Dems Demand Bolton Testify at Trial 01/27 06:07
The stakes over witness testimony at President Donald Trump's impeachment
trial are rising now that a draft of a book from former national security
adviser John Bolton appears to undercut a key defense argument.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The stakes over witness testimony at President Donald
Trump's impeachment trial are rising now that a draft of a book from former
national security adviser John Bolton appears to undercut a key defense
Bolton writes in the forthcoming book that Trump told him that he wanted to
withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid from Ukraine until it
helped him with politically charged investigations, including into Democratic
rival Joe Biden. Trump's legal team has repeatedly insisted that the Republican
president never tied the suspension of military assistance to the country to
investigations that he wanted into Biden and his son.
The account immediately gave Democrats new fuel in their pursuit of sworn
testimony from Bolton and other witnesses, a question expected to be taken up
later this week by the Republican-led Senate. The trial resumes Monday
afternoon with arguments from Trump's defense team.
Bolton's account was first reported by The New York Times and was confirmed
to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the manuscript on the
condition of anonymity to discuss the book, "The Room Where It Happened; A
White House Memoir," ahead of its release March 17.
When the Times report went online Sunday night, the seven House Democratic
managers immediately called on all senators to insist that Bolton be called as
a witness and provide his notes and other relevant documents. Sen. Chuck
Schumer, the Senate's top Democrat, issued the same call.
Trump denied the claims in a series of tweets early Monday. "I NEVER told
John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats,
including the Bidens," Trump said in a tweet. "In fact, he never complained
about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said
this, it was only to sell a book." Trump said people could look at transcripts
of his call and statements by Ukraine President Vlodymyr Zelinskiy that there
was no pressure for such investigations to get the aid.
Bolton, who acrimoniously left the White House a day before Trump ultimately
released the Ukraine aid on Sept. 11, has already told lawmakers that he is
willing to testify, despite the president's order barring aides from
cooperating in the probe.
"Americans know that a fair trial must include both the documents and
witnesses blocked by the President --- that starts with Mr. Bolton," the
impeachment managers said in a statement.
First, though, Trump's legal team will begin laying out its case in depth,
turning to several high-profile attorneys to argue against impeachment.
The lawyers revealed the broad outlines of their defense in a rare but
truncated Saturday session, at which they accused House Democrats of using the
impeachment case to try to undo the results of the last presidential election
and drive Trump from office.
The legal team is expected to pick up on that theme and also dive into areas
that received negligible attention during the Democrats' presentation,
including the now-concluded investigation into ties between Russia and Trump's
Trump's lawyers aren't expected to take as much time for their arguments as
the Democrats, whose impeachment managers spoke for about 24 hours over three
days. But they also don't need to: Acquittal is likely in a Senate where
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority, with a two-thirds vote needed for
conviction. Still, they see an opportunity to counter the allegations, defend
the powers of the presidency and prevent Trump from being weakened politically
ahead of November's election.
Trump faces two articles of impeachment. One accuses him of abusing his
power by asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, his Democratic rival, while
his administration withheld hundreds of millions of dollars from the country.
The other alleges that Trump obstructed Congress by directing aides to not
cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
The legal team will portray Trump as having been harassed by investigations
from federal agents --- and Democrats --- since he took office and will seize
on the FBI's recent acknowledgment of surveillance errors during the Russia
probe. The lawyers have already hinted that they will focus attention on Biden
just as he campaigns for a first-place finish in next week's Iowa caucuses.
Monday's presentation is expected to include appearances by Alan Dershowitz,
who will argue that impeachable offenses require criminal-like conduct, and Ken
Starr, the independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation that led to the
impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Former Florida Attorney General Pam
Bondi is also expected to make arguments.
Many legal scholars reject Dershowitz's arguments, saying the Founding
Fathers meant for impeachable offenses to incorporate a broad range of conduct
by presidents. Dershowitz told The Associated Press last week that he
understood that some critics thought his argument was "bonkers" but encouraged
them to listen nonetheless.
Democrats argued their side of the impeachment case for three days last
week, warning that Trump will persist in abusing his power and endangering
American democracy unless Congress intervenes to remove him before the 2020
On Saturday, the president's attorneys said there was no evidence that Trump
made the military aid contingent on the country announcing an investigation
into Biden. They also accused Democrats of omitting information that was
favorable to Trump's case.
Once Trump's team concludes, senators will have 16 hours to ask questions of
both the House impeachment prosecutors and the president's legal team. Their
questions must be in writing, and Chief Justice John Roberts, who has been
presiding over the trial, will read them aloud.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told reporters Saturday that Republicans
expected to get together on Monday to start formulating a list of questions.
"We will meet as a conference and decide what questions we want to pose,
what the order may be of those of those questions," he said.
After the question-and-answer time has elapsed, the Senate will take up the
question of whether to consider new witnesses and evidence --- a question that
could be more politically complicated with the account in Bolton's book.
Four Republicans would have to break ranks to join Democrats to extend the
trial for an undetermined amount of time.
Democrats have been especially seeking testimony from Bolton and acting
White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
An attempt to call either probably would lead to a showdown with the White
House, which claims both men have "absolute immunity" from being called to
testify before the Senate, even in an impeachment trial.