But the Senate was consumed by the revelations, which threatened to upend Republican plans for a swift acquittal this week. GOP senators are under rising pressure from Democrats to agree to hear witnesses, including Bolton, and Sen. Mitt Romney suggested it was “increasingly likely” witnesses would be called. But at the end of the day, it was still not clear that a Senate majority exists to do so.
What’s happening Tuesday?
The trial will reconvene at 1:00 p.m., and Trump’s legal team will conclude their arguments by the day’s end.
After both sides have finished their opening arguments, senators will begin a 16-hour stretch where they can ask questions — read aloud by Chief Justice John Roberts — to both the impeachment managers and the president’s attorneys.
‘It’s going to be harmful’: Republicans weaponize Trump team attacks on Biden
The Senate impeachment trial isn’t exactly good press for President Donald Trump. But Senate Republicans says it’s also hurting former Vice President and 2020 hopeful Joe Biden.
The second day of the impeachment trial took a sharp turn, when Trump attorneys Pam Bondi and Eric Herschmann spent a significant portion of their time on the Senate floor arguing that Biden should be investigated for corruption.
But Senate Republicans used the concerted attack on Biden to raise questions about his political viability. Read the full story. — Marianne LeVine
Mitt makes his move
After staying relatively quiet throughout the House’s impeachment inquiry, Sen. Mitt Romney now finds himself in the middle of an increasingly bitter debate in his own party.
The Utah Republican has long been open to hearing from former national security adviser John Bolton and other witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, a position shared by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The trio has searched for a fourth crucial vote to win a majority, but up until Sunday, those appeals seemed to be going nowhere.
Yet following a New York Times report that Trump told Bolton that frozen Ukrainian aid would be restored only if officials in Ukraine announced an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Romney’s push for witnesses has some life — and some Republicans are displeased. Read the full story. — Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan
Republicans give Dershowitz a thumbs-up
The closing argument by former Harvard law professor and defense attorney Alan Dershowitz seemed to please Republican senators — and even earned him a hug from outspoken Trump critic Norm Eisen.
Dershowitz, who wrapped up Monday’s argument on behalf of Trump’s legal team, argued among other things that the claims in former national security adviser John Bolton’s unpublished book — if true — wouldn’t constitute an impeachable defense. Bolton reportedly linked President Donald Trump directly to the freeze in Ukraine aid.
The performance appeared to satisfy Republicans, a number of whom went over to Dershowitz to shake his hand after the Senate adjourned for the night. Eisen — a former White House lawyer in the Obama administration who worked as a part-time House Judiciary Committee counsel — hugged Dershowitz, and the two exchanged what appeared to be pleasantries. — Jesse Naranjo
Dershowitz addresses Bolton
Former Harvard law professor and noted criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz finally mentioned John Bolton by name late Monday night as he was wrapping up his presentation — marking the day’s only direct reference on the Senate floor to the former national security adviser who has threatened to upend the impeachment trial.
“Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense,” Dershowitz said.
Dershowitz also argued that both of Democrats’ articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — are not legitimate impeachable offenses. — Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney
Trump team turns Senate trial into extended Obama-Biden attack
President Donald Trump turned the Senate floor Monday into an alternate-reality impeachment of his political rivals: Joe Biden and Barack Obama.
While senators debated the Trump impeachment behind closed doors — a process now defined by whether they’ll agree to allow new witnesses to testify — his lawyers shed any pretense of persuading a band of centrist Republicans to side with the president and instead acted out a virtual prosecution of Trump’s top political nemeses.
For about two hours on Monday, Trump’s attorneys Pam Bondi and Eric Herschmann argued that it was Biden and Obama who should be investigated for corruption or abuse of power, laying out a case thick with political innuendo that has been sharply refuted by sworn witnesses during the House’s impeachment inquiry late last year. Read the full story. — Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio
Trump team braces for deeper impeachment drama after Bolton surprise
Within just 24 hours, White House officials went from feeling self-assured about the speediness of the Senate impeachment trial to scrambling to squash John Bolton’s bombshell allegation.
