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White House pushes back as Bolton book threatens revelations

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President Trump has fought to prevent John Bolton from testifying in his impeachment

The White House is pushing back against the publication of a book by former national security adviser John Bolton, citing security concerns.

National Security Council officials told Mr Bolton the book included “top secret” details that must be removed.

A manuscript of the book reportedly claims that President Donald Trump linked freezing military aid to Ukraine in exchange for a political favour.

The book row comes as the questioning period of the impeachment trial begins.

On Friday, senators will hold a key vote on whether or not to allow witnesses in the trial. Democrats are demanding Mr Bolton testify in the wake of these claims, and some Republicans have also suggested they would like to hear from the former adviser.

The president has denied all the allegations against him.

What did the White House say?

National Security Council (NSC) senior director Ellen Knight said in a letter to Mr Bolton’s attorney that following a preliminary review, the “manuscript appears to contain significant amounts of classified information”.

“It also appears that some of this classified information is at the top-secret level,” Ms Knight wrote. She went on to warn that the “manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information”.

A senior White House official said on Wednesday that the letter was not a “threat” to the former national security adviser. But President Trump’s defence in his impeachment trial has been imperiled by the reported revelations in the book.

The manuscript is said to contain an account of the president directly telling Mr Bolton him that he would withhold US military aid to Ukraine to pressure Ukraine to help him win the 2020 US election.

Senior figures in Mr Trump’s Republican Party are now fighting to prevent Mr Bolton being called as a witness at the impeachment trial, while a small handful say they will vote for witnesses to appear.

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Media captionMitt Romney: ‘Important to hear from John Bolton’

A copy of Mr Bolton’s manuscript was reportedly sent to the White House weeks ago for review. A White House official said the letter was sent to Mr Bolton prior to revelations from his book being reported by the New York Times last week.

The president lashed out at his former national security adviser on Twitter on Wednesday, calling his book “nasty & untrue”. He insisted he “NEVER” told John Bolton the military aid was tied to getting dirt form Ukraine on his domestic political rivals.

What does the Bolton manuscript allege?

On 26 January, the New York Times reported excerpts from the unpublished book by Mr Bolton, who was fired from the White House in September 2019.

They included claims that Mr Trump told Mr Bolton in August that he wanted to withhold $391m (£300 million) in security aid to Ukraine until officials there assisted with probes into Democrats, including 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden and his son.

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John Bolton was fired from his post in September

The revelations, if true, are significant, because Republicans have argued that no first-hand witnesses had connected the president to the alleged scheme to withhold aid for political benefit.

But Mr Bolton reportedly makes it clear in his book that he was instructed directly by the president to withhold the aid in order to pressure Ukraine.

What’s happening in the trial?

The Senate impeachment trial has entered a two-day period of questioning, during which each party will alternate for up to 16 hours throughout Wednesday and Thursday.

Lawmakers are barred from speaking themselves, and must submit written questions to Chief Justice John Roberts, who then reads them aloud.

In one key moment on Wednesday, Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz argued that “if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment” – effectively arguing that any action taken to aid re-election could be considered to be in the public interest, and therefore not impeachable.

A vote on whether or not to call witnesses in the trial is expected on Friday. A vote on the articles of impeachment themselves could follow immediately after if witnesses are blocked.

Four Republicans would be required to vote with the Democrats to reach the necessary majority to call witnesses. Several more moderate senators have appeared more prepared to do so in the wake of the Bolton book reports.

US media report that in a closed door meeting with Republican senators on Tuesday, Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he did not have enough votes to block witnesses, but senior Republicans later said they were confident of securing the votes.

A two-thirds majority in the Senate is required to remove Mr Trump from office at the end of the process. With Republicans holding a 53-47 majority in the Senate, removal remains highly unlikely.

He is the third president in US history to be impeached and go on trial in the Senate.

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Trump impeachment trial live updates: Senators question House managers, Trump lawyers

In unpredictable new phase, senators begin up to 16 hours of questions to House managers, Trump defense team

Senators send written questions to Chief Justice Roberts, who reads them aloud

Trump pressures GOP senators to hold the line against news witnesses ahead of Senate vote

President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial entered an unpredictable new phase Wednesday, as senators engaged in up to 16 hours of posing questions to House impeachment managers and the president’s legal team.

After sitting at their desks in silence for long days listening to opening arguments from both sides, senators submitted questions written on small cards to Chief Justice John Roberts, who then read the question aloud to the chamber.

The questioning, set to take place over both Wednesday and Thursday, gives both sides one last opportunity to address the chamber before senators begin considering motions, including on the question of witnesses — an issue at the center of events on Capitol Hill following reports about the testimony former national security adviser John Bolton could offer the Senate if subpoenaed to appear.

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.

4:50 p.m. Collins asks whether Trump ever talked about the Biden and Ukraine corruption before Biden entered the race.

ABC’s Katherine Faulders reports:

GOP Sen. Susan Collins asks the president’s legal team on behalf of herself and Sen. Lisa Murkowski whether President Trump even mentioned the Bidens in relation to corruption in Ukraine before Biden entered the race last spring and if so, to whom and when.

The question appears to suggest that Collins doesn’t 100% believe that Trump was interested in rooting out corruption in Ukraine and she clearly wants to get to the timeline.

White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin appears to confirmed that Trump didn’t mention them before April 2019 when Biden jumped into the race. He leaves himself somewhat of an out by saying it’s not in the House record.

“Of course I think it’s important the outset to frame the answer by bringing that I’m limited to what’s in the record and what’s in the record is determined by what to the House of Representatives sought. It was there a preceding they were the ones who ran it they were the ones who called the witness is so part of the question refers to conversations between President Trump and other Cabinet members like that there’s not something in the record on that,” Philbin says. “It wasn’t thoroughly pursued in the record so I can’t point to something in the record that shows President Trump at an earlier time mentioning specifically something related to Joe or Hunter Biden.”

During the next question that Schiff answered he addressed this, saying they are not confined to the record in the House.

“Counsel says in answer to the senator’s question about whether Donald Trump ever brought up the Hunter Biden problem with President Poroshenko in the past and says, ‘Well, we’re confined to the record before us.’ You’re not confined to record in the House nor is the president the president could call witnesses if they existed there’s nothing preventing them from saying as a matter of fact tomorrow we’re going to call such and such and they’re going to testify that indeed Donald Trump brought up Hunter Biden to President Poroshenko.”

4:32 p.m. House manager Lofgren warns of consequences of obstruction

Democratic senators asks the House managers if there is any precedent for a president to refuse to cooperate with Congress on an investigation and the possible consequences if the Senate votes to acquit him despite those decisions to block witnesses and withhold documents.

House manager Zoe Lofgren calls the president’s actions an “extreme measure” to hide evidence from Congress and that no other president has ordered a witness not to cooperate with an impeachment inquiry.

She argues if the Senate doesn’t move strongly against that obstruction it could make it impossible for Congress to conduct oversight of future presidents.

“If the president can say, you’re not sending any witnesses. We are not sending documents. We don’t have to. We don’t like your processes. We have a wholesale rejection of what you are doing. That is not the way our constitution was created. For each body has responsibility. There is a sharing of power. I, and I know you cherish the responsibility that we have. That will be eviscerated if the president’s complete stonewalling is allowed to persist and be accepted by this body,” she says.

