Let’s say Biden performs so poorly in the initial contests, and Sanders so well, that a significant number of Democrats decides that the Vermont senator has to be stopped and the former vice president isn’t the candidate to do the job. Wouldn’t Bloomberg be the strongest candidate for them to get behind? Uniting behind Bloomberg, as opposed to Klobuchar or Buttigieg, wouldn’t require them to convince the party’s big donors to write checks. Bloomberg and Sanders are the two candidates who are guaranteed to have enough money to stay in the primaries as long as they want. The socialist and the billionaire could end up being the last candidates standing.
(I write a column for Bloomberg Opinion, where I’ve written that Biden’s chances of winning the nomination keep being underrated.)
Revelations in Bolton book rock Senate impeachment trial amid 2nd day of Trump legal team arguments
GOP’s Romney wants to hear from Bolton, Collins says reports strengthen case for witnesses
Trump calls Bolton allegations ‘false,’ says he hasn’t seen manuscript
As White House lawyers spend their second day defending President Donald Trump at his Senate impeachment trial Monday, questions raised by a reported draft manuscript of a forthcoming book by former National Security Adviser John Bolton have given Democrats new hope in their call for new witnesses to testify.
In an unpublished version of Bolton’s book “The Room Where It Happened” reported by the New York Times on Sunday, Bolton said Trump told him he wanted to continue withholding nearly $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials in Ukraine helped investigate Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, one of four GOP moderates Democrats have targeted in hopes of getting their support for witnesses, said Monday it’s “important” senators hear Bolton’s account to make an “impartial judgment.”
“It’s pretty fair to say that John Bolton has a relevant testimony to provide to those of us who are sitting in impartial justice,” Romney said. GOP Sen. Susan Collins said the reports about Bolton’s book “strengthen the case for witnesses.”
President Trump denied Bolton’s allegation in tweets early Monday morning.
“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination.
“If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” Trump tweeted.
The Bolton revelations raised questions about what Trump’s lawyers knew about Bolton’s claims in the manuscript when they began arguing his case on Saturday.
“There was simply no evidence anywhere that President Trump ever linked security assistance to any investigations,” White House deputy counsel Mike Purpura argued Saturday. “Most of the Democrats’ witnesses have never spoken to the president at all. Let alone about Ukraine security assistance.”
The ABC News team of correspondents and producers is covering every aspect of this story.
Here is how the day is unfolding. Please refresh for updates.
4:45 p.m. Trump’s defense team attacks Bidens at length
Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general and a member of Trump’s defense team, brings the argument back to Hunter Biden and the questions from Republicans about whether his role with the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma was a conflict of interest with his father’s position in the Obama administration.
It’s the first time Trump’s defense team has brought up the Bidens at length.
Bondi argues that Democrats have made Biden part of the impeachment issue even though Democrats did so saying accusations of any wrongdoing are “baseless.” So have the Bidens.
“We would prefer not to be discussing this. But the House managers have placed this squarely at issue, so we must address it,” Bondi says before reviewing the timeline of Hunter Biden’s involvement with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and news media coverage and questions about the appearance of a conflict of interest when he served on the company’s board.
“Now, the House managers might say without evidence that everything we just have said has been debunked, that the evidence points entirely and unequivocally in the other direction,” she says.
“That is a distraction you’ve heard from the House managers, they do not believe that there was any concern to raise, all of this was baseless and all we are saying is that there was a basis to talk about this, to raise this issue and that is enough.”
Bondi has the chamber riveted, according to ABC News’ Devin Dwyer. As she started on the topic of Hunter Biden, Sen. Maria Cantrell mouths “bull****” as she turns to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen beside her.
There are expressions of dismay and concern on several faces of Democratic senators. Sen. Cory Booker openly scowls as he stands in the back of the chamber.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stares dead on at Bondi with a look of skepticism. Sen. Chris Coons, a close ally of former Vice President Joe Biden, aggressively takes notes.
Many of the president’s Republican allies — Sens. Graham, Barrasso, Braun, Thune — are nodding along. Sens. Romney, Collins and Murkowski diligently take notes.
4:26 p.m. Inside the Senate chamber: Republicans listening intently
ABC News’ Katherine Faulders reports on the scene inside the Senate chamber:
During Jane Raskin’s presentation focusing on Rudy Giuliani (in which she tried to downplay his role while attempting to distance the White House from Giuliani by telling senators his style may not appeal to them), senators seemed very engaged – especially Republicans – who intently listened and took notes.
GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney are especially engaged, and members of the Trump defense team are noticeably craning their necks during certain portions of the presentation to see how senators are reacting.
3:30 p.m. Raskin: Democrats using Giuliani as ‘a colorful distraction’
“Rudy Giuliani is the House managers’ colorful distraction,” another member of the president’s legal team, Jane Raskin, tells senators, in her first turn speaking during the Senate arguments.