Now, White House officials and Trump lawyers are preparing for the possibility that the Senate impeachment trial will summon witnesses — dragging out the trial for days or weeks, cutting into plans for the State of the Union address and delaying Trump’s pivot to his reelection campaign. Read the full story. — Nancy Cook, Darren Samuelsohn and Meridith McGraw
Pelosi not surprised by Bolton news
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday that she wasn’t surprised by claims from John Bolton that directly link President Donald Trump to withheld Ukraine aid.
“I’ve been for witnesses and documentation all along,” Pelosi told reporters as she headed into her weekly leadership meeting Monday evening, adding that it would be interesting to see what senators had to say about it.
Pelosi did not answer questions about whether the House will take any measures in the wake of the news.
Bolton’s claims — reportedly made in an yet-to-be published book — could increase pressure on Senate Republicans to call for witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial. — Jesse Naranjo
Pence distances himself from Ukraine —again
No matter what he does, Vice President Mike Pence keeps getting pulled back into the Ukraine scandal.
On Monday afternoon, Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short released a rare statement about Ukraine again trying to distance the vice president from the issue, saying Trump gave him permission “to set the record straight.”
Short insisted Trump never tied aid to Ukraine to investigations into the Bidens in conversations the vice president had with him as he prepared for a trip to Europe. Instead, he said Trump told Pence that other European nations weren’t doing their part in helping Ukraine.
“As White House Counsel presented today, based upon testimony provided by Democrat witnesses in the House hearings, these were the only issues that the Vice President discussed with Ukrainian officials — because that’s what the President asked him to raise,” he wrote. — Anita Kumar
Bolton bombshell sets off a whodunnit frenzy
The White House and John Bolton’s team agree on this much, at least: It wasn’t us.
As the explosive news of the former national security adviser’s forthcoming book ricochets across Washington — it reportedly accuses the president of tying military aid to Ukraine to investigations of Democrats — each side in the emerging dispute is begging off responsibility for leaking to the New York Times.
Understanding the sourcing behind the story could shine light on whether those who shared information with the Times were motivated to influence the Senate impeachment trial, or — as Republicans suggested on Monday, they were merely trying to juice Bolton’s book sales.
And it could clarify whether top White House officials were aware of Bolton’s allegations, with several GOP senators telling reporters they felt blindsided by the story. Read the full story. — Daniel Lippman, Natasha Bertrand and Meridith McGraw
Trump’s defense team zeroes in on Biden
President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team leaned hard into the corruption allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter — claims that fueled Trump’s alleged pressure campaign in Ukraine.
In an extensive presentation during Monday’s session of the trial, Pam Bondi and Eric Herschmann, members of Trump’s legal team, delved into the corruption claims surrounding Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company.
“Why was Hunter Biden on this board?” Bondi asked, previewing her remarks by stating that the Trump defense team was not planning on bringing up the allegations until the House impeachment managers last week used part of their opening arguments seeking to debunk the issue.
Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani led an effort last year to pressure Ukraine’s government to investigate Burisma and the Bidens, but the allegations are unsubstantiated. Several witnesses who testified before House investigators said there was no validity to the accusations against Biden. Read the full story. — Andrew Desiderio
Witness vote set for Friday
Senate Republicans are eyeing a crucial vote on witnesses by week’s end.
“We’re going to have a vote on witnesses on Friday,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of GOP leadership, told reporters.
The vote is expected to be contentious in the aftermath of revelations from former Trump national security adviser John Bolton that the president told him directly he withheld aid from Ukraine because he wanted its government to investigate his political rivals, including Joe Biden.
Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have said they’re open to hearing from Bolton, but it’s unclear if a necessary fourth Republican will join them and Democrats to bring him in.
If the Senate votes against hearing witness testimony, Mitch McConnell could move toward a vote to acquit Trump quickly. — Marianne LeVine
Warren on possibly missing more campaign time: ‘This is more important’
Elizabeth Warren isn’t at all conflicted about the prospect of President Donald Trump’s trial running past Iowa and into New Hampshire, a real possibility if the Senate votes to hear from witnesses.
“This is more important. There are some things more important than politics,” she said in an interview between testimony from the president’s defense.