4:14 p.m. Trump lawyer warns senators about calling witnesses

“As we get down the road in the witness issues, let’s be clear,” Jay Sekulow says. “It will it should not be like … certainly I can’t dictate to this body — it should certainly not be though that the House managers get John Bolton and the president’s lawyers get no witnesses. We would expect if they’re going to get witnesses we will get witnesses and those witnesses would then but all that — just to be clear — changes the nature and scope of the proceedings …”

“This will be the first impeachment trial in history that involves no witnesses if you decide you don’t want to hear from any that you simply want to rely on what was investigated in the House,” Schiff responds.

Schiff argues that any potential witnesses could be quickly deposed and Chief Justice Roberts could quickly rule on evidentiary issues.

“If there’s any question about it the chief justice can resolve these are relevant questions to the matter at hand what you cannot do is use privilege to hide wrongdoing of an impeachable kind and character,” he adds.

3:08 p.m. Graham and Cruz ask hypothetical about President Obama and probe of Mitt Romney’s son

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham sends a question from himself and Sen. Ted Cruz directed at the House managers: “… If President Obama had evidence that Mitt Romney’s son was being paid $1 million per year by a corrupt Russian company and Mitt Romney had acted to benefit that company, would Obama have authority to ask that that potential corruption be investigated?”

Schiff responds by saying that the hypothetical situation that the GOP senators proposed is, “a bit off.”

“The reality is for a president to withhold military aid from an ally or in the hypothetical, to withhold it to benefit an adversary to target their political opponent is wrong and corrupt, period, end of story,” Schiff says.

3:09 p.m. Cornyn asks the consequences of the Senate subpoenaing a president’s advisers

Republican Sen. John Cornyn asks the White House legal team: “What are the consequences to the presidency, the president’s constitutional role as the head of the executive branch and the advice the president can expect from his senior advisers if they expect … subpoenas in this particular trial without any determination by an Article III court?”

White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin responds by arguing that confidential communication is vital to government function.

“Because if you don’t have the confidence that what you’re saying is going to be kept confidential, you won’t be candid,” Philbin says. “You won’t give your best advice. And that damages decision making.”

2:55 p.m. Inside the Senate chamber: Collins taking nonstop notes.

From ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce inside the Senate chamber:

The mood is totally different in the chamber from days past. Everyone has perked up and the full Senate is paying close attention.

GOP Sen. Susan Collins is still writing nonstop. It’s constant. She’s going to need a wrist brace soon. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, sitting next to Collins, is listening intently, occasionally jotting notes on a small pad. GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander is doing the same.

There’s not a lot of movement, except for GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham who is still in and out of the chamber constantly.

The choreography of the questioning is fascinating theater.

Senators are called on one by one. They then stand, hand their question card to a Senate page who scurries quickly down the center aisle and up to front where the card is passed off to Chief Justice Roberts.

There is also a stark contrast between the two lead tables.

The House managers are a flurry of activity. Papers strewn everywhere. We have been told they prepped for every possible question they could think of and you can tell. They all have massive binders with many, many different organized sections. They are reading much of their answers from typed up responses.

The Trump team table, by contrast, is much calmer. There is a bit of note taking and talking between the lawyers. They are also holding up paper cue cards to indicate to their colleagues when it’s time to wrap.

I was also struck by the fact that White House counsel Pat Cipollone wasn’t taking any notes — just sitting there, with a blank legal pad in front of him, twiddling constantly with a pen, shifting and re-positioning it.

2:14 p.m. Dershowitz argues a quid pro quo done in belief it’s ‘in the public interest’ not impeachable conduct

A question from GOP Sen. Ted Cruz brings the debate to the question of a quid pro quo. Former Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz and House manager Rep. Adam Schiff debate the notion of a quid pro quo as a matter of law and a matter of foreign policy.

“The only way that would make a quid pro quo unlawful is if the quo were in some way illegal,” Dershowitz says.

“If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” he says.

“Every public official that I know believes that his election is of the public interest,” he adds.

1:31 p.m. Trump lawyers claim Mulvaney comments on a quid pro quo ‘misunderstood’

We have heard very little from the president’s lawyers about acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s infamous comments at the White House to ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl admitting a quid pro quo about the freezing of military aid to Ukraine – so little that Democrats have accused them of ignoring and downplaying the exchange.

But today, in a new twist, Trump lawyer Philbin says Mulvaney’s initial remarks in the briefing room were “garbled and misunderstood.”

“It’s been clear in the record since that press conference that what he was saying was garbled and or misunderstood and he immediately clarified,” he says, quoting Mulvaney’s statement hours later following the news conference.

1:53 p.m. Philbin argues Democrats are trying to impeach over policy differences

In response to a question from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, about the president’s ability to set foreign policy, White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin argues that Trump alone has the ability to set foreign policy as commander in chief.

Democrats, he continues, are trying to impeach Trump over policy disagreements that he says should be settled in the next election.

“The president cannot defy the agencies within the executive branch that are subordinate to him. It is only they who can defy the president’s determinations of policy. What this all boils down to is it shows that this case is built on a policy difference and a policy difference where the president is the one who gets to determine policy because he’s been elected by the people to do that.

“We’re right now only a few months away from another election where the people can decide for themselves whether they like what the president has done with that authority or not. That’s the way disputes about policy like that should be resolved,” he answers.

1:39 p.m. Democrats ask whether Bolton was asked to testify

The second question from Democrats comes from Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey about whether Bolton was asked to testify. Schiff again fields the question, speaking at length that Bolton was asked to testify but not subpoenaed after Bolton’s deputy Charles Kupperman went to court to fight a House subpoena.

“It’s a danger to have a president who would engage in this conduct. It’s a danger to have a trial with no witnesses and set that precedent, Schiff says. “But the biggest danger of all would be to accept the idea that a president could abuse the office in this way and the Congress is powerless to do anything about it. That is certainly not what the founders intended.”

Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colorado, a House impeachment manager, fields a question from Sen. Dianne Feinstein about whether Trump ever tied security assistance to investigations, ending his answer by making the case for witnesses once again.

“Again, if you have any lingering questions about direct evidence, any thoughts about anything we just talked about, anything I just relayed or that we’ve talked about the last week, there is a way to shed additional light on it. You can subpoena ambassador Bolton and ask him that question directly,” he says.

1:31 p.m. Schiff answers a fair trial must have witnesses

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer essentially tees up the House managers to make the case for witnesses, referencing the reported allegations in Bolton’s book.

“There’s no way to have a fair trial without witnesses,” Rep. Adam Schiff says in response.

“To turn him away, to look the other way, I think is deeply at odds with being an impartial juror,” Schiff says.

Republican John Thune then submits a question asking the presidents defense team to respond to Schiff’s answer.

1:07 p.m. GOP moderates Collins, Murkowski and Romney pose first question about Trump’s motives

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opens the first day of questions with a one submitted by GOP Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney – all moderates – for Chief Justice Roberts to read.

In a dramatic moment, Collins stands at her desk and says “Mr. Chief Justice.”