“The House managers would have you believe that Mr. Giuliani is at the center of this controversy. They’ve anointed him the proxy villain of the tail the leader of a rogue operation their presentations were filled with ad hominem attacks and name-calling: ‘cold-blooded political operative,’ ‘political bagman.’ But I suggest to you that he’s front and center in their narrative for one reason and one reason alone: to distract from the fact that the evidence does not support their claims,” she says.
Raskin argues the Democrats’ case is based on assumptions around Giuliani’s role, including that his motivation was to benefit the president politically, and that the case for impeachment doesn’t put his role in context as the president’s personal attorney.
She says Giuliani has said multiple times that his interest in Ukraine is not related to the 2020 presidential election and predated the announcement of former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign, a big talking point in the Democrats’ argument about the timeline of events.
Raskin argues Giuliani was a “minor player” and a “shiny object” designed to distract senators and that his work related to Ukraine would be used to defend Trump against allegations that were the focus of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation — that his campaign colluded with Russian operatives to interfere in the 2016 election.
Giuliani, like Trump, has pushed a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine, and not Russia, sought to interfere in the election, even though U.S. officials have said there is no information to support that claim.
“As he has stated repeatedly and publicly, he was doing what good defense attorneys do,” Raskin says. “Following a lead from a well-known private investigator, he was gathering evidence regarding Ukrainian election interference to defend his client against the false allegations being investigated by special counsel Mueller.”
Mueller’s report found that while there was insufficient evidence to charge members of the Trump campaign with engaging in a criminal conspiracy with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election — it did not find there was no evidence of contacts and cooperation or “no collusion” as Trump has claimed. It also found that Russian operatives sought to manipulate the election through misinformation and other types of interference.
“If Rudy Giuliani is everything they say he is, don’t you think they would have subpoenaed and pursued his testimony? Ask yourselves, why didn’t they?” Raskin says. “In fact it appears the House Committee wasn’t particularly interested in presenting you with any direct evidence of what Mayor Giuliani did or why he did it. Instead, they ask you to rely on hearsay, speculation and assumption evidence that would be inadmissible in any court.”
2:42 p.m. Purpura: White House was working to set up Ukraine meeting even without an investigation announcement
White House deputy counsel Michael Purpura rails against the Democrats’ assertion that a meeting with President Trump was linked to the opening of an investigation, arguing that he was genuinely interested in combating corruption in Ukraine when he asked President Zelenskiy to announce investigations and withheld military aid.
He argues that, despite arguments the White House made the announcement of investigations into the Bidens a requirement before Trump would meet with Zelenskiy, the White House was working to schedule a meeting for weeks without any announcement.
Purpura says the two presidents met as early as their schedules allowed at the United Nations meeting in September, but that Democrats insist that was significantly different than a meeting at the White House.
“They claim the meeting couldn’t be just an in-person meeting with President Trump. What it had to be was a meeting at the Oval Office and in the White House. That’s nonsense,” he says.
“Putting to one side the absurdity of the House managers trying to remove a duly elected president of the United States from office because he met a world leader in one location versus another, this theory has no basis in fact.”
1:57 p.m. Starr calls this ‘age of impeachment’
Ken Starr, the independent counsel who pushed for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, says “the Senate is being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently. Indeed we’re living in what I think can be aptly described as the age of impeachment.”
“Like war, impeachment is hell. Or at least presidential impeachment is hell,” he says. “Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment including members of this body, full well understand that a presidential impeachment is tantamount to domestic war but thankfully protected by our beloved first amendment a war of words and a war of ideas. But it’s filled with acrimony and it divides the country like nothing else,” he says.
He then argues that the Constitution and a the “common law” of impeachment requires a ‘violation of law” to be alleged.
“And so, the appropriate question, were crimes alleged in the articles in the common law of presidential impeachment in Nixon? Yes. In Clinton? Yes. Here? No. A factor to be considered as the judges in the high court. Come as you will individually to your judgment. Even in the political cauldron of the Andrew Johnson impeachment, article 11 charged a violation of the controversial tenure of office act, you’re familiar with it, and that act warned expressly the Oval Office that its violation would constitute a high misdemeanor, employing the very language of cognizable crimes. This history represents and I believe may please the court, it embodies the common law of presidential impeachment, Starr says.
Her repeats Republican arguments against the obstruction of justice charge against the president, saying House Democrats should have gone to court to compel documents and testimony blocked by the White House. He counters comments from Adam Schiff and other Democrats that the court process would have taken too long, adding to the risk the president’s actions would influence the 2020 election.
Starr says there is a precedent for expedited proceedings in a case like impeachment.
“The House of Representatives could have sought that well-trodden path, it could have sought expedition, it could have sought expedition, the courthouse six blocks down the judges are there, they’re all very able, they’re hardworking people of integrity. Follow the path, follow the path of the law. Go to court,” he says, adding that he believes all House subpoenas issued before the House voted to authorize the impeachment inquiry would be ruled invalid.
