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Dershowitz: Trump impeachment unconstitutional
Alan Dershowitz, a celebrity lawyer on President Donald Trump’s defense team in the Senate impeachment trial, argued Monday that the articles charging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are unconstitutional because they didn’t allege a violation of federal crime.
Dershowitz argued that even if reports about former national security John Bolton were true, they would not be impeachable to Trump. Bolton wrote a book that said Trump withheld $391 million in military for Ukraine while pressuring that country to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
“It is inconceivable that the framers would have intended so politically loaded and promiscuously deployed a term as abuse of power to be weaponized as a tool of impeachment,” Dershowitz said. “It is precisely that the kind of vague, open-ended and subjective term that the framers feared and rejected.”
He turned to the House Democrats prosecuting the case and told them they “picked the wrong criteria” to impeach Trump.
“You picked the most dangerous possible criteria to serve as a precedent for how we supervise and oversee future presidents,” Dershowitz said.
The Constitution allows impeachment for treason, bribery or “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Dershowitz argued that the framers of the Constitution wanted to limit impeachment to crimes similar to treason or bribery. He added that a crime is implicitly required by the Constitution because the Senate holding the trial will acquit or convict the president.
House Democrats argued that a violation of statutory crime wasn’t required for impeachment because federal statutes flowed from the Constitution. The Democrats prosecuting the case also said the article charging abuse of power essentially covered bribery or extortion because of the allegation of demanding action from Ukraine in exchange for military aid.
Dershowitz, a retired Harvard Law School professor, acknowledged that the academic consensus is that criminal violations aren’t required for impeachment. Instead, he based his argument that impeachment must rely on statutory crimes by relying largely on experts at the time of former President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment in 1868.
Dershowitz cited Benjamin Curtis, a former Supreme Court justice who led Johnson’s defense, for arguing that “there could be no crime, there can be no misdemeanor without a law, written or unwritten, express or implied.”
And Dershowitz cited Theodore Dwight, who was then dean of Columbia Law School, who wrote in 1867 that “unless a crime is specifically named in the Constitution – treason and bribery – impeachments like indictments can only be instituted for crimes committed against the statutory law of the United States.”
“I’m not hear arguing that the current distinguished members of the Senate are in any way bound – legally bound – by Justice Curtis’s arguments or those of Dean Dwight,” Dershowitz said. “But I am arguing that you should give them serious consideration, the consideration to which they are entitled by the eminence of their author and the role they may played in the outcome of the closest precedent to the current case.”
Dershowitz argued that the legal theory wasn’t “bonkers” or “absurdist” or “legal claptrap.”
“They have the weight of authority,” Dershowitz said. “They were accepted by the generation of founders and the generation that followed.”
One-for-one witness deal?
Republican senators discussed a possible one-for-one witness deal as part of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial Monday during a private lunch, something that could allow John Bolton to testify about his knowledge of the president halting almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine.
The possible deal was discussed throughout the lunch and Several Republicans sounded “more receptive” to the idea, raising the chances that witnesses may be called later in the trial, according to a Republican aide.
It’s unclear whether senators discussed specific witnesses as part of the deal. Democrats have focused their attention on Bolton, but it’s unclear whom the Republicans would call if this deal comes to fruition. Republicans want to hear from the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint launched the impeachment inquiry, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and Joe and Hunter Biden, whom Trump wanted investigated.
The issue of witnesses will come up this week after Trump’s counsel finishes presenting its defense and after senators ask questions of the House managers and the president’s counsel. A majority of the Senate, 51 senators, would have to vote in favor of hearing additional witnesses or seeking any additional documents. At least three have expressed openness to calling for additional witnesses.
– Christal Hayes
Trump’s team tries to put Bidens on trial
Trump’s lawyers focused on Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, during their arguments.
Pam Bondi said the defense team would have preferred to avoid Biden and his work on the board at Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company in Ukraine, but the impeachment articles accuse Trump of abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and Burisma.
“The House managers have placed this squarely at issue,” she said, “so we must address it.”