“The senator is recognized,” Roberts responds.

“I send a question to the desk on behalf of myself, Senator Murkowski and Senator Romney,” Collins says.

Roberts then reads the question from the card brought from Collins to him by a Senate page: “This is a question for the president’s counsel: ‘If President Trump had more than one motive for his alleged conduct such as the pursuit of personal political advantage, rooting out corruption, and the promotion of national interests, how should the Senate consider more than one motive in its assessment of Article One?'” Roberts says.

The president’s deputy defense attorney, Patrick Philbin, argues they only need to prove the president was acting in the public interest and says the president’s motive alone is not impeachable.

“That’s why their case fails,” Philbin says.

12:43 p.m. Romney now declines to say where other Republicans stand on witnesses

ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce reports:

GOP Sen. Mitt Romney tells reporters he doesn’t know where other his fellow Republicans stand on calling new witnesses, but maintains additional information is needed from John Bolton.

“I’d like to hear from John Bolton because I think there are questions that I have that he could answer,” Romney says.

Asked whether Bolton’s credibility was at issue given the President’s denial of his reported claims, Romney defended the former national security adviser.

“I have a great deal of confidence in John Bolton,” Romney says. “I’ve known him for some time. He’s a brilliant individual.”

“John Bolton for instance may be able to tell us precisely when the decision was made not to provide the aid on an immediate basis to Ukraine and what the president’s reasoning was at that point.

Romney was adamant that he could only speak for himself. While just a few days ago, the senator hinted that there was a growing number of Republicans who shared his concerns about hearing from Bolton, today he wouldn’t go that far.

“Where they stand now, you’d have to ask them, I can only speak for myself but I think there are questions John Bolton could help me resolve,” he tells me.

“I’ve made my point clear in our caucus meeting and people can make their own decision,” he adds.

12:20 p.m. Trump ally Graham calls on president to stop attacking Bolton

ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce reports from Capitol Hill:

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham is sending a not so subtle message to the president this morning, issuing a statement saying he is concerned about attacks on Bolton’s credibility.

“I am concerned when John Bolton’s credibility is attacked, it makes it more likely some will feel the need to call him as a witness,” Graham says.

The South Carolina senator just refused to stop at the cameras — something I have literally never seen.

“It is my opinion, based on the law and facts, that additional testimony is unnecessary in this case,” Graham says in the statement. “For the sake of argument, one could assume everything attributable to John Bolton is accurate and still the House case would fall well below the standards to remove a president from office.

“It is clear to me that there is ample evidence for the President to be concerned about conflicts of interest on behalf of Hunter Biden and that Vice President Joe Biden’s failure to take appropriate action was unacceptable. This combination, in my view, undercut America’s message on reforming corruption in Ukraine. There is a mountain of evidence to suggest the Bidens’ behavior was harmful to the United States,” Graham’s statement continues.

“The House managers’ claim that the sole reason President Trump temporarily paused the aid was purely personal and political, not public, does not withstand scrutiny. However, I am concerned when John Bolton’s credibility is attacked, it makes it more likely some will feel the need to call him as a witness. In that event, it would be important for the President and his team to call witnesses on other issues,” his statement reads.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “For a guy who couldn’t get approved for the Ambassador to the U.N. years ago, couldn’t get approved for anything since, “begged” me for a non Senate approved job, which I gave him despite many saying “Don’t do it, sir,” takes the job, mistakenly says “Libyan Model” on T.V., and … many more mistakes of judgement, gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book. All Classified National Security. Who would do this?”

“Why didn’t John Bolton complain about this “nonsense” a long time ago, when he was very publicly terminated. He said, not that it matters, NOTHING!” Trump tweeted.

12:07 p.m. Trump makes reference to Senate trial at USMCA trade deal signing

The ongoing impeachment trial looms over today’s White House South Lawn event celebrating the signing of the new USMCA trade deal — and the president makes no attempt to avoid the topic, even joking as he recognizes Republican senators in the crowd: “Maybe I’m being nice to them because I want their vote. Does that make sense?”

In one of his many shoutouts, the president recognizes his former 2016 primary rival Sen. Ted Cruz for being “incredible.”

“Ted Cruz, boy has he been — Boy, oh, boy, he’s dying to get back there and ask those questions, I know — he’s sitting there, “Let me out of there, president! I want to ask those questions. He’s got some beauties, I bet,” Trump says.

–ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps at the White House

11:39 a.m. Schumer ‘remains hopeful’ of GOP votes for witnesses

Speaking ahead of the trial Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says he “remains hopeful” that four Republicans will join Democrats in voting for witnesses, telling reporters they are still “in the ballpark.”

“They’re tying themselves in all kinds of pretzel knots to avoid the truth,” Schumer says, referring to opening arguments made by the president’s defense team.

He pushes back on Jay Sekulow’s defense of the president, saying it underscores the need to call witnesses.

“Four witnesses. Four sets of documents. The men who were in the room. No more, no less,” Schumer says.

“Mr. Sekulow’s version of a trial is Kafka-Esque. Remember ‘The Trial?’ Is that a short story or a novel?” Schumer says.

“It’s a novel,” Sen. Tim Kaine says.

Kaine later adds: “Before there’s a vote on acquittal or conviction, there’s going to be a vote on whether this is a trial, or a sham.”

“Americans know what trials are and what they are not.”

The consequences of voting against witnesses, Kaine says, would be to send Trump a message that “he can do whatever he wants.”

Schumer then responds to Manchin suggesting interest in calling Hunter Biden:

“We want witnesses and documents in the room where it happened,” he says. “It’s not up Joe Manchin or anyone else. The Republicans have the votes. They can call him today … they don’t want to because they know it will be a circus.”

“It’s irrelevant and a distraction and running away from the truth,” he says.

11:15 a.m. Giuliani associate Lev Parnas arrives to attend Senate trial

Lev Parnas, the indicted former associate of Rudy Guiliani involved in the his dealings with Ukraine, arrives on Capitol Hill to watch the impeachment proceedings as a spectator.

Parnas recently released a tape of President Trump ordering the firing of his then-ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, which Democrats have seized on as evidence of the Trump’s pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government. The existence of the recording was first reported by ABC News.

11:01 a.m. Murkowski meets with McConnell

ABC’s Trish Turner reports GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski met for 20 minutes Wednesday morning with Senate Majority Leader McConnell.

The pressure campaign on Murkowski and other Republican moderates continues.

As she leaves, Murkowski tells reporters, “You know I’m not going to share my personal thoughts with you this morning.”

Asked if she has a timetable for her decision on whether to vote for witnesses, she responds, “My timetable is kind of dictated, so I don’t think I’ve got a lot of options there.”

10:55 a.m. Democrat Manchin says Hunter Biden should testify

The dispute over whether the Senate should hear new witnesses is getting more complicated as senators discuss each party calling witnesses of their own.

Republicans have floated the idea of calling former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Wednesday morning, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia says Biden’s son Hunter should be called to testify.

“You know, I think so,” Manchin says on MSNBC. “I really do.”

“If it’s relevant, then it should be there,” Manchin adds.