He argues that Congress should use its oversight powers to hold the president and administration accountable, despite the administration’s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations, release documents, or comply with subpoenas.
The lack of cooperation from the White House has been a main argument in Democrats’ charge that the president has obstructed justice in the impeachment inquiry.
“Again, sitting as a court, this body should signal to the nation the return to our traditions. Bipartisan impeachments. What’s the alternative? Will the president be king? Do oversight. The tradition of oversight. An enormous check on presidential power throughout our history and it continues available today.
“In Iran-contra, no impeachment was undertaken,” Starr says, referring to the scandal under President Reagan in which Reagan agreed to send arms to Iran to use money from that sale to fund Nicaraguan rebels or “contras.”
1:19 p.m. McConnell tells GOP colleagues to ‘stay the course’
Sen. Mitch McConnell tells his GOP colleagues “stay the course” during their pre-trial lunch, Republican Sens. Mike Rounds and Kevin Cramer tell ABC News’s Devin Dwyer.
Both men said McConnell offered repeated assurances that their game plan is sound and a vote on witnesses will happen at the appropriate time.
Cramer said it was a “keep your powder dry” pep talk.
“It’s more of a wrinkle” he added of the Bolton news.
“The whole message is still we made the right choice in the first place. We said we finished through phase one we’ve heard the attacks and now let’s hear the defense and then we’ll ask our questions and then we make a decision on material witnesses,” said Sen. Rounds.
Asked if he wants to hear Bolton, Sen. Lamar Alexander said: “I worked with my colleagues to make sure we have a chance after we’ve heard the arguments. After we’ve asked our questions to decide if we need additional evidence and I’ll decide that at that time.”
Meanwhile, President Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow begins by previewing the arguments the president’s defense will make today.
While he doesn’t make a direct mention of the Bolton claim, he appears to refer to it. noting that his team will deal only with “publicly available information.”
“What we have done on Saturday is the pattern that we’re going to continue today as far as how we’re going to deal with the case. We deal with transcript evidence,” Jay Sekulow said. “We deal with publicly available information. We don’t deal with speculation, allegations. That are not based on evidentiary standards at all”.
He said the president always acted within his legal authority when he says Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelenskiy to investigate corruption in his country, even when that involved a U.S. citizen, and repeated Zelenskiy’s statements that he did not feel pressured in his July 25 conversation with Trump.
1:06 p.m. Prayer for Kobe Bryant as trial resumes
Senate Chaplain Barry Black, in his opening prayer, references the deaths of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash over the weekend, saying it serves as a reminder of our limited time on Earth.
“As this impeachment process unfolds, give our senators the desire to make the most of our time on Earth,” he says.
On a lighter note, the chaplain and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also recognize Chief Justice John Roberts’ 65th birthday as the proceedings get underway.
1:05 p.m. Sources: Trump legal team preparing legal fight to block witnesses
As the second day of opening arguments from Trump’s legal team gets underway in the Senate, senior level White House sources tell ABC News the president’s lawyers are preparing for the possibility of witnesses in the impeachment trial.
Sources say the legal team is preparing an aggressive, drawn out legal fight to block the testimony of potential witnesses.
— ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, Katherine Faulders and John Santucci
11:58 a.m. Trump says he hasn’t seen Bolton manuscript, calls allegations ‘false’
President Trump says this morning that the allegations in the Bolton manuscript are “false,” and says he hasn’t seen the manuscript.
Asked in the Oval Office, “What about the allegations in the Bolton manuscript?” Trump replies, “False,” then scoffs and mouths “false” again.
He makes the comment before a meeting in the Oval Office with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Earlier, before entering the Oval Office for that meeting, Trump told reporters outside the West Wing that he had not seen the manuscript.
–ABC News’ Ben Gittleson
11:46 a.m. Republican Graham suggests he could now be open to witnesses
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham suggests he could now be open to witnesses provided it’s done in a “balanced way” — possibly to include votes on Hunter and Joe Biden.
“If we’re going to add to the record, then we’re going to go to Hunter Biden, Joe Biden and all these people,” Graham tells ABC News’ Devin Dwyer Monday morning.
When asked whether this means he’s changed his position on calling the Bidens — he says he has not — that he still opposes calling them for the sake of calling them — but says it might be reasonable to include them in votes if the Senate moves to votes on witnesses.
As to whether he has any reason to doubt Bolton, Graham says he’s withholding judgment until he sees more. “I’m not going to make a commitment about something I don’t know about.”
He says he might be interested in subpoenaing the manuscript.
At the same time, other Republicans dismiss the Bolton allegations.
There is “nothing new here,” says Sen. John Barrasso, a member of the Senate GOP leadership from Wyoming.
“It really doesn’t change anything, in terms of the process. We knew that the discussion of witnesses would be here soon … What it’s done is taken an already hot topic and added some fuel to the fire,”
says GOP Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana.