Bondi focused on news reports that suggested Biden was hired solely because he was the son of the former vice president. She highlighted media reports chronicling the Obama administration’s pressure on Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who had attempted to investigate Burisma.
House managers said allegations against Burisma had been debunked, and Biden’s effort to have Shokin fired for alleged corruption was part of the U.S. policy and supported by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
Bondi told senators House managers “never gave you the full picture.”
Eric Herschmann, another private lawyer representing Trump, questioned why Hunter Biden was hired and paid so much by Burisma without any experience in the natural gas industry, the energy sector generally or Ukraine.
“What are the House managers afraid of finding out?” Herschmann asked.
Biden told ABC News in October 2019 that he was focused on corporate governance while on Burisma’s board.
“Bottom line is that I know I was completely qualified to be on the board to head up the corporate governance and transparency committee on the board, and that’s all that I focused on,” Biden said in a video Herschmann played at the trial.
During the same interview, Biden refused to disclose how much he was paid. Bondi said public records from an unrelated criminal case suggested Biden was paid $83,333 per month for 17 months. Herschmann said Democrats circled the wagons in August to protect Joe Biden, but questions linger.
“They contend that any investigation into the millions of dollars in payments by a corrupt Ukrainian company owned by a corrupt Ukraine oligarch to the son of the second-highest officeholder in our land, who was supposed to be in charge of fighting corruption in Ukraine – they’re calling that type of inquiry a sham, debunked,” Herschmann said. “But there has never been an investigation, so how could it be a sham?”
Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesman, said accusations against Biden and his son had been debunked by fact-checkers at the Washington Post, New York Times and others.
“Joe Biden was instrumental to a bipartisan and international anti-corruption victory,” Bates said. “It’s no surprise that such a thing is anathema to President Trump.”
– Bart Jansen, Christal Hayes
Raskin: Giuliani ‘outrageous, irreverent’ but ‘spot on’
Jane Raskin, one of the private lawyers defending Trump, said that House Democrats tried to paint Rudy Giuliani as a villain in the impeachment inquiry but that he was simply an aggressive defense lawyer working on the president’s behalf.
“They’ve anointed him the proxy villain of the tale,” Raskin said, referring to names such as “cold-blooded political operative” and “political bagman.”
Testimony from the House inquiry described Giuliani, as Trump’s personal lawyer, carrying out a smear campaign against Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Her removal in May 2019 opened the door to another Giuliani goal: pressuring Ukraine last summer to investigate the Bidens.
Raskin said Giuliani had been working for Trump since November 2018. That was six months before Biden declared his Democratic candidacy for 2020 and four months before special counsel Robert Mueller released his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Giuliani was looking in Ukraine for evidence that Trump hadn’t conspired with Russians to win the election, which was at the heart of what Mueller investigated. Mueller’s report found no collaboration between Trump’s campaign and Russia, despite numerous contacts. Mueller did not charge Trump with obstruction of his probe because of a Justice Department policy prohibiting charges against a sitting president.
“The bottom line is Mr. Giuliani defended President Trump vigorously, relentlessly and publicly throughout the Mueller investigation and in the nonstop congressional investigations that followed,” Raskin said.
Giuliani is a former federal prosecutor and mayor of New York, who earned the nickname “America’s mayor” after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001. Raskin said Giuliani was effective even if lawmakers didn’t like his approach.
“The House managers may not like his style. You may not like his style,” Raskin told senators. “But one might argue that he is everything Clarence Darrow said a defense lawyer must be: outrageous, irreverent, blasphemous, a rogue, a renegade.”
Raskin argued that Giuliani was more successful after a two-year siege on the presidency led by Mueller and inspector general reports dealing with the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act and the FBI than the impeachment inquiry led by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
“Turns out Rudy was spot on,” Raskin said. “Seems to me if we’re keeping score on who got it right on allegations of FISA abuse, egregious misconduct at the highest level of the FBI and alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and supposed obstruction of justice in connection with the special counsel investigation, the score is Mayor Giuliani 4, Mr. Schiff 0.”