Trump’s defense team has pointed to Hunter Biden’s involvement with a Ukrainian energy company as evidence the President was right to ask officials there for help with an investigation. Despite the possible appearance of possible impropriety given his father’s diplomatic ties to Ukraine, no evidence has come to light that the Biden’s engaged in improper dealings.

During the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, Chief Justice William Rehnquist asked that senators’ questions be answered in less than five minutes. Roberts, who has presided over the Trump trial, read Rehnquist’s directive on Tuesday, and said, “I think the late chief’s time limit was a good one and would ask both sides to abide by it.”

Lawmakers have wide latitude in composing their questions. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., will submit questions about impeachment manager and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and his staff’s interactions with the intelligence community whistleblower who filed the complaint that helped prompt the Ukraine inquiry, along others related to former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden and Ukraine.

Democrats, for their part, are expected to press the Trump legal team on perceived weaknesses in their defense of the president and continue to make the case for witnesses in the trial before they force votes on motions for additional testimony and records.

They could also raise questions about what White House lawyers knew of Bolton’s account of conversations with the president. The former Trump adviser submitted a manuscript of his forthcoming book to the White House for a classification review.

According to The New York Times, Bolton wrote that Trump told him over the summer that he wanted to continue freezing military aid to Ukraine until the country’s government delivered on his push to investigate the Biden family.

The allegations that Trump tied the aid to investigations, which the president has denied, would undermine the White House’s defense of the president in the impeachment trial.

The White House has told Republican senators that the lawyers arguing on Trump’s behalf in the Senate, including White House counsel Pat Cipollone, had no knowledge of Bolton’s account.

Both the managers and the president’s lawyers could also rely on friendly senators to submit questions that help them reinforce their arguments to lawmakers.

The Senate could move on to motions and the question of whether to consider additional witnesses later this week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking to Republican senators in a closed-door meeting Tuesday evening, said he did not yet have the votes to block a vote to consider witnesses.

A senior White House official told ABC News that the president’s defense team still believes they will be able to defeat the measure to call witnesses.

“It’s still a hard vote, but we are working hard. It’s a long time until Friday,” the official said.

The Senate’s number two Republican, John Thune, said he thought the GOP conference was unified behind a plan that would allow Democrats to call a witness like Bolton in exchange for the GOP calling a number of witnesses of their own — although that could end up being more witnesses than the Trump team would want.

Thune added that it was proving difficult to figure out how to manage what could become an unwieldy process.

ABC News’ Mary Bruce, Trish Turner, Mariam Khan, Katherine Faulders and Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.

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WH Tells John Bolton Not to Publish Book Until Classified Info Removed

The White House has asked former National Security Advisor John Bolton to delay the release of his forthcoming book, citing “significant amounts of classified information” contained in the manuscript.

In a letter dated January 23, Ellen Knight — who serves as the National Security Council’s Senior Director for Records, Access, and Information Security Management — wrote to Bolton’s attorneys that the classified information contained in The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir make it unsuitable for release and requested that the sensitive details be removed.

“Under federal law and the nondisclosure agreements your client signed as a condition for gaining access to classified information, the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information,” Knight wrote to lawyer Charles Cooper.

Knight also wrote that a preliminary review found some of the upcoming book contains “top secret” information and would provide additional guidance after the NSC concluded its ongoing examination of the text. “We will do our best to work with you to ensure your client’s ability to tell his story in a manner that protects U.S. national security,” wrote the Trump official.

The letter was sent to Cooper three days after the New York Times reported that Bolton’s book alleges President Trump wanted U.S. military aid to Ukraine to be conditional on inquiries into allegations of corruption against former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. The president has denied the report as “false” and took aim at his former top foreign policy in a pair of tweets earlier Wednesday.

“For a guy who couldn’t get approved for the Ambassador to the U.N. years ago, couldn’t get approved for anything since, ‘begged’ me for a non Senate approved job, which I gave him despite many saying ‘Don’t do it, sir,’ takes the job, mistakenly says ‘Libyan Model’ on T.V., and many more mistakes of judgement [sic], gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book. All Classified National Security. Who would do this?” the president wrote.

The development has prompted renewed calls from Democrats to call Bolton as a witness in the Senate impeachment trial, though several reports indicate that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has the votes to block additional witnesses from testifying. Some Senate Republicans are already signaling that the upper chamber may move swiftly to acquit President Trump as early as Friday.

“That’s the plan,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) replied when asked if an aquatical vote could be quickly called if Democrats fail to clinch the votes required for more witnesses. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News on Tuesday that “the president will be acquitted, and I think it will be this week.”

“This is the weakest case you’ll ever see in the history of the country in terms of impeachment,” he added.

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The Stump Speech Analyzer: Donald Trump

Editor’s note: PolitiFact is analyzing the presidential candidates’ stump speeches. Following our summary of the speech’s main themes, we present fact-checks of specific talking points. Read other stump speech analyzers for Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The stump speech: Trump’s 62-minute speech in Wildwood, N.J., Jan. 28, 2019

Even while under impeachment, President Donald Trump used a recent campaign rally  to take a victory lap, celebrating a strong economy and the triumph of conservative social and political values.

“We’re achieving historic victories for New Jersey families,” Trump said. “You see it every single day. The New Jersey unemployment rate has reached the lowest of all time. More people are working today in the state of New Jersey than ever before.”

And as goes New Jersey, Trump said, so goes the rest of the country, with record low unemployment across the board, for African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans. His low-tax, anti-regulation policies, he said, revived American manufacturing and churned out jobs for everyone.

Trump trumpeted GOP zero-tolerance positions on immigration and gun control as standing in sharp contrast to what the other party offers.

“Democrats stand for crime, corruption and chaos. Republicans stand for law, order and justice,” he said.

Trump made a firm claim to standing on the side of blue-collar workers and the middle class. He promised in the coming months to unveil a middle-class tax cut, and he warned that all the gains of his presidency hung on a Republican victory next November. His win in 2016, he said, was “the greatest election in the history of our country, and now we have to do it again to keep it going.”

Trump ended with a classic appeal to core conservative values.

“We believe that faith and family, not government bureaucracy, are the true American ways, and we believe that children should be taught to love our country, honor our history and to always respect our great American flag.”

Biggest applause line: “We have fully rebuilt the United States military.” 22 seconds with a “USA” chant.

Music: “You can’t always get what you want,” by the Rolling Stones backed up by the London Bach Choir.

Anything else: He said the word “great” or “greatest” 43 times. 

Fact-checking Trump’s statements

“We are protecting people with pre-existing conditions, and we always will, the Republican Party, pre-existing conditions. We saved it.”

Pants on Fire! Trump has repeatedly misrepresented his administration’s efforts to repeal the Obama-era health care law, which guarantees coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions. Neither Trump nor congressional Republicans who want the courts to strike down the Affordable Care Act have offered a replacement that might maintain its core protections. 

“We are lowering drug prices.”

When Trump said in May 2019 that “drug prices are coming down,” we rated that Mostly False. The White House pointed to the Consumer Price Index for drugs, and using one particular time period, there was a small decline.

But that index leaves out the actual prices people pay, and it only covers retail drugs, about three-fourths of all prescriptions.

Beyond those limitations, the latest numbers for that index show drug prices rising by about 3.9% in December 2019.