11:15 a.m. Schumer calls Bolton report ‘stunning’
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calls the Bolton revelations “stunning,” saying they “go to the heart” of the case against the president.
“Ambassador Bolton essentially confirms the president committed the offense charged in the first article of impeachment.” Schumer tells reporters.
The Senate’s Democratic Leader repeats his accusation that the White House had engaged in a “cover-up” in order to subvert the impeachment investigation and Senate trial.
“Anyone who says the House case lacks eyewitnesses and then votes to prevent eye witnesses from testifying is talking out of both sides of their mouth,” Schumer adds.
He asks, given the Bolton developments: “How can Senate Republicans not vote to call that witness?”
“This the test for the senators. They have taken an oath to be impartial. They have just learned there’s a key witness going to the heart of the allegations. The question they have to answer is do they want to hear the truth?” lead House manager Adam Schiff told CNN Monday.
10:54 a.m. GOP’s Collins says Bolton revelations ‘strengthen case for witnesses’
GOP Sen. Susan Collins, another key Republican moderate, issues a statement on Twitter shortly after Sen. Mitt Romney speaks, saying, “The reports about John Bolton’s book strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a numbers of conversations among my colleagues.”
“From the beginning, I’ve said that in fairness to both parities the decision on whether or not to call witnesses be made after both the House managers and the President’s attorneys have had the opportunity to present their cases.
“I’ve always said that I was likely to vote to call witnesses, just as did in the 199 Clinton trial,” she says.
Earlier, Romney said he can’t speculate on what impact Bolton’s testimony would have on a final decision of whether to acquit the president but said that “it’s relevant and therefore, I’d like to hear it.”
— ABC News’ Devin Dwyer
ABC News’ John Santucci, Ben Gittleson and Chris Donovan contributed to this report.
Pam Bondi, former Florida attorney general and a member of President Trump’s defense team, outlined the issue of Hunter Biden’s involvement on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company, during her 30-minute presentation.
This was the first direct reference to the Bidens during the defense team’s presentations.
House managers, she said, “repeatedly referenced” Biden and Burisma more than “400 times” during their presentations last week, “but they never gave you the full picture.”
“We would prefer not to be talking about this,” she claimed, “But the House managers have placed this squarely at issue, so we must address it.”
Citing multiple news reports and testimony from State Department official George Kent and other witnesses, Bondi cast the company as corrupt and Biden’s involvement as a conflict of interest. She questioned his qualifications to serve on the board, an opportunity she called “nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst.”
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden.
Bondi noted that then-Vice President Joe Biden sought to remove Ukrainian prosecutor Victor Shokin, who was investigating Burisma. However, she did not note that Shokin was widely accused of corruption and a Shokin deputy has said the Burisma probe was dormant.
“There was a basis to talk about this, to raise this issue, and that is enough,” Bondi said.
Bernie Sanders holds a seven-point lead over Joe Biden and a 13-point advantage over a slumping Elizabeth Warren in New Hampshire just two weeks before the first-in-the-nation primary, a new Franklin Pierce University-Boston Herald-NBC10Boston poll reveals.
The poll is more good news for Sanders’ surging campaign and comes days after polls show the Vermont senator heading the field in Iowa just a week before the caucuses.
And the poll will likely add to the growing panic among Democratic leaders and establishment figures that the socialist senator could secure a double-barreled win in the opening two contests.
Sanders is getting 29% of likely Democratic primary voters in the new Franklin Pierce-Herald-NBC10Boston poll, while Biden is at 22% and Warren at 16%. Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is in fourth place at 10%, followed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 5%.
All of the other candidates in the field are in the low single digits. Mike Bloomberg and Tulsi Gabbard are at 3% support, while Michael Bennet is at 2% and Andrew Yang gets just 1% support.
The poll of 407 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters, conducted Jan. 23-26, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9%.
A Franklin Pierce-Herald-NBC10 poll of likely Granite State Democratic voters two weeks ago had the former vice president in the lead, with Sanders in second place. But the Vermont senator appears to have some momentum on his side heading into the Feb. 11 Granite State primary.
Warren’s support, meanwhile, appears to be waning at just the wrong time for her campaign. Her support dropped 2% from two weeks ago and she appears to be losing the battle with Sanders for progressive votes.
Sanders easily tops the field among self-described liberal voters at 32%, with the Massachusetts senator at just 16% support, according to the poll.
On the Republican side, President Trump is winning 72% of the vote, though there are signs that his support is dropping somewhat. Trump was at 77% support in the Franklin Pierce-Herald-NBC10Boston poll two weeks ago.
His opponents, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and former Illinois U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh are now at 7% each — a three point increase in support from two weeks ago.
A clear majority of New Hampshire voters — 55% — also believe Trump should be removed from office, according to the poll.
The poll of likely Democratic voters shows that the dust-up between Sanders and Warren over Warren’s claims that he told her a woman couldn’t be elected president doesn’t appear to have hurt Sanders — in fact there might be a backlash in his favor.