Schiff said Giuliani was a key figure in pushing Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Giuliani was mentioned repeatedly in Trump’s July 25 call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and several government officials said they were told that Giuliani was directing Ukraine policy for the administration.
“Try though they may, to marginalize Mr. Giuliani’s role, they are not able to in the light of overwhelming evidence,” Schiff said.
– Bart Jansen
McConnell denies advance knowledge of Bolton claims
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said he was coordinating closely with the White House on Trump’s impeachment trial, said he did not have any advance knowledge of the contents of John Bolton’s upcoming book or the manuscript sent to the White House’s National Security Council last month for approval.
Trump denied Bolton’s claims that the president told him military aid to Ukraine was specifically tied to investigations of the Bidens. Trump wrote on Twitter Monday morning that he “NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats.” He denied seeing a copy of Bolton’s manuscript.
– Christal Hayes
GOP lawmakers struggle with Bolton questions
Republicans in the House and Senate were bombarded with questions from the media revolving around reports of the book by former national security adviser Bolton.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said it was important to first “hear the case, let’s hear the questions, then we’ll make a decision.”
Barrasso was asked if he valued testimony and any new information from Bolton. He reiterated that it wasn’t the Senate’s job to investigate further.
Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said, “Nobody is dodging. We’re going to clearly cover it, and there’s going to be robust conversation” regarding calling witnesses.
House Republicans working with the president on his impeachment defense similarly faced a host of questions.
One reporter repeatedly asked House lawmakers whether they were even the slightest bit curious as to what Bolton has to say.
After Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., called the push for Bolton “another page out of the playbook of the Democrats,” the reporter again asked the question, noting that his response appeared to be “side-stepping” what she’d asked.
“Does anyone want to take a stab at it?” she asked the group of House Republicans. “I don’t want to waste your time.”
As the lawmakers walked away, reporters shouted out the one question not answered in the nearly 10-minute impromptu news conference: whether the GOP values the testimony of Bolton?
– Savannah Behrmann, Christal Hayes, Nicholas Wu
Angus King optimistic Senate will vote to call witnesses
One of the two independent senators who caucus with the Democrats said he expects at least a handful of Republicans to buck their party, defy the president and vote to call witnesses, including John Bolton, in the impeachment trial.
Maine Independent Sen. Angus King told NPR on Monday he expects up to 10 of his GOP Senate colleagues to vote in favor of witnesses following a report in The New York Times that Trump told Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, to withhold military aid to pressure Ukraine into helping with politically motivated investigations.
“I mean, it’s one thing to say ‘We don’t know what he’s going to say, we don’t really need to hear from him,” King said. “But if there’s some indication that he has information that bears directly on the heart of the case to willfully say, ‘We don’t want to hear that.’ To me, basically just undermines the idea that this is a real trial.”
Democrats need at least four GOP defections to GOP Senators to approve witnesses. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine have said they’re open to such a plan. Several others, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Cory Gardner of Colorado, are potential defectors as well.
“I think there’ll be more than four,” said King, without naming specific senators. “My bold prediction will be five or 10.”
– Ledge King
Trump’s team doesn’t mention Bolton while arguing no link with aid, probes
Mike Purpura, a deputy counsel to the president who is defending him in the trial, argued before the Senate that the nearly $400 million in military aid for Ukraine was not tied to the country launching investigations. He didn’t mention the elephant in the room: the revelations by John Bolton.
“There was no linkage between investigations and security assistance or meeting on the July 25 call the Ukrainians said there was no quid-pro-quo,” he argued.
Two hours into their presentation Monday, Trump’s defense team had yet to mention Bolton or his book, where, according to reports, he says that the president personally told him that he did not want to release the aide until Ukraine complied with investigations, including one that could hurt former Vice President Joe Biden.
“The house managers’ record reflects that anyone who spoke with the president said that the President made clear that there was no linkage” with aid and investigations, Purpura argued.
Bolton was not a part of the House’s impeachment inquiry.