The Massachusetts senator is locked in a close race in Iowa and New Hampshire but is one of four senators — along with Michael Bennet, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders — running for president now stuck in Washington for the trial. She said the news that John Bolton has linked Trump directly to the withholding of aid has been a game-changer: “How could the Republicans deny witnesses at this point?” — Burgess Everett
Romney and Starr chew the fat
Spotted chatting at the first trial break: Mitt Romney and Ken Starr.
The Utah senator and the former Bill Clinton investigator had a long, animated conversation after the defense rested for a few minutes. It appeared to be jovial and good-spirited — and included Trump critic Norm Eisen, who signed on last year to serve as a part-time counsel to assist the House Judiciary Committee’s oversight investigations.
As an increasingly large press pack tried to listen and observe the conversation, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) leaned in and whispered a few words, apparently indicating reporters were watching. Romney looked up at the gallery and then he and Starr stepped out of view. — Burgess Everett
Ken Starr: ‘Like war, impeachment is hell’
Ken Starr has made his debut in President Donald Trump’s trial, lecturing senators on how impeachment compares “to domestic war.”
Starr — who was recently added to Trump’s team and gained fame pushing for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton — delivered a lofty speech to senators about the weight of their duties during what he described as an “age of impeachment.”
“Like war, impeachment is hell,” Starr told senators in a speech dense with historical references, from the Alien and Sedition Acts to the Iran-Contra scandal.
Starr’s nearly hour-long speech remained high-level — veering from the impeachment of Andrew Johnson to Richard Nixon to Clinton. He quoted Alexander Hamilton, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and, of course, the Constitution.
“When we look back down the corridors of time, we see that for almost our first century as a constitutional republic, the sword of presidential impeachment remained sheathed.” Starr said.
Some GOP observers compared Starr’s dry remarks unfavorably to other Trump attorneys, whose presentations were fast-moving and complete with multi-media clips.
“This defense needs a little less Atticus Finch and a little more Miss Universe,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) tweeted. — Sarah Ferris
The restless Senate
Ken Starr just managed to do something during President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial that few other speakers have: Keep everyone in their seats.
Maybe it was the one-day break they just had, but for about a half hour Monday afternoon all 100 senators sat rapt at their desks while the former Bill Clinton independent counsel and newfound addition to the president’s legal defense team likened impeachment to war and urged an acquittal vote to avoid long-term constitutional consequences.
Blame Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse for starting the trend to change that. The Rhode Island Democrat was the first to stand and leave the chamber for a little under 10 minutes. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin then exited with a green folder in hand for about a minute. Others who excused themselves for brief periods included Sens. Ron Wyden or Oregon and Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
On the floor, the senators largely sat silent during Starr’s remarks, with a few exceptions. Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth chatted with her two seatmates: Whitehouse and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado. Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski kept busy taking notes, as did a number of Democrats including Kamala Harris of California, Gary Peters of Michigan, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. — Darren Samuelsohn
Trump defense team: Bolton who?
President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team indicated Monday that it would not directly address new bombshell claims from John Bolton that have scrambled Senate Republicans and injected new uncertainty into the trial.
“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,” Jay Sekulow, Trump’s lead personal attorney for the trial, said as he opened up the second day of his team’s opening arguments at the Senate’s trial.
Sekulow did not specifically mention the former national security adviser’s allegation connecting Trump directly to the Ukraine aid freeze and his push for investigations into the Bidens. But it’s not hard to guess what he was referring to. Read the full story. — Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio
Struggling to get on message
Senate Republicans were thrown off-balance Monday by the latest John Bolton revelations, offering a range of convoluted — and at times contradictory — responses to an episode that threatens to upend President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
GOP senators, who hadn’t yet had time to coordinate their responses before arriving at the Capitol, offered an all-over-the-map assessment of the significance of the former national security adviser’s claims. Read the full story. — Heather Caygle and Kyle Cheney
Loeffler takes shot at Romney
Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), the newest member of the Senate, chastised Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Twitter Monday for calling for impeachment witnesses — a rare shot at a fellow colleague.
In a tweet, Loeffler said that “sadly” Romney “wants to appease the left by calling witnesses who will slander” President Donald Trump “during their 15 minutes of fame.”