Other ways to measure drug prices show that thousands of drugs have seen prices go up, while only about 100 have seen prices fall.

“For 48 years they’ve been trying to get Veterans Choice … One day I say to my people: I have the greatest idea. I am so smart … We’re going to send them down the road to private doctors and we’re going to pay the bill and they’re going to get fixed.”

This ignores that the Veterans Choice program started in 2014. Trump has claimed credit since passage of the Veterans Mission Act in 2018, but the first version of the program was approved four years earlier. 

After a scandal of long waits for veterans and the efforts of administrators at some facilities to cover that up, Congress and the Obama administration passed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014.

For veterans who couldn’t be given appointments quickly enough, or who lived more than 40 miles from a Veterans Health Administration hospital, the government would pay for private care. 

While the initial program was riddled with problems –– including paying huge overhead fees to the firms managing it –– it did exactly what Trump described as his own idea. The 2018 Mission Act consolidated several related VA programs and anchored the use of private doctors within the VA system, but the concept was already in place when Trump took office.

“And today, I had the best polls that I’ve ever had since being elected, the best we’ve ever had.”

Trump’s polling remains stable amid the impeachment trial. A Real Clear Politics average of recent polling shows Trump at a 45.3% approval rating. He last hit that level on Sept. 24, 2019, the day House Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry. Put into context, Trump’s Real Clear Politics average approval has remained between 37% and 45.3% since he was inaugurated.

“The money is won. And we are now building that beautiful wall. This powerful border wall is going up at record speed, and we just reached over 100 miles of wall. And next year we’ll be over 400 miles. And shortly thereafter it will be complete.”

Trump is referring to a court victory allowing him to use $3.6 billion for military construction projects toward the wall instead. (Congress was not giving Trump the money he wanted for the wall, so he declared a national emergency in order to tap the military funds.) Most of the border wall projects replace or bolster existing fencing. As for 400 more miles coming next year, it’s not immediately clear what he’s referring to. He said the same thing in May about 2020. In short, the wall still has a long way to go before it matches Trump’s vision from 2016.

“But Mexico is in fact, you will soon find out, paying for the wall, okay? … The wall is ultimately and very nicely being paid for by Mexico.”

There’s no evidence of this. We asked the Trump team for more details and haven’t heard back. Trump previously claimed that Mexico would pay for the wall through the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which he signed Jan. 29. We rated that False because there is no provision for the wall in the free trade agreement.

“Our Second Amendment is under siege in Virginia. They want to take their guns away.”

Lawmakers have not advanced an assault weapon ban, but there is a “red flag” measure that could take guns from the mentally unstable. With Democrats controlling the Virginia legislature and the governor’s office, gun control measures are advancing quickly. They include universal background checks, a limit on buying handguns to one per month and a “red flag” bill to allow law enforcement to temporarily take weapons from someone judged to be a threat to themselves or others.

“We are stopping surprise medical billing.”

This effort is stalled in Congress. The Trump campaign pointed to a May 9 statement of principles from Trump that included “Patients should not receive surprise bills from out-of-network providers they did not choose,” and other steps to bar unexpected costs. But the campaign also noted that legislation has stalled. Dec. 9, the White House issued a statement that said, “we are hopeful Congress will focus on this important issue and act this year.

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Trump impeachment trial: Live updates and latest news

Mick Mulvaney answers a question at the October 17 press briefing. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, noted today that Trump’s own chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, acknowledged at an October press conference that Trump had linked Ukraine aid to Trump’s desire for Ukraine to conduct investigations into Democrats. 

Patrick Philbin, deputy counsel to the President, responded: “It’s been clear in the record since that press conference that what he was saying was garbled and/or misunderstood, and he immediately clarified and said on that day, ‘The President never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server.’” 

Here’s what happened.

The press conference

At the press conference, Mulvaney said that Trump had expressed concerns about both how little help he thought European countries were providing to Ukraine and about corruption in Ukraine — including “the corruption related to the DNC server.” (This claim about the server is a debunked conspiracy theory.)

Mulvaney continued: “And that’s why we held up the money.” When a reporter asked him to confirm that Trump’s demand for an investigation into Democrats was part of the reason Trump withheld the funding, Mulvaney said, “The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate.” 

Soon after, a reporter told Mulvaney that “what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is: funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well.” 

Mulvaney responded that such trades are common, saying, “We do that all the time with foreign policy.”

The walk-back

Mulvaney’s comments generated headlines. Later in the day, Mulvaney issued a statement essentially taking back what he had said earlier.Criticizing the media and claiming his comments had been misconstrued, he said: “Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election.” He also said what Philbin said he did: “The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server.”

Mulvaney has issued a statement essentially blaming the media for reporting what he said. 

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Why the fight over witnesses looms large in Trump’s trial

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump is nearing a pivotal vote on whether to hear from witnesses requested by Senate Democrats arguing for his removal from office.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. national security adviser John Bolton looks on as U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump acknowledge former astronauts and their family members during an Apollo 11 moon landing 50th anniversary commemoration in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Whatever happens, Trump is unlikely to be removed because his Republican Party has a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and a two-thirds majority of the chamber is needed to remove a president. A decision to hear from witnesses would require only four Republicans to cross party lines, however.

WHEN IS THE VOTE ON WITNESSES?

It could happen as early as Friday. A Senate resolution laid out a two-step process for voting on whether to subpoena witnesses. First, there will be an up-or-down vote on whether to consider witnesses. If that passes there will be more votes on testimony from particular individuals.

WHY DOES IT MATTER IF WITNESSES TESTIFY?

A decision to hear from witnesses would drag out the trial and potentially undermine a key leg of Trump’s defence – that much of the Democrats’ case against him is based on hearsay.

One witness sought by Democrats, Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, says in a new but as-yet unpublished book that Trump told him that a freeze on aide to Ukraine was linked to his push for the country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, according to a New York Times report.

With an eye on Trump’s bid for a second term in the presidential election in November, many Republicans in the Senate have been pushing for a speedy trial without witness testimony.

Democrats argue that without witnesses there cannot be a proper trial. Republicans counter that Democrats should have called the witnesses during the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives. The White House had told officials not to cooperate in that inquiry.

If the Senate does not vote in favour of witnesses it is expected to quickly vote to end the trial and acquit Trump. Trump would then likely use his State of the Union address, scheduled for Feb. 4, to reset his political agenda.

There is one potential upside for Trump in a long trial with witnesses: Four Democratic senators vying for their party’s presidential nomination to face him in November — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet — would have to remain in Washington instead of campaigning across the country.

WHO ARE THE POTENTIAL WITNESSES?

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer wants to hear from four current and former Trump administration officials that Democrats say have first-hand knowledge of key decisions in the effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden.

The most prominent of the four are Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff. They also want to hear from Robert Blair, a Mulvaney deputy, and Michael Duffey, a White House budget official who ordered the Pentagon to freeze $391 million (£300 million) in security assistance for Ukraine.

Republicans have said that if Bolton testifies that would open the way for them to call witnesses, such as Hunter Biden. Trump has alleged that when Biden was vice president he tried to have Ukraine’s then-chief prosecutor fired to stop him investigating Burisma, an energy company on whose board Hunter had a seat.