Since Warren refused to shake hands with Sanders on the debate stage, he has moved up in the polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire and now is poised to deal a potentially fatal blow to Warren’s campaign in the first in the nation primary state.
The poll was also conducted in the midst of Hillary Clinton’s negative statements about Sanders, but that growing feud hasn’t hurt Sanders, either. Clinton in a new documentary claims “nobody likes” Sanders and complains about the damage he did to her 2016 campaign.
Biden is also bracing for possible losses in the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire and counting on wins in the next two states, South Carolina and Nevada. He’s also hoping for big wins on March 3, Super Tuesday.
But the latest polls actually show Sanders with a lead in the biggest Super Tuesday state, California.
[Ed. – Where would we be without the helpful reminders of sites like Slate?]
As senators try President Donald Trump for impeachment and some of them call for placing limits on his ability to wage war against Iran, it is worth recalling that, early on in his term, lawmakers of both parties raised fearful concerns about Trump’s war powers more broadly — specifically whether he should have the power to start a nuclear war all on his own.
On Oct. 30, 2017, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on whether the president needed new congressional authorization to use military force against terrorists around the world. When his turn came to ask questions, Democratic Sen. Edward Markey asked the witnesses whether Trump could launch a nuclear first strike without consulting anyone from Congress.
Lawyers for Donald Trump opted for a high-risk strategy in the sixth day of the president’s impeachment trial on Monday, avoiding mention of a major new development in the case even as Trump tweeted about it and some Republican senators told reporters that the tide against calling witnesses may have shifted.
On Sunday night, news broke that the former national security adviser John Bolton had written a book undermining the central claim of Trump’s defense, that Trump had never conditioned military aid for Ukraine on an announcement of investigations tied to his political rivals.
In fact, Trump told Bolton in a meeting in August that he did not want to send aid until Ukraine delivered material relating to Joe Biden and to supporters of Hillary Clinton, according to sources cited by the New York Times, which first broke the news.
Bolton’s book, to be published in March, spent the day climbing the bestseller list, hitting No 13 as a pre-sale on Amazon by 5pm. But inside the Senate chamber, the case against Trump had stalled, frozen in time one month ago and impossible, according to the defense, to add to, even as information continued to leak around a plug imposed by Trump.
The defense team did not mention Bolton on Monday, while attacking Democrats for failing to present a witness who could offer a firsthand account of Trump’s thinking on the aid and its suspension.
“They seem to be operating in a bubble of denial,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, “and I think they are fast losing any shred of credibility by essentially ignoring the evidence, from John Bolton or others.
“They’re saying there isn’t enough evidence, but they’re trying to stop it from coming before the Senate.”
The Bolton bombshell exploded as the impeachment trial nears a crucial juncture, when senators will decide whether to hear from witnesses and collect documents, in a vote that could be taken on Friday.
At least one Republican senator who had not previously called for witnesses, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, told colleagues that a one-for-one witness trade might need to be entered with Democrats to answer broad demands for Bolton to testify, the Washington Post reported.
Trump and his Republican allies wish to avoid testimony by Bolton, the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, or others, which the defense team appears to believe could damage Trump’s case. However, Democrats and a majority of Americans want witnesses to be called at the trial,
If current or former Trump aides are subpoenaed by the Senate, the White House could go to court to try to prevent their testimony, potentially drawing out the trial, which has had a short run so far compared with historical precedent.
“The average American is saying, why don’t they want witnesses and documents?” the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, told reporters. “The overarching question is, if the president did nothing wrong, why is he so afraid of having witnesses and documents?”
While they did not dwell on Bolton, Trump’s legal team covered significant ground. They advanced a lawyer who worked for Trump during the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller to praise Rudy Giuliani’s performance as Trump’s personal lawyer in the Ukraine scheme. They advanced a former Florida attorney general to describe corruption inside the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, which once employed Hunter Biden.
And they advanced Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel whose serial investigations of Bill Clinton culminated in Clinton’s impeachment, to argue that the United States was suffering from a surfeit of impeachment.
“The Senate is being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently,” said Starr, who bears unique responsibility for the single previous presidential impeachment trial in the last 150 years.
Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney who has taken the lead in Trump’s defense team, opened the proceedings on Monday with a possible allusion to the Bolton news, declaring that the defense team would not be discussing “non-evidence” that had not been introduced to the proceedings.
Sekulow then reiterated a defense of the president he made in his first day of opening arguments on Saturday.
“Not a single witness testified that the president himself said there was any connection between security assistance and investigations,” Sekulow said.
Trump’s team was expected to continue the president’s defense on Tuesday, after which senators were to have an opportunity to ask written questions over one or two days. A debate on the question of admitting witnesses would follow. A two-thirds majority of voting senators would be required to remove Trump from office.
Trump was impeached last month on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. He has denied wrongdoing. “The president did absolutely nothing wrong,” the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, said on Saturday.