– Christal Hayes
Purpura: Trump skeptical of foreign aid, Ukraine
Mike Purpura, a deputy White House counsel who is defending President Donald Trump in the trial, argued that House Democrats prosecuting the case had ignored the president’s well-known concern about corruption in Ukraine and skepticism about foreign aid.
Purpura quoted several former U.S. officials describing those concerns. Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council expert on Russia, testified about trump’s longstanding concerns about corruption in Ukraine. Kurt Volker, a former U.S. special representative to Ukraine, testified that Trump demonstrated a deeply rooted negative view of Ukraine from past experience. Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said Trump shared his concern with former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko in their Oval Office meeting in June 2017.
Purpura also quoted officials confirming Trump’s skepticism about foreign aid as a central plank in his presidential campaign and in his administration. Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council expert on Russia, and David Hale, the undersecretary of State for political affairs, said Trump wanted to evaluate aid. Purpura aid hundreds of millions of dollars was paused, reviewed and in some cases canceled last summer for Afghanistan, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Lebanon.
“The American people know that the president is skeptical of foreign aid and that one of his top campaign promises and priorities in office has been to avoid wasteful spending of American taxpayer dollars abroad,” Purpura said.
– Bart Jansen
Bolton says ‘no coordination’ with New York Times
Former national security adviser John Bolton and his publisher dismissed as “unfounded speculation” accusations that he coordinated the distribution of a book excerpt that included an explosive allegation about President Donald Trump and Ukraine.
“There was absolutely no coordination with the New York Times or anyone else,” Bolton’s lawyer said in a statement. “Any assertion to the contrary is unfounded speculation.”
The New York Times first published a report Sunday that said Trump told Bolton he wished to withhold military aid in order to pressure Ukraine with politically motivated investigations.
At a news conference Monday morning, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., suggested the leak was aimed at boosting book sales for former national security adviser. He said the Bolton news was “a story about selective leaks from a book that you can order – preorder on Amazon.com from John Bolton.”
Trump made the sales argument more explicit when he tweeted that he’d never told Bolton that the Ukraine aid was tied to investigating Democrats.
“If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” Trump tweeted.
In a statement, Bolton’s attorney Charles Cooper said the White House was given a copy of the manuscript to review Dec. 30. Such a review is standard security practice for officials who write about their time in a presidential administration.
Cooper said the White House told him only those normally involved in the review process would see the manuscript. But the Times report showed “the review process corrupted and that information has been disclosed by persons other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript,” he said.
– Maureen Groppe and William Cummings
Starr: Impeachment should only be a ‘last resort’
Ken Starr, a private lawyer representing President Donald Trump in the Senate impeachment trial, urged senators to step back from an “age of impeachment” with three presidential inquiries in 50 years by rejecting the partisan investigation.
Starr, who investigated former President Bill Clinton, which led to his impeachment but not his removal from office, said impeachment is traditionally built upon the accusations of crimes. Starr said the two impeached presidents, Clinton 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868, along with the inquiry against Richard Nixon in 1974, all alleged crimes.
“Like war, impeachment is hell, or at least presidential impeachment is hell,” Starr said. “Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment, including members of this body, full well understand that a president impeachment is tantamount to domestic war, although thankfully protected by our beloved First Amendment, a war of words, a war of ideas.”
House Democrats have argued that bribery and extortion are implied in the articles of impeachment accusing Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, which focus on Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival while withholding $391 million in military aid. But Starr said the articles against Trump don’t allege specific crimes.
“I’m suggesting it’s a relevant factor,” Starr said. “I think it’s a weighty factor.”
Most of the 63 impeachment inquiries approved in the House involved judges, with judges representing all eight people removed from office, Starr said. Wielding impeachment against judges is understandable because they serve lifetime appointments if not removed, Starr said.
Starr voiced concern that impeachment had become to frequent a political weapon against the president of an opposing party. The Johnson impeachment, which followed the convulsion of the Civil War, wasn’t repeated until the rank criminality of the Nixon administration, Starr said. But then the Clinton and Trump impeachments have come within a half-century.
