President Trump’s lawyers continue their opening arguments before the Senate amid intensifying calls for witnesses to appear in the impeachment trial.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
Here’s what you need to know:
Trump’s defense team ignores the Bolton bombshell.
President Trump’s lawyers avoided on Monday any mention of a newly disclosed firsthand account from his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, that directly undercuts one of the defense’s main arguments.
The New York Times first reported details from drafts of Mr. Bolton’s upcoming book Sunday night, including Mr. Bolton’s assertion that Mr. Trump said he wanted to continue a freeze on military aid to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals.
Calls for witnesses intensified as a result, and three Republican senators — Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — indicated they might vote with Democrats to allow new witnesses to testify at the trial. Democrats need four Republicans for such a measure to pass.
Mr. Romney told reporters on Monday, “I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton.”
The decision not to address Mr. Bolton’s explosive account hung over the lawyers’ first round of arguments as they repeated many of the same assertions offered over the past six months from Mr. Trump and the White House about why a hold was placed on military aid to Ukraine.
Mr. Trump denied Mr. Bolton’s account on Monday.
Mr. Bolton said weeks ago that he would testify at the Senate trial if he was subpoenaed to do so. Democrats have said Republican attempts to prevent new witnesses like Mr. Bolton from coming forward suggests they are covering up for Mr. Trump.
The president was focused on getting more European support for Ukraine, his lawyers say.
One of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Michael Purpura, said the president’s decisions regarding Ukraine were rooted in his desire to get European countries to pitch in more with aid.
“Scrutinizing, and in some cases curtailing, foreign aid was a central plank of his campaign platform,” Mr. Purpura said. “President Trump is especially wary of sending American taxpayer dollars abroad when other countries refuse to pitch in.”
Mr. Purpura left out details about Trump administration officials scrambling to find legal justification for freezing the military aid. An independent government watchdog concluded that Mr. Trump’s decision to withhold the funds was against the law.
The defense briefly addresses Giuliani and then moves on.
Jane Raskin, a member of the president’s defense team, raised the topic of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, and his role in the Ukraine affair.
Ms. Raskin listed Mr. Giuliani’s accomplishments and called him a “colorful distraction.” She said the central role Democrats have affixed to him is undercut by their decision not to subpoena him to testify in the impeachment inquiry last year. (Democrats subpoenaed Mr. Giuliani to provide documents, but he did not comply).
In the midst of the White House efforts to pressure Ukraine, Mr. Bolton last summer described Mr. Giuliani as “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” according to testimony from one of Mr. Bolton’s aides. And it was in part the involvement of Mr. Giuliani, who was not a government official, in American foreign policy that prompted an intelligence officer to file a whistle-blower complaint that ultimately led to the impeachment of Mr. Trump.
Starr opens oral arguments with an unexpected history lesson.
Ken Starr, the dogged independent counsel during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, resumed Mr. Trump’s defense on Monday afternoon with a discursive and at times academic overview of the history of impeachment.
“Like war, impeachment is hell. Or at least presidential impeachment is hell,” said Mr. Starr, who has been a regular guest on Fox News during the Trump administration.
Mr. Trump added Mr. Starr to his legal team shortly before his trial began.
“Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment, including members of this body, full well understand that a presidential impeachment is tantamount to domestic war, but thankfully protected by our beloved First Amendment, a war of words and a war of ideas,” said Mr. Starr, who resigned as independent counsel in 1999 over the “intense politicization” of the investigation.
Mr. Starr’s choice to dwell on history appeared to ignore criticism from some Republican senators that the House managers spent too much time last week on the rehashing of historical references and past legal precedents to justify removing Mr. Trump from office. Mr. Trump’s other lawyers have steered clear of any suggestion that the proceedings will leave an indelible mark on the nation’s history.
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