She added: “the circus is over. It’s time to move on!” Trump initially supported Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) over Loeffler to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Romney said Monday that it was “increasingly likely” that more Republicans would back calls to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, after a bombshell report from the New York Times. According to the Times, Bolton reveals in his new book that Trump told him he sought to withhold aid to Ukraine because he wanted investigations into his political rivals. — Marianne LeVine
Mulvaney rejects Bolton’s claims
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney suggested Monday that John Bolton’s explosive revelations are primarily about the former national security adviser’s desire to sell copies of his book.
In a statement released by his attorney Bob Driscoll, Mulvaney said the new allegations have “more to do with publicity than the truth.”
The New York Times reported that Bolton claims in his unpublished book that Mulvaney was present for a call when Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani discussed former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who testified previously that she was ousted from her post due to a smear campaign from Trump and his allies.
Mulvaney said Bolton never personally raised with him about a conversation he had with the president in which Trump tied millions in aid to Ukraine with investigations into his political rivals.
“John Bolton never informed Mick Mulvaney of any concerns surrounding Bolton’s purported August conversation with the President. 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 Burisma, the Bidens, or the 2016 election,” Mulvaney’s lawyer said in a statement.
“Furthermore, Mr. Mulvaney has no recollection of any conversation with Mr. Giuliani resembling that reportedly described in Mr. Bolton’s manuscript, as it was Mr. Mulvaney’s practice to excuse himself from conversations between the President and his personal counsel to preserve any attorney-client privilege.” — Meridith McGraw
Happy birthday John Roberts
The trial picked back up on Monday with a rare moment of levity as the chamber marked Chief Justice John Roberts’ birthday.
“As the chaplain indicated on behalf of all us, happy birthday,” Mitch McConnell told Roberts, who turns 65 today, with a grin. “I’m sure this is exactly how you had planned to celebrate the day,”
“Well, thank you very much for those kind wishes, and thank you to all the senators for not asking for the yeas and nays,” Roberts responded, eliciting laughter from the chamber. — Caitlin Oprysko
Graham on Bolton: ‘I want to see what’s in the manuscript’
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham said Monday he will seek to obtain a copy of the unpublished manuscript from former national security adviser John Bolton, a move that could bring new evidence into President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
“I want to see what’s in the manuscript,” Graham told reporters, one day after the New York Times reported that Bolton recounts being a first-hand witness to Trump’s request to hold up aid to Ukraine. Read the full story. — Sarah Ferris
Ted Cruz’s new gig: Top podcaster
In 2016, Ted Cruz fought a deeply personal and bitter battle against Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for president. But four years later, the Texas Republican has the top podcast in the country defending the president as he faces his Senate impeachment trial.
The podcast, entitled “Verdict with Ted Cruz” features Cruz and Michael Knowles, a conservative political commentator, and is taped at the end of the Senate impeachment trial every day, even if that means 2 a.m. So far, it’s had more than 250,000 downloads and has even earned a retweet from Trump promoting it. It’s now the number one podcast on iTunes, surpassing “The Joe Rogan Experience” and the New York Times’ “The Daily.” Read the full story here. — Marianne LeVine
Trump says he hasn’t seen Bolton manuscript
President Donald Trump told reporters he has not seen a copy of John Bolton’s book manuscript, and said the allegations made by his former national security adviser are “false.”
Trump’s comments came as he welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House on Monday ahead of an announcement tomorrow of his long-anticipated Middle East peace plan.
“I haven’t seen the manuscript, but I can tell you nothing was ever said to John Bolton, but I have not seen a manuscript. I guess he is writing a book. I have not seen it,” Trump told reporters when asked about the new allegations and whether it increases the chances Bolton is called to testify.
The White House has packed the president’s schedule during this week’s impeachment trial, with a visit from Netanyahu, the announcement of the Middle East peace plan, the signing of the USMCA trade agreement, and campaign rallies.
But with new information still coming out about the Ukraine saga, Trump can’t escape impeachment. — Meridith McGraw
Bolton revelation could scramble Trump’s defense
President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team is confronting a John Bolton-sized crisis.
Trump’s lawyers, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, will regroup Monday and continue presenting a defense of Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine — batting aside the House’s charges that Trump pressured Ukrainian officials to launch baseless investigations of his Democratic adversaries.