“Instead of a once-in-a-century phenomenon, which it had been, presidential impeachment has become a weapon to be wielded against one’s political opponent,” Starr said.
Starr also argued that impeachment should be bipartisan, rather than the tool of one party against another. Starr noted that members of the opposing party voted to pursue inquiries against Johnson, Nixon and Clinton. But the Trump impeachment arrived in an election year when the American people could decide whether to keep him in office.
“I respectfully submit that the Senate should close this idiosyncratic chapter in this increasingly disruptive act – this era, this age – of last resort to the Constitution’s ultimate democratic weapon for the presidency,” Starr said. “Let the people decide.”
Some conservative defenders of Trump criticized Starr’s presentation as too dry.
“This defense needs a little less Atticus Finch and a little more Miss Universe,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., referring to the lawyer in the classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
– Bart Jansen
Most GOP senators shrug off Bolton news
As they returned to Capitol Hill, Monday to resume the impeachment trial, most GOP senators appeared unmoved by Sunday’s revelation that former national security adviser John Bolton’s upcoming book reportedly describes a conversation with President Donald Trump about withholding aid from Ukraine.
Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, chair of the GOP conference, dismissed the “so-called blockbuster report” as “selective leaks” that don’t change the underlying facts of the case.
“There’s nothing new here that John Bolton didn’t know before the House managers rested their case and stopped calling witnesses, and they never chose to call John Bolton,” he said.
Bolton had followed a White House directive not to respond to the House’s request that he voluntarily testify.
House Democrats decided not to subpoena Bolton during their probe, arguing it would delay their investigation with a protracted court battle; instead, they labeled Bolton’s refusal to appear as evidence of obstruction.
Still, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, chair of the Republican Policy Committee, likewise suggested that the Senate isn’t required to fill in any gaps left by the House, calling it the “House’s obligation to put that case together.”
Blunt also expressed a concern previously echoed by Republicans that calling Bolton as a witness could extend the length of the trial as the president will likely assert executive privilege over his conversations with Bolton.
“I can’t imagine why we’d want to stretch this out for weeks and months,” Blunt said. “And if we call any witnesses that are subject to privilege, it would take weeks and months.”
Republicans have been arguing that voters should decide Trump’s future. The first 2020 ballots will be cast Monday at the Iowa caucus, Barrasso noted.
Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the chamber’s newest member who took the seat in January despite concerns among some Republicans that she’s not conservative enough, attacked Republican colleague Sen. Mitt Romney for suggesting additional witnesses should be called.
In a tweet, Loeffler accused the Utah Republican of working to “appease the left by calling witnesses who will slander the @realdonaldtrump.”
Democrats had failed to make their case, Loeffler argued, so “The circus is over. It’s time to move on.”
Bolton reportedly wrote in his forthcoming book that Trump told him during a meeting in August that military aid to Ukraine should not be released until that country helped with investigations that could be damaging to Democrats.
But Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., cast doubt on the veracity of Bolton’s account.
“Well, I don’t know. Is he a firsthand witness? I’m not sure,” he told reporters as he entered Republicans’ daily lunch meeting.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Bolton is “an angry disgruntled employee and I think he’ll say anything.”
Graham: ‘I want to know what’s in the manuscript’
Still, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump’s, expressed interest Monday in learning more about what’s in the book.
“I want to know what’s in the manuscript,” Graham told NBC News. “Yeah, I think that’s important.”
But Graham also tweeted Monday that if Democrats get to call witnesses, then Trump should get the witnesses he wants.
Republicans have suggested calling the whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry and Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Reading ‘Gone with the Wind,’ not Bolton manuscript
Some senators tried deflecting the topic with humor.
“I understand what you are all reporting but I have not seen the Bolton manuscript,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., noting he’d just been reading “Gone with the Wind.”
A key Senate swing vote on witnesses, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., said she was “curious about what Ambassador Bolton has to say.”
But she, like another potentially key Republican – retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee – also said it’s not yet time to make a decision on witnesses. That debate will come after Trump’s team has finished its defense and senators have had the chance to ask questions of both sides.
