web analytics
a

Facebook

Twitter

Copyright 2015 Libero Themes.
All Rights Reserved.

8:30 - 6:00

Our Office Hours Mon. - Fri.

703-406-7616

Call For Free 15/M Consultation

Facebook

Twitter

Search
Menu
Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Bolton, John R"

Job Vacancies and Inexperience Mar Federal Response to Coronavirus

Westlake Legal Group 26dc-virus-expertise1-facebookJumbo Job Vacancies and Inexperience Mar Federal Response to Coronavirus Wolf, Chad F. Wilkie, Robert Trump, Donald J Reed, Jack National Security Council Mulvaney, Mick Mnuchin, Steven T Homeland Security Department Hahn, Stephen M (1960- ) federal emergency management agency Customs and Border Protection (US) Cuccinelli, Kenneth T II Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Bowser, Muriel E Bossert, Thomas P Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — Of the 75 senior positions at the Department of Homeland Security, 20 are either vacant or filled by acting officials, including Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary who recently was unable to tell a Senate committee how many respirators and protective face masks were available in the United States.

The National Park Service, which like many federal agencies is full of vacancies in key posts, tried this week to fill the job of a director for the national capital region after hordes of visitors flocked to see the cherry blossoms near the National Mall, creating a potential public health hazard as the coronavirus continues to spread.

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, workers are scrambling to order medical supplies on Amazon after its leaders, lacking experience in disaster responses, failed to prepare for the onslaught of patients at its medical centers.

Empty slots and high turnover have left parts of the federal government unprepared and ill equipped for what may be the largest public health crisis in a century, said numerous former and current federal officials and disaster experts.

Some 80 percent of the senior positions in the White House below the cabinet level have turned over during President Trump’s administration, with about 500 people having departed since the inauguration. Mr. Trump is on his fourth chief of staff, his fourth national security adviser and his fifth secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Between Mr. Trump’s history of firing people and the choice by many career officials and political appointees to leave, he now finds himself with a government riddled with vacancies, acting department chiefs and, in some cases, leaders whose professional backgrounds do not easily match up to the task of managing a pandemic.

“Right now for the life of me, I don’t know who speaks for D.H.S.,” said Janet Napolitano, a secretary of homeland security under President Barack Obama. “Having nonacting leadership, and I think having consistency in your leadership team and the accumulation of experience, really matters. And I think it would be fair to say the current administration hasn’t sustained that.”

One example is the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is legally meant to back up the nation’s health care system in an emergency. The secretary, Robert L. Wilkie, has no experience in emergency management, and he has been largely absent from meetings with senior officials on the pandemic. He recently fired his second in command, who had worked in past disasters, and his head of emergency preparedness retired. Mr. Wilkie took a short leave of absence two weeks ago as the crisis began to unfold in the United States.

Senior officials in the department say they are kept out of the loop on major decisions, such as whether it will continue Mr. Trump’s preferred policy of sending veterans into the community for care, and learn from the news media about how centers are interpreting guidelines.


#styln-briefing-block { font-family: nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif; background-color: #f4f5f2; padding: 20px; margin: 0 auto; border-radius: 5px; color: #121212; box-sizing: border-box; width: calc(100% – 40px); } #styln-briefing-block a { color: #121212; } #styln-briefing-block a.briefing-block-link { color: #121212; border-bottom: 1px solid #cccccc; font-size: 0.9375rem; line-height: 1.375rem; } #styln-briefing-block a.briefing-block-link:hover { border-bottom: none; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-bullet::before { content: ‘•’; margin-right: 7px; color: #333; font-size: 12px; margin-left: -13px; top: -2px; position: relative; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-bullet:not(:last-child) { margin-bottom: 0.75em; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-header { font-weight: 700; font-size: 16px; margin-bottom: 16px; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-header a { text-decoration: none; color: #333; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-footer { font-size: 14px; margin-top: 1.25em; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-briefinglinks { padding-top: 1em; margin-top: 1.75em; border-top: 1px solid #E2E2E3; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-briefinglinks a { font-weight: bold; margin-right: 6px; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-footer a { border-bottom: 1px solid #ccc; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-footer a:hover { border-bottom: 1px solid transparent; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-header { border-bottom: none; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-lb-items { display: grid; grid-template-columns: auto 1fr; grid-column-gap: 20px; grid-row-gap: 15px; line-height: 1.2; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-update-time a { color: #D0021B; font-size: 12px; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-footer-meta { display: flex; justify-content: space-between; align-items: center; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-footer-ts { color: #999; font-size: 11px; } @media only screen and (min-width: 600px) { #styln-briefing-block { padding: 30px; width: calc(100% – 40px); max-width: 600px; } #styln-briefing-block a.briefing-block-link { font-size: 1.0625rem; line-height: 1.5rem; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-bullet::before { content: ‘•’; margin-right: 10px; color: #333; font-size: 12px; margin-left: -15px; top: -2px; position: relative; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-header { font-size: 17px; } #styln-briefing-block .briefing-block-update-time a { color: #D0021B; font-size: 13px; } } @media only screen and (min-width: 1024px) { #styln-briefing-block { width: 100%; }

Many of the newcomers in agencies lack relationships with the private sector and lawmakers to accomplish basic goals.

One high-profile case came with eliminating a directorate at the White House’s National Security Council that was charged with pandemic preparations. In 2018, John R. Bolton, then Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, ousted Thomas P. Bossert, Mr. Trump’s homeland security adviser and longtime disaster expert. The directorate was folded into an office dedicated to weapons of mass destruction.

