Trump's Lawyers Resume Defense in Impeachment Trial

Lawrence Kim
January 28, 2020

President Donald Trump's former national security adviser has upended the Senate impeachment trial, and new revelations from John Bolton's draft book manuscript could turn the tide on whether senators call for witnesses.

President Trump's lawyers tore into the impeachment allegations on Monday with a legal and political pageant that touched a broad swath of topics but eschewed the one agitating much of Washington outside the gilded Senate chamber: John Bolton.

Bolton's forthcoming book reportedly includes an account of Trump telling him that he meant to keep military assistance for Ukraine frozen until President Volodymyr Zelenskiy agreed to announce investigations that Trump wanted. "The facts of this case remain the same", said Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican from NY, arguing it was House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff's "choice" not to have Bolton testify in the House.

Under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's rules resolution passed at the beginning of the trial, debate and a vote over whether witnesses and other new evidence will be allowed in the trial will come after the defence team's arguments conclude and after Senators are given 16 hours to pose questions to both the prosecution and the defence. "How can the Senate vote to not call that witness and his documents?"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Republicans' refusal to call Mr Bolton and others is "now even more indefensible".

The revelation clouded White House hopes for a swift end to the impeachment trial, as Democrats demanded witnesses and some Republicans expressed openness to the idea.

They urged senators to block Democratic efforts to seek new witness testimony at the Senate trial.

Bolton did not testify before the Democrat-led House of Representatives, which in December 2019, after months of deliberations, impeached Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his dealings with Ukraine.

They put on a separate defense of another lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and as they'd hinted, broadened their presentations into the family Biden. He did not mention Bolton, and swiftly moved on.

"We deal with transcript evidence", Trump's top defense lawyer, Jay Sekulow, told senators.

Trump is charged with abusing his presidential power by asking Ukraine's leader to help investigate Biden at the same time his administration was withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid.

She presented a series of media reports, Ukrainian gas company records and excerpts from impeachment inquiry testimony in an attempt to demonstrate that a range of independent observers were concerned that Hunter Biden's role posed a potential conflict of interest.

Ukrainian officials have said they found no indication that Hunter Biden had broken any law. Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates on Monday dismissed Bondi's allegations, saying they had been widely discredited.

Over the course of the day, Trump's lawyers mounted a multi-faceted defense of the President that kept in line with what they had signaled their strategy would be during what they called a two-hour "preview" in their first appearance over the weekend.

John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said his colleagues would talk about what to do and suggested "people just kind of stay calm here" and see how Trump's defense handles the Bolton revelations. "Not sure about that", she said during a break in the trial.

A long lineup of witnesses threatens to extend the trial by weeks or months, and it's not clear there are 51 Republican votes to bring in either Biden. And it has raised questions about whether White House counsel Patrick Cipollone and his deputies Patrick Philbin and Michael Purpura knew the details of Bolton's allegations before they mounted their defense of Trump's conduct.

"I think it's increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton", Romney, who represents Utah, told reporters on Monday.

But moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins said the reports regarding Bolton's book "strengthen the case for witnesses".

Starr, whose independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton resulted in his impeachment - he was acquitted by the Senate - bemoaned what he said was an "age of impeachment". "We're going to talk about the very hard position this puts Mr. Cipollone and the other White House lawyers in", a Democratic aide working on the Senate impeachment trial said Monday morning.

On Monday, Trump's attorneys, including high-profile lawyers Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz, launched a historical, legal and political attack on the entire impeachment process.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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