“I think everybody ought to pop a Zoloft, take their meds, and let’s wait and finish up the week,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.
Democrats need four Republicans to cross party lines and agree to subpoena witnesses.
So far, the strongest leanings in that direction have come from Romney and Maine Sen. Susan Collins. But neither has committed to voting to hear from Bolton or others.
– Maureen Groppe and Nicholas Wu
Trump lawyer: Impeachment was based on policy dispute
President Donald Trump’s defense team opened their second day of argument saying that the impeachment resulted from deep policy differences with House Democrats rather than offenses that should lead to his removal from office.
“It is our position as the president’s counsel that the president was at all times acting under this constitutional authority, under his legal authority, in our national interest and pursuant to his oath of office,” said Jay Sekulow, a private lawyer on the defense team. “Asking a foreign leader to get to the bottom of issues of corruption is not a violation of an oath.”
Trump is accused of abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, while withholding $391 million in military aid. Trump was also accused of obstruction of Congress because he directed the administration to defy congressional subpoenas in the inquiry.
But Sekulow argued that the accusations stemmed from a difference in strategy between the White House and Congress about how to deal with Ukraine. Sekulow argued that Democrats had tried unsuccessfully to thwart Trump throughout his first three years in office. Sekulow warned that if Trump can be removed for his actions, any future president will face impeachment pressure for any deep policy disputes.
“I think this is what this is really about: deep policy concerns,” Sekulow said. “That should not be the basis of impeachment.”
– Bart Jansen
Happy Birthday, Justice Roberts
The Senate chaplain, retired Rear Adm. Barry Black, opened the impeachment trial by mentioning his gratefulness for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ birthday. He turned 65.
“Thank you for giving our chief justice another birthday,” Black said, as Roberts smiled.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined the celebration.
“On behalf of all of us, happy birthday,” McConnell said, although the trial might not have been how he expected to spend it.
“Thank you very much for those kind wishes,” Roberts said. “And thank you to all senators for not asking for the yays and nays.”
– Bart Jansen
Trump says ‘nothing was ever said’ to Bolton
President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House Monday that he has not seen John Bolton’s manuscript for his upcoming book, which reportedly alleges the president told his former national security adviser that he would continue to withhold military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure the country to announce politically motivated investigations.
“Well, I haven’t seen a manuscript, but I can tell you, nothing was ever said to John Bolton,” Trump said before meeting Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss his administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan. “But I have not seen a manuscript. I guess he’s writing a book. I have not seen it.”
Early Monday Trump denied Bolton’s claims, which were reported by The New York Times, Washington Post and the Associated Press, suggesting that they were made “to sell a book.”
Murkowski says she’s ‘curious’ about Bolton’s testimony
A potential swing vote on witnesses, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., said as she headed into a lunch meeting of Republican senators that she was “curious about what Ambassador Bolton has to say.”
– Nicholas Wu
Schumer: GOP Senate part of “cover-up” if Bolton not allowed to testify
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer Monday urged the Senate to call John Bolton as a witness in President Trump’s impeachment trial after The New York Times reported that the president’s former national security adviser said Trump told him he wished to withhold military aid in order to pressure Ukraine into helping with politically motivated investigations.
“It goes right to the heart of the charges against the president,” Schumer told reporters at a Capitol News conference. “It boils down to one thing: we have a witness with first-hand evidence of the president’s actions for which he is on trial. He is willing and ready to testify. How can Senate Republicans not vote to call that witness and request his documents?”
“There seems to be a giant cover-up among so many of the leading people in the White House who knew about it and said nothing, let alone tried to stop it,” Schumer said. ”If Senate Republicans are not going to vote to call Mr. Bolton and (acting Chief of Staff Mick) Mulvaney and the other witnesses now (and) if they’re not going to ask for notes and emails, they’re going to be part of the cover up too.”
Two GOP senators: Bolton news adds to case for testimony
Former national security adviser John Bolton’s reported revelations about what President Donald Trump told him on Ukraine appear to have increased the likelihood that at least some Republicans will side with Democrats in voting to call witnesses in the impeachment trial.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, one of the Republican senators key to determining whether there will be witnesses, tweeted Monday that the reports about Bolton’s upcoming book “strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues.”