Democrats seemed determined to introduce the Bolton allegations at trial at the earliest opportunity, probably during the question period later this week.
Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, a Republican turned Independent and a frequent Trump critic, tweeted as the trial continued: “The defense team’s strategy rests on pretending that news doesn’t exist.”
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial was overshadowed on Monday by an unpublished manuscript from former national security adviser John Bolton that said Trump wanted to freeze U.S. aid to Ukraine to pressure the country for politically beneficial investigations.
Attorney Ken Starr speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump’s legal team resumes its presentation of opening arguments in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial in this frame grab from video shot in the U.S. Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2020. U.S. Senate TV/Handout via Reuters
The following are selected quotes:
REPUBLICAN SENATOR MITT ROMNEY
“I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton.”
REPUBLICAN SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS
“The reports about John Bolton’s book strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues.”
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
“I haven’t seen the manuscript, but I can tell you nothing was ever said to John Bolton.”
SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER
“This is stunning. It goes right to the heart of the charges against the president.”
“Ambassador Bolton essentially confirms the president committed the offenses charged in the first article of impeachment.”
HOUSE MANAGER ADAM SCHIFF
“It completely blasts another hole in the president’s defense.”
“This would be another witness that would corroborate in very direct terms, if this report is accurate, that the president told him unequivocally he was holding up the money until Ukraine did these investigations.”
TRUMP LAWYER JAY SEKULOW
“It is our position, as the president’s counsel, that the president was at all times acting under his constitutional authority, under his legal authority, in our national interest and pursuant to his oath of office.”
REPUBLICAN SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM, on Twitter
“If there is a desire and decision by the Senate to call Democratic witnesses, then at a minimum the Senate should allow President @realDonaldTrump to call all relevant witnesses he has requested.”
REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVE MARK MEADOWS
“We’re talking about an unpublished manuscript that only ‘anonymous sources’ have seen, leaked by someone at the 11th hour, just as Democrats are losing what little impeachment momentum they had left. We’ve seen this playbook used before. Americans won’t buy it.”
DEMOCRATIC SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
“They are fast losing any shred of credibility by essentially ignoring the need for the evidence from John Bolton and others who have firsthand knowledge. They say there isn’t enough evidence. But they’re trying to stop it from coming before the Senate.”
DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JOE BIDEN
“Let’s remember one thing: why the man’s on trial. He’s afraid to run against me.”
Reporting by Makini Brice, Tim Ahmann, Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell, David Morgan and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Peter Cooney
Just one day after a leaked excerpt of John Bolton’s upcoming book revealed that he directly witnessed President Trump condition Ukrainian military aid on a politically beneficial investigation, Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow claimed during Monday’s impeachment trial that “not a single witness heard the president himself” make such a claim.
During the House phase of the impeachment process, prominent Republicans, such as Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), based their defense of the president largely on the second-hand nature of the testimony provided by witnesses such as ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland.
That strategy, which was taken up by the president’s lawyers on the Senate floor Saturday, appeared unchanged during Sekulow’s opening remarks on Monday — despite the revelation that Bolton allegedly witnessed Trump’s orchestration of a quid pro quo.
“What we’ve done on Saturday is the pattern that we’re going to continue today as far as how we’re going to deal with the case. We deal with transcript evidence, we deal with publicly available information. We do not deal with speculation, allegations that are not based on evidentiary standards at all,” Sekulow said.
Based on an excerpt of Bolton’s upcoming book “The Room Where It Happened,” The New York Times reported on Sunday that the former national security adviser heard Trump in August tying $400 million in military aid to a public announcement of investigations by Ukrainian officials. The president and his allies have consistently argued that Trump never made that explicit connection.
Following the Bolton news, which broke Sunday night, Trump tweeted the he “NEVER” mentioned the alleged quid-pro-quo to Bolton.
“If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” Trump said.
Several Senate Republicans appeared willing Monday to vote to compel Bolton’s testimony when the upper chamber votes on witnesses and documents later this week following the conclusion of opening arguments.
“I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton,” Senator Mitt Romney (R., Utah) told reporters.
Senator Susan Collins (R., Maine) also appeared open to hearing more from Bolton, saying in a statement that the report “strengthens the case for witnesses.”
(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump’s defense lawyers resume their presentation at 1 p.m. Monday after opening their arguments Saturday by saying House managers failed to prove the president should be removed from office.
Here are the latest developments:
Trump Team Defends Giuliani as Minor Player (3:38 p.m.)
Trump’s legal team defended his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani as a minor player in the Ukraine saga, not the villain portrayed by House Democrats.
“If Rudy Giuliani is everything they say he is, don’t you think they would have subpoenaed and pursued his testimony?” asked Trump lawyer Jane Raskin.
Raskin said that instead, the managers rely on “hearsay, speculation and assumption” instead of first-hand knowledge of Giuliani’s activities.
