed by laws,” U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) said after voting to impeach. “And if we wish to remain that way, then we need to send a clear message to the American people and to the world that no one, not even the President of the United States, is above those laws. For me, these articles are not about politics or about impeaching a President with whom I often disagree, they are about upholding a system of accountability and justice that I have dedicated my entire life to protecting.”

The Republican-led U.S. Senate is widely expected to acquit Trump.

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