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, another key GOP senator, told MSBNC that it’s “increasingly apparent that it would be important to hear from John Bolton.”
“I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton,” Romney said.
The New York Times reported Sunday that Bolton said Trump told him during a meeting in August that he did not want to release the military aid until Ukraine provided information related to the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
Trump denied that account in a tweet Monday.
The House impeachment managers and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Bolton’s reported claims directly contradict key elements of Trump’s defense and that a fair trial requires his testimony.
Democrats need four Republicans to cross party lines and agree to subpoena witnesses.
– Maureen Groppe
News of Bolton book renews demands he testify
Democrats ratcheted up their demands that former national security adviser John Bolton testify in the trial of after The New York Times published a report Sunday that said Trump told Bolton he wished to withhold military aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating a political opponent.
In his upcoming book, Bolton wrote that Trump directly and explicitly told him in August that he wished to withhold $391 million in military aid to Ukraine that Congress appropriated until officials there turned over documents related to the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Times reported, citing people who had seen the manuscript.
Trump insisted on Twitter that the reported conversation never took place and said that if Bolton made that claim, it was “only to sell a book.”
Trump says two hours was plenty
Trump said in a tweet Sunday he thought two hours was all his legal team needed to take apart the Democrats’ case against him.
“The Impeachment Hoax is a massive election interference the likes of which has never been seen before. In just two hours the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats have seen their phony case absolutely shredded,” the president said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News he thought “the House managers were articulate” and “created a compelling narrative.”
“But what happened yesterday, in two hours, the president’s defense team destroyed the narrative created in 21 hours regarding process and substance,” he said.
Dershowitz says Dems failed to make case for impeachment
The impeachment managers argued that Trump abused his power and obstructed their investigation by refusing to allow top administration officials to testify or handing over documents requested by House committees in the impeachment inquiry.
Impeachment comparisons:How Trump, Clinton impeachment trials compare
Attorney Alan Dershowitz, who is a member of Trump’s legal team, said on “Fox News Sunday” that, “they presented the strongest case they could present on their facts, but they didn’t come close to alleging impeachable offenses.”
Dershowitz has argued that a president must commit a crime to be impeached and removed from office, a position that has been disputed by many constitutional legal experts – including Dershowitz himself during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
But that argument aside, Dershowitz said the defense team on Monday will show that the allegations against Trump are not true and that the House managers presented the facts “incompletely.”
“Remember, there are three things that the Senate has to decide. One, is there sufficient evidence of what they claim?” he said. “Does it constitute, first of all, an abuse of power? And third, does abuse of power constitute impeachable offenses?”
Dems accuse the president of threatening Schiff
In another tweet, Trump tore into House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager.
“Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man. He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!” Trump said.
Schiff said he thought Trump “intended” the tweet as a threat and his fellow impeachment managers agreed.
“I would just say to the American people, this is totally inappropriate. It is totally a threat, if you will, against the process of this investigation and of this trial,” Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., said Sunday when asked about the tweet on MSNBC.
“We are defenders of the Constitution,” Demings said, vowing the impeachment managers would do their job “regardless of what inappropriate comments” or “threats that come out of the president.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News that Schiff’s characterization of the tweet as a threat was “ridiculous” and that she believed Trump meant Schiff would pay a price with voters.
Second day of Trump defense
President Donald Trump’s legal team presents the second day of its defense Monday in the Senate impeachment trial after the Democratic House managers laid out their case last week, charging the president with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Each side was given 24 hours to use for its arguments over three days. The president’s lawyers opened their case Saturday in a two-hour presentation that contrasted with the lengthy arguments from the Democratic panel, which used all of its 24 hours. White House counsel Pat Cipollone promised weary senators that the defense team would “finish efficiently and quickly.”
Contributing: Maureen Groppe, Ledyard King, David Jackson, William Cummings, Deirdre Shesgreen