While this claim has been widely debunked and the Bidens have denied any wrongdoing, Democrats are worried that having Hunter testify could still hurt his father, who is a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

COULD TRUMP BLOCK BOLTON FROM TESTIFYING?

Trump has said he would use a legal doctrine called executive privilege to block or limit Bolton’s testimony.

Executive privilege, in certain situations, allows a president to keep private the nature of conversations with aides. The doctrine is rooted in the idea that a president governs more effectively if aides can speak candidly.

FILE PHOTO: Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney attends U.S. President Donald Trump’s meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Legal experts say that Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, or the senators themselves, would rule on any claim by Trump that his conversations with Bolton are protected by executive privilege.

Trump could also file a lawsuit seeking a court order that would limit Bolton’s testimony.

Some legal experts argue that Trump’s executive privilege claim would be weak, saying Congress’ interest in hearing from Bolton would outweigh Trump’s desire for secrecy.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe, editing by Ross Colvin and Sonya Hepinstall

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POLITICO Playbook PM: What Mitt Romney wants to know

THE WITNESS-CURIOUS … MITT LETS IT FLY A BIT … Sen. MITT ROMNEY (R-Utah) has been quite clear about his desire to hear from JOHN BOLTON. And this morning, speaking at the Senate subways, he said a bit more about just why he thinks it’s critical to get sworn testimony from the former national security adviser:

“I BELIEVE HE MAY HAVE ANSWERS to questions that I’d like to have evidence on. As a for instance: I’d like to know, at the time the president decided not to immediately provide military aid to Ukraine, what was the reason he explained at that point?

“IN ADDITION, I’d like to know later on: Was there any effort on the part of the president to communicate to Ukraine that aid was being held up, and for what reason, or was that something they just learned from the media? So these are questions that would relate to important issues that I’d like to get the answers to.”

NYT’S NICK FANDOS (@npfandos): “[Sen. Lisa] Murkowski met with McConnell for 20-30 minutes this morning. She declined afterward to discuss their conversation or her current thinking in witnesses. ‘I’m not going to share my personal thoughts with you this morning.’”

THE PRESIDENT TWEETS at 7:28 a.m.: “For a guy who couldn’t get approved for the Ambassador to the U.N. years ago, couldn’t get approved for anything since, ‘begged’ me for a non Senate approved job, which I gave him despite many saying ‘Don’t do it, sir,’ takes the job, mistakenly says ‘Libyan Model’ on T.V., and..”

“….many more mistakes of judgement, gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book. All Classified National Security. Who would do this?”

AND NOW THIS FROM CNN’S JAKE TAPPER: “The White House has issued a formal threat to former national security adviser John Bolton to keep him from publishing his book, ‘The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,’ sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.” CNN

SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER said LEV PARNAS’ attorney called his office for tickets to the impeachment trial, and he said he gave him a ticket just like he would give them to any New Yorker. But, he added, “I’m not sure Parnas would be allowed in because of the electronics around his ankle.” And, indeed, we saw his lawyer in the Capitol, and Parnas had disappeared.

WE REPORTED IN PLAYBOOK ON TUESDAY that the White House was freezing Democrats out of the USMCA signing ceremony this morning. None were there. The White House maintains it invited some, including Minnesota Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson. He did not attend.

THE QUIET PART OUT LOUD: “Maybe I’m being just nice to them because I want their vote,” Trump said today before ticking off a list of Republican senators in attendance and who worked on the deal. “Does that make sense? I don’t want to leave anybody out.”

AFTER THE REMARKS from Trump, VP Mike Pence and USTR Robert Lighthizer, Trump called the senators in the crowd up to the stage for the signing. “We’re gonna take care of the senators,” he said. As he handed out ceremonial pens to those around him, he said, “See how nice I’m treating the senators? I don’t care about anyone else. I only care about them.” More from Sabrina Rodríguez

Good Wednesday afternoon. FOX NEWS’ JAY WALLACE and SUZANNE SCOTT sent a memo Tuesday about “reaching 18 consecutive years at number one.” The memo

SPOTTED: Paul Ryan — who is turning 50 today — and Roger Zakheim at the Willard Hotel on Tuesday afternoon. … Karen Pence in the Glover Park USPS store on Wisconsin Avenue.

SCOOP … NAHAL TOOSI got her hands on the Middle East peace plan talking points the State Department sent to U.S. diplomats around the world. These are the instructions to American officials as they try to explain and sell the president’s ideas to their foreign counterparts, including, “We thank President Trump for his efforts to make progress on this longstanding conflict.” Read them here

WHAT ELSE IS ON THE PRESIDENT’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 10:33 a.m.: “On the Iraq War Resolution being voted on tomorrow in the House of Represenatives, we are down to 5000 soldiers, and going down, and I want everyone, Republican and Democrat, to vote their HEART!”

HOW IT’S PLAYING … “Poll: Nearly 6 in 10 oppose Trump’s use of executive privilege to muzzle witnesses,” by Caitlin Oprysko: “The new poll shows that just over a quarter of voters, 26 percent, think the president should be allowed to use executive privilege to muzzle potential bombshell witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton. That’s compared with 57 percent who say Trump should not be allowed to invoke the powers of the presidency to block certain witnesses.” POLITICOThe poll

THE LATEST UKRAINE TWISTS — “Dutch Trump superfan who claimed he surveilled Ambassador Yovanovitch told people he was DEA,” by NBC’s Josh Lederman and Anna Schecter

— THE DAILY BEAST: “Parnas Lawyer: Giuliani Delivered Graham Letter Calling for Sanctions on Ukrainian Officials,” by Betsy Swan and Erin Banco: “In late 2018, Rudy Giuliani said he delivered an unusual missive to Sen. Lindsey Graham, according to the lawyer of one of his ex-associates: a letter calling for sanctions on a host of Ukrainian government officials, including one widely viewed in the West as a brave reformer and another who helmed the company where Hunter Biden was a board member.

“Joseph Bondy, the attorney for Lev Parnas, an indicted Florida businessman involved in the U.S.-Ukraine saga, told The Daily Beast that Giuliani showed his client the letter and told him he delivered it to Sen. Graham (the letter misspelled the South Carolina Republican’s first name as ‘Lingsey’). Bondy said Giuliani also showed Parnas a second, similar letter addressed to Sigal Mandelker, who at the time was a top official at the Treasury Department.” Daily Beast
CORONAVIRUS UPDATE … AP’S ADAM SCHRECK and ELAINE KURTENBACH in Bangkok: “British Airways said Wednesday it is halting all flights to China, joining several Asian carriers that are either suspending or significantly cutting back service there as fears spread about a new virus that has killed more than 130 people.