“He was not on a political errand,“ Raskin said. “He was gathering evidence regarding Ukrainian election interference to defend his client against the false allegations being investigated by special counsel” Robert Mueller in the Russia probe.
“Do not be distracted,” Raskin said.
Within minutes, House Democrats sent reporters a copy of Giuliani’s May 10, 2019, letter to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy congratulating him on his election and asking, as Trump’s personal lawyer, to meet with him on a “more specific request.”
Trump Team Ignores Bolton, Says Aid Not Tied (3:04 p.m.)
Trump’s defense team reiterated its argument that he didn’t link financial aid for Ukraine to that country’s help with investigations of Joe Biden, even after a bombshell news report that former National Security Advisor John Bolton disclosed such a link in his book manuscript.
“Not a single witness testified that the president himself said that there was any connection between any investigation and security assistance, a presidential meeting or anything else,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said on the Senate floor.
Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly depended on the lack of firsthand testimony that the president tied the aid money to investigations into his political rivals. But that argument could be challenged if Bolton speaks at the trial.
Bolton has said he would testify if subpoenaed, while Trump has signaled he’ll attempt to block such testimony by citing executive privilege.
The New York Times reported Sunday that Bolton wrote in the manuscript of a forthcoming book that Trump told him in August that he didn’t want to release the funds until Ukraine turned over material related to Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
The report increased pressure on Republican senators who are undecided on whether to support calling witnesses in the trial. The Senate needs 51 votes to subpoena witnesses and documents.
Trump tweeted early Monday he “NEVER” told that to Bolton. Sekulow said the defense team wouldn’t address “speculation” and “allegations that are not based on evidentiary standards at all.”
Starr Decries ‘Habit’ of Hounding Presidents (1:34 p.m.)
In an ironic twist, Trump’s defense turned to Bill Clinton’s prosecutor Kenneth Starr to complain that impeachments are becoming too common.
“We are living in what I think can aptly be described as the age of impeachment,” said Starr, who investigated Clinton for years as independent counsel.
Starr said that after the Clinton impeachment both parties decided “enough was enough” and allowed the independent counsel statute to expire.
But, he said, “the impeachment habit proved to be hard to kick.”
Starr contended that impeachment should charge criminal violations, and not just any crimes but high crimes, given the ability of the people to select a new president in the next election.
The lawyer for acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said he denies knowing anything about Trump making demands of Ukraine in exchange for U.S. financial aid.
Mulvaney’s lawyer, Bob Driscoll, said in a statement the reports about former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s upcoming book have “more to do with publicity than the truth.”
“John Bolton never informed Mick Mulvaney of any concerns surrounding Bolton’s purported August conversation with the president,” Driscoll said. “Nor did Mr. Mulvaney ever have a conversation with the president or anyone else indicating that Ukrainian military aid was withheld in exchange for a Ukrainian investigation of Burris, the Bidens, or the 2016 election.”
The lawyer also said Mulvaney has “no recollection” of a conversation with Trump and the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani about the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Trump’s legal team won’t complete its case on Monday but will continue its presentation Tuesday, according to an administration official.
The president’s defense lawyers gave two hours of arguments on Saturday and are permitted to make as many as 22 additional hours of arguments Monday and Tuesday, under the trial rules.
Graham Wants to See Bolton Manuscript (11:57 a.m.)
GOP Senator Lindsey Graham said he wants to see the manuscript of former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book, according to a tweet by a Washington Post reporter.
“I want to see the manuscript,” said Graham, a staunch Trump supporter.
Schumer Says Mulvaney More Important Witness (11:30 a.m.)
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney would be an even more important trial witness than former National Security Advisor John Bolton, said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“He was chief cook and bottle washer” and witnessed more events than Bolton, Schumer told reporters Monday.
“We want the eyewitnesses to what the president did to testify,“ Schumer said. — Laura Litvan
Two GOP Senators Lean Toward Calling Bolton (10:59 a.m.)
Republican Senator Susan Collins said the reports about former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book “strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues.”
Collins of Maine said on Twitter, “I’ve always said that I was likely to vote to call witnesses, just as I did in the 1999 Clinton trial.”
Separately, Senator Mitt Romney said it’s “increasingly likely” that more Republicans will say the Senate should hear testimony from Bolton.
“It’s increasingly apparent that it would be important to hear from John Bolton,” Romney said on MSNBC, though he said he wouldn’t make a final decision until both sides finish presenting their cases.
“I think at this stage it’s pretty fair to say that John Bolton has relevant testimony,“ Romney said, a day after a New York Times report that Bolton has first-hand knowledge of Trump’s personal involvement in a scheme to extract dirt on a political rival by withholding aid from Ukraine.
“I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton,” the Utah senator said. — Steven T. Dennis, Laura Litvan
NSC Says No Outsiders Saw Bolton Manuscript (10:03 a.m.)
No White House personnel outside of the National Security Council have viewed the manuscript of John Bolton’s book, NSC spokesman John Ullyot said in a statement Monday.
