President Donald Trump’s lawyers’ began their final day of arguments Tuesday having only barely noted the bombshell revelation from former National Security Adviser John Bolton that threatens to upset White House plans for a fast end to the Senate impeachment trial.
Trump’s defense is predicted to talk for about two more hours as they conclude their case, an administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. which will be followed by hours of questions from senators, although Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, said he doesn’t expect the questioning period to start Tuesday because senators need longer to streamline their queries.
Then will come what promises to be a dramatic debate and a flash of reckoning for a couple of Republican moderates over whether to call Bolton or other witnesses.
While Trump and his allies delivered broadsides against Bolton on Twitter and to reporters on Monday, his lawyers mostly stuck to creating a subdued presentation of legal arguments against the fees within the House articles of impeachment that he abused his power and obstructed Congress.
It was left to celebrity lawyer and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who was given a prime-time slot at the top of the defense presentation on Monday, to fleetingly address what has become a looming issue within the trial.
“Nothing within the Bolton revelations, albeit true, would rise to the extent of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense,” Dershowitz said.
A New York Times report that Bolton wrote during a yet-to-be-published book that Trump directly linked the discharge of security aid to Ukraine to get the govt there investigate a political rival divided Senate Republicans and will reset the course of the trial. Senate legislator Mitch McConnell has been steering his GOP majority toward a vote as soon as Friday that’s about bound to end in Trump’s acquittal.
Bolton’s disclosure bolsters the Democrats’ impeachment articles and undercuts the president’s main defense, throwing the trial timeline into question.
Republican Senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are among the senators openly discussing whether to hitch Democrats to subpoena Bolton and maybe others to testify. that might extend the trial past the Feb. 4 State of the Union address and maybe for much longer , though there’s still no expectation there’ll ever be the 67 votes needed to get rid of Trump from office.
“I’d wish to hear from Mr. Bolton,” Romney said Tuesday morning, adding that he doesn’t know needless to say whether the other Republicans will vote to subpoena new witnesses.
Senior Republican lawmakers continued to resist the thought of witnesses.
“Unless there’s a witness who’s getting to change the result , I can’t imagine why we’d want to stretch this out for weeks and months,” said Blunt, a member of McConnell’s leadership team.
A vote on witnesses could come by Friday after senators rise up to 16 hours to question each side . it might take four Republican senators to side with Democrats to urge a 51-vote majority to call Bolton.
While they largely avoided Bolton, the president’s lawyers went directly after Hunter Biden, the son of former vice-chairman Joe Biden, who is seeking to challenge Trump in November. In his July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump said “there’s tons of mention Biden’s son” which Joe Biden tried to prevent an investigation into a Ukrainian energy company that had Hunter Biden on its board.
“So if you’ll check out it,” Trump said consistent with a rough transcript of the conversation released by the White House after an Intelligence Community whistle-blower raised alarms about the decision . “It sounds horrible to me.”
That conversation is at the guts of the abuse of power charge against Trump. The impeachment article says Trump withheld military aid and a gathering with Zelenskiy as leverage to urge Ukraine to announce an investigation into Biden.
Trump lawyer Pam Bondi, a former Florida attorney general, focused on Burisma corruption allegations and concerns raised in media reports at the time about potential conflicts posed by Hunter Biden’s position on the board. She played video excerpts and pull-out quotes from coverage by major news organizations, including ABC and therefore the Washington Post.
“All we are saying is that there was a basis to speak about this, to boost this issue, which is enough,” Bondi said.
The focus on the Bidens could intensify if the Senate votes to hunt witnesses. Several Republican senators have said they’re going to force votes on calling Hunter Biden and maybe others if the Senate votes to permit fresh evidence alter in the week . That, in turn, could keep the difficulty of the Bidens front-and-center heading into the Iowa caucuses next week and beyond.
Democrats have argued that Trump only took an interest in corruption in Ukraine after Biden entered the presidential race last April and polls showed that he could beat Trump in November. The political implications were illustrated by Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst, who wondered if Trump’s lawyers’ presentation could hurt Biden’s candidacy and his showing in Monday’s caucuses.
“I’m really interested to ascertain how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucus-goers. Will they be supporting vice-chairman Biden at this point?” Ernst told reporters.
Biden dismissed the plan to direct attention to him. A spokesman for his campaign, Andrew Bates, said Ernst “just said the quiet part out loud: Republicans are terrified that Joe Biden are going to be the Democratic nominee, defeat Donald Trump, and help progressives gain seats within the House and take the Senate.”
Top Democrats were clearly perturbed during Bondi’s presentation. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and his deputy, Dick Durbin of Illinois, stared straight ahead and didn’t check out the video monitors as she displayed the excerpts. Dianne Feinstein of California, another senior Democrat, sat together with her arms folded tightly ahead of her. John Thune of South Dakota , the No. 2 Senate Republican, gave Bondi a fist bump and thumbs up after the defense wrapped for a dinner break.
Trump’s lawyers spent the majority of the day criticizing the case brought by the House, relying heavily on the shortage of firsthand evidence within the House argument that Trump delayed release of military aid for Ukraine to pressure its government for help to tarnish.
“We affect transcript evidence, we affect publicly available information. We don’t affect speculation, allegations that aren’t supported evidentiary standards in the least,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said.
In an ironic twist, Trump’s defense turned to President Bill Clinton’s prosecutor Kenneth Starr to complain that impeachments are getting too common.
“We live in what I feel can aptly be described because the age of impeachment,” said Starr, who investigated Clinton for years as independent counsel.
Starr said that after the Clinton impeachment both parties decided “enough was enough” and allowed the independent counsel statute allowed to expire.
But, he added, “the impeachment habit proved to be hard to kick.”