“Air India and South Korean budget carrier Seoul Air are also halting all flights to the country, and Indonesia’s Lion Air plans to do the same. Other carriers including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia are slashing service.” AP

— WSJ’S JENNIFER CALFAS: “Americans Evacuated From Wuhan Pass Initial Health Screens for Coronavirus”

— NYT: “Coronavirus Outbreak Tests World’s Dependence on China,” by Alexandra Stevenson in Hong Kong: “Ford and Toyota will idle some of their vast Chinese assembly plants for an extra week. Apple is rerouting supply chains. Starbucks has closed thousands of stores and is warning of a financial blow. … The full extent of the hit to the broader business world is not yet clear.” NYT

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION — “Interior Department Adopts Restrictions Aimed at Chinese Drones,” by WSJ’s Katy Stech Ferek: “Interior Department officials plan to formally adopt a no-fly rule aimed at drones made in China or with Chinese parts, but will grant exceptions when drones are needed to help respond to natural disasters and other emergencies. The new policy, which will be issued in an order Wednesday, follows the temporary grounding of the department’s drone fleet last year amid rising concerns that the devices could be used for espionage.

“Interior officials have acknowledged that all of the department’s roughly 800 drones are made in China or with Chinese parts. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said his department will grant exceptions for tracking wildfires by air and for emergencies where human safety or property damage are at risk, such as search-and-rescue operations.” WSJ

— DAN DIAMOND and RACHEL ROUBEIN: “The Trump administration will rebrand its Medicaid block grant program and look to safeguard the policy against an expected wave of legal challenges from patient advocates, according to two officials with knowledge of the plan set for release Thursday.

“The forthcoming block grant program comes with a new name — ‘Healthy Adult Opportunity’ — but retains the original mission long sought by conservatives: allowing states to cap a portion of their spending on Medicaid, a radical change in how the safety net health program is financed.” POLITICO

REALITY CHECK from NYT’S ASTEAD HERNDON in Des Moines: “The One About Iowa, Black Voters and Barack Obama”: “It has become political lore, repeated on cable airwaves and by Democratic campaign consultants, even presidential candidates. In 2008, as the story goes, black voters were uncertain about Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy until he won the Iowa caucuses, after which they rallied around him over the onetime front-runner, Hillary Clinton.

“Some Democrats had suggested that a win in next Monday’s Iowa caucuses could have a similar influence among black voters in South Carolina and elsewhere, to the detriment of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who leads among African-Americans in polls. But in reality, according to historical polling data and interviews with some advisers from the Obama campaign, Mr. Obama’s political strength with black voters was stronger than many remember.” NYT

KEEP AN EYE ON THIS — “Dems Are Buying ‘Tens of Millions’ of Cellphone Numbers in Huge Voter Contact Push,” by The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay and Sam Stein: “The Democratic National Committee is dropping ‘six figures’ to acquire ‘tens of millions’ of cellphone numbers through a variety of vendors, the group exclusively told The Daily Beast. [Its] plan is to boost Democratic voter outreach, fundraising, and data collection …

“The cellphone buy marks the first time that the DNC has purchased a bulk file of nationwide phone numbers during a presidential election cycle. … In 2016, the DNC was focused on acquiring numbers strictly in battleground states.” Daily Beast

MAKING IT OFFICIAL — “Collins launches Georgia Senate bid, setting up GOP clash,” by James Arkin

2024 WATCH — AP’S MARC LEVY (@timelywriter): “Pennsylvania wants to be a player in the presidential primary, instead of an afterthought. The state Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would move up Pennsylvania’s presidential primary election by five weeks, starting in 2024.”

INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK!! — “House Democrats unfurl climate-tinged infrastructure plan, but GOP support uncertain,” by Kathy Wolfe: “House Democratic leadership unveiled Wednesday the outlines for a $760 billion, five-year infrastructure package, an amalgamation of recurring highway and transit and water measures as well as an ambitious climate agenda meant to send a message as Congress pivots away from impeachment and toward the election. …

“But so far Democrats have no stated way to pay for the spending. It’s a tricky issue, especially considering the simplest option — a hike to the gasoline tax, which hasn’t been raised since 1993 — is considered a political non-starter.” POLITICO

HOW BEZOS GOT HACKED — “Jeff Bezos’s iPhone had Apple’s state-of-the-art security, and that may have helped its alleged hackers,” by WaPo’s Reed Albergotti, Craig Timberg and Jay Greene: “A security report last week alleged that Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, received a WhatsApp message laden with code that secretly snatched reams of personal data from his iPhone X. …

“Security researchers say Bezos probably fell victim to the iPhone’s Achilles’ heel: Its defenses are so difficult to penetrate that once sophisticated attackers are in, they can go largely undetected. … That is in part because Apple employs a secretive approach to finding and fixing security flaws, researchers say, something that has generated debate in the security community.” WaPo

MEDIAWATCH — “Warren Buffett Throws in the Towel on His Newspaper Empire,” by Bloomberg’s Katherine Chiglinsky: “Berkshire Hathaway Inc. sold its BH Media unit and its 30 daily newspapers to Lee Enterprises Inc., which owns papers including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for $140 million in cash. Lee had been managing the papers for Buffett’s company since 2018, and Berkshire lent Lee the money for the purchase.

“Buffett, who got a job delivering papers as a teenager and invested in the industry to capitalize on its one-time local advertising monopoly, lamented last year that most newspapers are ‘toast.’ … The sale will include Buffett’s hometown Omaha World-Herald, along with 49 weekly publications and a number of other print products.” Bloomberg

— CNN’S HADAS GOLD in London: “BBC slashes 450 newsroom jobs in shift to digital”: “The BBC said it would cancel one of its flagship programs, and reduce the number of films produced for Newsnight, its late evening daily news show. Cuts will also be made to the BBC World Service, and the number of anchors will be reviewed. … The BBC said its newsrooms will in future focus on fewer stories and reorganize around a ‘story-led’ model, with more journalists based outside of London.” CNN

— Amber Athey is joining The Spectator as Washington editor. She most recently has been White House correspondent at The Daily Caller.

TRANSITIONS — Doug Bibby, longtime president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, will step down in 2021. … Scott Luginbill is joining the Republican National Convention in Charlotte to handle congressional affairs. He currently is COS to Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.).

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Marguerite Bowling, senior communications manager at the Heritage Foundation, and Justin Bowling, an Anne Arundel County firefighter, welcomed Ian James Bowling on Saturday night. He came in at 8 lbs, 3 oz and 20 inches. Pic

BIRTHWEEK (was Friday): Abigail Disney

BONUS BIRTHDAY: Susie McKinley

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The Only People Here Making Money Off Politics Are John Bolton & the Bidens

Sen. Rand Paul is not happy about impeachment, particularly when it comes to rhetoric involving who’s making money off of access to power.

The libertarian-leaning Republican from Kentucky appeared Tuesday on Fox News, the same day that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer held a news conference in which he accused both Donald Trump and his children of making money off of the presidency.

The accusations had to do with former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s upcoming tell-all in which he reportedly claims he was concerned about the president granting favors to leaders in China and Turkey, countries not known for their dedication to democracy.

The book isn’t out yet and the accusations, while serious, still seem a bit more like a promotional campaign than something the Democrats ought to be basing their hopes on.

Schumer was willing to extrapolate much further, however, speculating that the president and his family had used the deals to profit from the office.

TRENDING: Biden Campaign Is Willing To Risk Staffers’ Lives To Get Him Elected

“Now, just look at the other New York Times report last night about Ambassador Bolton’s book,” Schumer said at the news conference. “Several members of the administration had concerns about the president’s dealings with autocrats.”