Bolton’s revelation presents an existential threat to the Trump defense, which has maintained for months that Democrats couldn’t produce a single witness who could claim with firsthand knowledge that Trump linked the aid freeze to the investigations he sought. Bolton’s reported account also undercuts the White House’s justification for the hold on aid — that Trump wanted to pressure other countries to contribute to Ukraine’s defense, too. Read the full story. — Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio
Dems: Bolton has more credibility than Trump or Giuliani
Senate Democrats on Monday played up former national security adviser John Bolton’s credibility as they undertake a renewed push for his testimony.
“Bolton has a credibility that surpasses Rudy Giuliani or Donald Trump at this point,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told reporters.
But, Blumenthal said, the issue confronting senators is not whether they believe Bolton’s reported account or Trump’s denial — rather, he said, it’s whether Bolton should even be called in for testimony. “They can decide after hearing from him, ‘you know what, I believe the president,’” he added. “But to say we’re not even going to hear from him really defies common sense and fairness.”
Blumenthal also called for the Senate to subpoena Bolton’s notes and book manuscript, in addition to compelling his testimony.
“If [Republicans] put blinders on, they cannot complain that they can’t see, they cannot say, ‘oh well we lack enough information to vote,’ and then deny the information that is needed,” he told reporters. — Andrew Desiderio and Jesse Naranjo
Romney says Bolton may upend Republican fight against witnesses
It’s “increasingly likely” that more Republicans will join calls to seek testimony from John Bolton in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Sen. Mitt Romney said on Monday, with Bolton’s new revelations throwing into doubt how Trump’s trial will proceed.
Just days ago, the Senate GOP appeared ready to defeat a vote to hear more witnesses sought by Democrats. But that dynamic appears shaken after Trump’s former national security adviser revealed in an upcoming book that the president allegedly told him directly that he withheld aid to Ukraine because he wanted the country to investigate his political rivals.
“It’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton. … I have spoken with others who have opined upon this,” Romney (R-Utah) told reporters. “It’s important to be able to hear from John Bolton for us to be able to make an impartial judgement.” Read the full story. — Burgess Everett, Marianne LeVine and John Bresnahan
Bolton’s book still under review at NSC
A manuscript of former national security adviser John Bolton’s book remains under “pre-publication review” at the National Security Council, according a NSC spokesperson.
NSC spokesperson John Ullyot said in a statement that “no White House personnel outside NSC have reviewed the manuscript.” The comment may be intended to head off accusations that Trump’s legal team knew about the bombshell allegation and ignored it.
A hard copy of the draft was given to the NSC on Dec. 30, according to Bolton’s attorney Charles Cooper, to look over and make sure no classified information was inadvertently shared in the book. Bolton’s attorney said they did not believe the book had any classified information, but submitted it for review on the condition that the “contents of Ambassador Bolton’s manuscript will not be reviewed or otherwise disclosed to any persons not regularly involved in that process.”
Bolton’s team pointed a finger at the White House for leaking the contents of Bolton’s book in a statement: “It is clear, regrettably, from The New York Times article published today that the prepublication review process has been corrupted and that information has been disclosed by persons other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript.” — Meridith McGraw
Trump denies explosive new Bolton allegations
President Donald Trump claimed early Monday morning that he “NEVER” communicated to John Bolton that hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on foreign probes into his domestic political rivals — a vehement denial that comes amid intensified calls for testimony by the former national security adviser at the president’s Senate impeachment trial.
Trump delivered his repudiation of the explosive new allegations in a series of tweets shortly after midnight, hours after The New York Times first reported Sunday that Trump told Bolton in August that the administration should continue withholding $391 million in security assistance until officials in the Eastern European nation helped with investigations targeting former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats, according to an initial draft of Bolton’s forthcoming book.
“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,” the president wrote online. Read the full story. — Quint Forgey
Trump plots a flashy series finale for impeachment
The president is itching to close out a bruising chapter of his presidency — with a victory lap to maximize the political value of his expected acquittal.
President Donald Trump is already itching to broadcast the series finale of his impeachment.
In recent days, he and top White House aides have been considering how he should celebrate his presumed acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate and whether he should deliver a rare Oval Office address to mark the occasion, according to three senior administration officials. Read the full story. — Nancy Cook