“Ambassador Bolton’s manuscript was submitted to the NSC for pre-publication review and has been under initial review by the NSC. No White House personnel outside NSC have reviewed the manuscript,” Ullyot said. — Justin Sink
Schiff Says Bolton’s Notes Are Vital to Case (9:10 a.m.)
Lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff told CNN he will press not only for testimony from John Bolton in the Senate impeachment trial but also for “contemporaneous” notes Bolton took during his time as Trump’s national security adviser.
“We ought to not only have John Bolton testify but we ought to see what he wrote down in his notes at the time,” Schiff said.
House managers will ask for Bolton’s notes to be produced as evidence. “These are contemporaneous,” Schiff said. “These notes took place while the events were happening, while they were fresh in his mind. Those, in many respects, are more important than the manuscript.”
Representative Jim Jordan, a key Republican ally of Trump, told Fox News Monday that a New York Times report on Bolton’s knowledge of the matter “doesn’t alter the fundamental facts.”
White House Dismisses Bolton Book Revelation (8:15 a.m.)
The White House is pushing back on a bombshell New York Times report that Bolton has first-hand knowledge of Trump’s personal involvement in a scheme to extract dirt on a political rival by withholding aid from Ukraine.
“That’s just not true,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an interview with Fox News on Monday. “The timing of all of this is very, very suspect.”
“The president did nothing wrong and we stand by exactly what we’ve been saying all along and exactly what the transcript has been showing all along,” Grisham said.
Meanwhile, Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, said on Fox that if the Senate calls Bolton to testify, it should also hear from all witnesses that are “material and relevant,” including former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, the Ukraine whistle-blower and Schiff.
“If we’re going to call witness, than we need to call all the witnesses that are material and relevant,” Hawley said. “This isn’t just about John Bolton.”
Trump Senate Trial Heads Into Pivotal Week (6 a.m.)
The president’s lawyers on Monday plan to expand on the preview they offered during a two-hour argument on Saturday. They can make up to 22 hours of additional arguments over two days, though they’ve said they may not take all of that time.
After Trump’s lawyers finish presenting their case, senators will have up to 16 hours to ask questions of either side through written queries submitted to Chief Justice John Roberts.
Then the prosecution and defense will argue for four hours over whether to subpoena witnesses or documents, as Democrats have demanded and most Republicans oppose. A Senate vote to call for witnesses and documents would lengthen the trial, while a rejection of the proposal could lead swiftly to votes on a final verdict.
A report Sunday by the New York Times about former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s potential testimony puts new pressure on Republican moderate senators to accept Democratic demands to subpoena new witnesses.
Catch Up on Impeachment Coverage
Bombshell Bolton Report Pressures GOP on Impeachment Witnesses
Trump Caught on Tape Saying ‘Get Rid Of’ U.S. Envoy in 2018 (1)
Here is House Democrats’ web page containing documents related to the impeachment trial. House Democrats’ impeachment brief is here. Trump’s initial reply is here, and his lawyers’ trial brief is here.The House impeachment resolution is H.Res. 755. The Intelligence Committee Democrats’ impeachment report is here.Gordon Sondland’s transcript is here and here; Kurt Volker’s transcript is here and here. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s transcript is here and here; the transcript of Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to the secretary of State, is here. The transcript of David Holmes, a Foreign Service officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, is here.The transcript of William Taylor, the top U.S. envoy to Ukraine, is here and here. State Department official George Kent’s testimony is here and here. Testimony by Alexander Vindman can be found here, and the Fiona Hill transcript is here. Laura Cooper’s transcript is here; Christopher Anderson’s is here and Catherine Croft’s is here. Jennifer Williams’ transcript is here and Timothy Morrison’s is here. The Philip Reeker transcript is here. Mark Sandy’s is here.
–With assistance from Justin Sink, Daniel Flatley, Billy House, Josh Wingrove, Steven T. Dennis, Mike Dorning and Laura Litvan.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan Fabian in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at email@example.com, Laurie Asséo, Elizabeth Wasserman
“If We’re Keeping Score on Who Got it Right – The Score is Mayor Giuliani 4, Mr. Schiff Zero” – Trump Attorney Jane Raskin Destroys Democrats and Fake-News Media (VIDEO)
by Jim Hoft January 27, 2020
Trump Attorney Jane Raskin took to the floor of the US Senate Chamber on Monday afternoon after the first break. Jane Raskin is an exceptional lawyer.
Jane Raskin laid out the Giuliani timeline on investigating the Burisma corruption and Ukrainian corruption back in 2018.
Raskin then provided evidence via the mainstream media including CNN and The Hill several reports on Rudy investigating Ukraine back in 2018. CNN and the rest of the liberal mainstream media has refused to report this despite their own previous reporting.
Raskin added, “The House Managers didn’t even allude to that option.”
Attorney Jane Raskin then ended with this, “It 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, 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 – Zero!”