As Fox News reported, Bolton’s new book “claims the former adviser wrote that the president told him in August that he wanted to continue to freeze almost $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats, including the Biden family.”

“However, the Department of Justice said in a statement Monday night that the Times report ‘grossly’ mischaracterized the exchange.”

On one hand, nobody expected Schumer to buy the DOJ’s claim. On the other hand, nobody expected him to insinuate the president and his family were somehow making money off of despots.

Do you think Chuck Schumer was out of line with his remarks?

“Did the president have financial interests at stake when he was talking to [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan or … [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping] and others?” Schumer said.

“Maybe his kids had some economic interest at stake. And, did it impact our nation’s foreign policy with those countries?” he added. “Those questions are not the subject of the president’s impeachment trial, but this report should be a warning sign to any Republican.”

Given the strangeness of certain aspects of the statement, it was difficult to tell what one was to infer about Schumer’s remarks.

If the line about Trump’s kids was partially sarcasm designed to minimize Hunter Biden’s Burisma connections, it fell flat with the same kind of leaden thud that Adam Schiff’s “parody” version of President Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president did.

If it wasn’t sarcasm, this is indeed a curious charge, given the fact that no one has yet accused Trump or his children of doing this.

RELATED: Fiery Rand Paul Blisters Schumer’s ‘Scurrilous’ Remarks in Real Time, Says Trump Should Sue for Defamation

That makes this seem a bit less like spitballing and a bit more like defamation of character.

Whatever the case, Paul has a slightly more plausible theory of who’s making money off of politics, at least in this situation: Bolton and the Bidens:

“You know, I’m offended and shocked that Schumer would be so scurrilous as to accuse the president and his children of making money illegally off of politics when the only people we know who have actually made money off this have been Hunter Biden and Joe Biden,” a visibly irritated Paul said on “America’s Newsroom.”

“So Hunter Biden makes a million dollars a year, that’s documented, but Schumer simply creates and makes up and says, ‘Oh, maybe the president’s kids are making money,’” he continued.

This is indeed an interesting point inasmuch as Hunter Biden would be nigh unemployable if he didn’t share a last name with one of the most powerful individuals in American politics.

It’s not just Ukrainian natural gas concerns that have curiously offered Hunter Biden employment despite the fact his qualifications were dubious at best. In fact, plenty of his jobs seemed curiously tied to interests close to Joe Biden’s career.

I’m not writing a non-fiction novella here so I can’t possibly include every single instance of suspicious synchronicity between Hunter Biden’s employment history and Joe Biden’s legislative interests, but consider the fact that Hunter was on the payroll of credit card giant MBNA at the same time Joe Biden, in his role as a Democratic senator from Delaware, was aggressively promoting legislation which would make it more difficult to discharge credit card debt in bankruptcy.

(In fact, Joe Biden’s fealty to the Delaware-based banking titan was so notorious he was derisively known for many years as “the senator from MBNA,” meaning Hunter could perhaps have been considered a legislative assistant.)

Another person making money from politics, according to Paul, is Trump’s former national security advisor.

“Look, a month ago, he didn’t want to testify in the House. Why? Maybe his book wasn’t finished. Now his book is finished. He wants to testify,” he said.

“John Bolton is making money as we speak. He’s probably already gotten a several million dollar advance for this book. He’s making money by testifying against the president,” Paul said.

“The only people we know that have actually made money: Hunter Biden and now John Bolton. And, they’re not objective. John Bolton’s not objective in any way now that he’s been cashing million-dollar checks. To have Schumer come up and say out of the blue, ‘Maybe the president’s kids are making money,’ with no evidence at all, that’s defamation and they ought to sue him,” Paul added.

“There’s nothing in the record about the president’s kids,” the Kentucky Republican said.

“So Schumer just has created this whole thing out of whole cloth and said, ‘Oh, well why don’t we go after the president’s kids? We don’t know yet whether or not the president’s dealings with the Chinese president have something to do with the Trumps making money.’ He just made it up. Completely made it up! That is defamation of character, and he ought to go to court and be sued for it.”

There’s zero chance of that happening — although, quite frankly, if Trump decided to go with that strategy, I think we might finally have some evidence he used his office to get some money.

Instead of getting it from Xi or Erdogan, however, he’d be getting it from Chuck Schumer.

Hunter Biden and Burisma might not be the most egregious example of corruption in Ukraine, but give any Democrat a polygraph and ask them a) whether they thought Hunter Biden had any qualifications to serve on the board of Burisma and b) whether Joe Biden had a clear conflict of interest in calling for the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who once investigated Burisma, however corrupt said prosecutor may be, and you’d either have a demonstrably lying Democrat or a demonstrably faulty polygraph machine.

As for John Bolton, there are plenty of conservatives who have held him in high respect, including this writer.

He’s had an admirable career.

He also left the Trump administration under the saltiest of circumstances and is currently promoting an inside-the-Beltway tell-all with a very felicitous release date.

As these tell-alls go, the most salacious allegations are always leaked in the vaguest of terms to the publications most inclined to make the biggest deal out of them.

Are the accusations inaccurate or exaggerated? Nobody can be sure, but they’re certainly making John Bolton money.

Considering cui bono, one might be well advised to engage in a bit of caveat lector.

But that’s the great thing about Schumer’s remarks.

Is there any evidence Hunter Biden benefited financially from his surname?

Of course!

Is there any evidence John Bolton is benefiting from the controversy surrounding his book? ¡Por supuesto!

Is there any evidence the Trump family is benefiting from politics.

Um, nope.

Guess which one of these Schumer decided to accuse of abusing their office to make money?

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Aaron Hernandez’s Fiancée Breaks Silence About His Sexuality Following Netflix Documentary

Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, Aaron Hernandez’s fiancée, has broken her silence regarding the late football player’s sexuality following the release of a Netflix documentary.

Jenkins-Hernandez sat down with ABC’s Amy Robach for Tuesday’s episode of “Good Morning America,” where she claimed Hernandez had never disclosed to her that he was gay or bisexual.

Jenkins-Hernandez claimed she “would not have loved him any differently” if he had told her.

“You can’t describe someone’s sexuality without them being here,” Jenkins-Hernandez said. “Although I have a child with Aaron, I still can’t tell you how he was feeling inside. No one can.”

“If he did feel that way, or if he felt the urge, I wish that I — I was told,” she said on “GMA.” “And I wish that he — you know, he would’ve told me because I wouldn’t — I would not have loved him any differently. I would have understood. It’s not shameful, and I don’t think anybody should be ashamed of who they are inside, regardless of who they love. I think it’s a beautiful thing, I just wish I was able to tell him that.” (RELATED: REVIEW: ‘Killer Inside: The Mind Of Aaron Hernandez’ Is An Incredible Documentary)

The Netflix docuseries “Killer Inside: The Mind Of Aaron Hernandez” focused on the former NFL star’s rise in the league followed by his murder conviction. In April of 2015, Hernandez was convicted of murdering his friend Odin Lloyd. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Hernandez died from suicide while in prison in 2017.

The documentary included Hernandez’s sexual history including an alleged sexual relationship between the former Patriots player and high school teammate Dennis Sansoucie.

Jenkins-Hernandez was not interviewed for the Netflix docuseries.

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