Equally notable may have been the resignation last year of Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, who was an early advocate for broad coronavirus testing and stronger mitigation policies. He was succeeded by Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, a noted oncologist, who has struggled during Senate hearings to explain some of his positions. The agency is largely viewed as slow in engaging the private sector to develop tests for the coronavirus. Many members of Mr. Gottlieb’s team departed with him, leaving the agency with many people new to their jobs.

The Department of Homeland Security, the agency tasked with screening at airports and carrying out the travel restrictions that were Mr. Trump’s first major action to combat the coronavirus, is full of vacancies. Of the 75 senior positions listed on the department’s website, 20 are either vacant or filled by acting officials.

Mr. Wolf is the acting homeland security secretary, and Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a representative on the coronavirus task force, is the department’s acting deputy secretary. The deputy administrators of the Transportation Security Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency also serve in acting capacities. A federal judge also ruled that the process the Trump administration used to bring Mr. Cuccinelli to the department violated a federal vacancies law that stipulates open leadership positions must go to certain officials.

Mr. Wolf is familiar with airport security operations. He was part of the team that established the Transportation Security Administration and later served as the agency’s chief of staff. But the chaotic introduction of Mr. Trump’s travel restrictions this month against European countries struggling with the pandemic exemplified the erratic structure at the top of the department and the agencies it oversees, said Gil Kerlikowske, a former commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.

Mr. Kerlikowske said relationships with executives at airlines and at the airports were imperative. “The lack of experience and knowledge is kind of telling,” he said.

A spokeswoman for homeland security, Sofia Boza-Holman, said such criticism of the department was unwarranted. “That’s absolutely absurd,” she said. “D.H.S.’s leaders have been at the forefront in helping contain the Covid-19 crisis. Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, D.H.S. has been able to respond wherever and whenever needed.”

Mr. Cuccinelli alarmed the public last month when he took to Twitter to complain that he did not have access to a Johns Hopkins University map of the virus’s spread, leading critics to wonder why Mr. Cuccinelli, a member of the coronavirus task force, needed outside data.

Mr. Wolf drew similar criticism from lawmakers when he failed to provide basic information on the coronavirus outbreak at a Senate appropriations hearing. “Mr. Secretary, you’re supposed to keep us safe,” said Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana. “You’re the secretary of homeland security and you can’t tell me if we have enough respirators.”

Mr. Wolf said the United States was “several months” away from getting a vaccine. “Your numbers aren’t the same as C.D.C.’s,” Mr. Kennedy said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Don’t you think you ought to contact them?”

Even National Park Service vacancies have taken a toll. The park service — which has its own police force — in recent days closed some parking lots near the Tidal Basin on the National Mall, where the cherry blossoms attract huge crowds each year, and urged people to stay away. Mayor Muriel Bowser stepped in and limited access to the area and sent police officers and members of the National Guard to enforce the shutdown.

As he juggles negotiations on Capitol Hill and introduces emergency lending programs with the Federal Reserve, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, is scrambling to have enough officials in place to accommodate the additional workload stemming from four emergency lending programs, two new stimulus bills and a delayed Tax Day, even as departures are in store. The Treasury Department’s acting assistant secretary for international finance, Geoffrey Okamoto, is leaving to be the first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and Brian McGuire, the assistant secretary for legislative affairs, is departing.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Treasury Department is the thin staffing at the Internal Revenue Service. The tax collection agency has faced deep cuts to its budget over the last decade, leaving some of its technology out of date.

Now the I.R.S. must cope with Tax Day being delayed by three months and a deluge of questions from confused taxpayers calling employees that are teleworking. The shortfall in staff is likely to be especially problematic as the Treasury Department tries to send stimulus money to Americans by using the I.R.S.’s taxpayer database to track them down.

Even the Pentagon, which is broadly viewed as better positioned than many other agencies for the pandemic response, is not immune. More than a third of all Senate-confirmed civilian positions at the Defense Department are vacant or filled by temporary officials, a peak level for the administration outside of the transition period, according to Pentagon statistics. Of 60 senior positions, 21 lack permanent appointees.

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this month about the imbalance. “These vacancies continue to challenge the department’s ability to effectively respond to national security challenges and undermine civilian inputs into the decision-making process,” Mr. Reed said.

Mick Mulvaney, who has served as Mr. Trump’s acting White House chief of staff since the beginning of 2019, was formally fired over Twitter on March 6, at the height of the coronavirus crisis.

Mr. Mulvaney has technically stayed on in his position, but since mid-March, he has been in self-isolation in South Carolina after announcing that he had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus.

In previous administrations, the chief of staff has often played the key role in responding to crises.

Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, whom Mr. Trump announced as Mr. Mulvaney’s successor, has been seen at the White House in recent days, though he had not resigned from Congress.

Reporting was contributed by Alan Rappeport, Eric Lipton, Eric Schmitt, Michael D. Shear, and Sheila Kaplan.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Under O’Brien, N.S.C. Carries Out Trump’s Policy, but Doesn’t Develop It

Westlake Legal Group 14dc-nsc1-facebookJumbo Under O’Brien, N.S.C. Carries Out Trump’s Policy, but Doesn’t Develop It United States International Relations Syria O'Brien, Robert C (1952- ) National Security Council McMaster, H R China Bolton, John R Appointments and Executive Changes

WASHINGTON — When President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, convenes meetings with top National Security Council officials at the White House, he sometimes opens by distributing printouts of Mr. Trump’s latest tweets on the subject at hand.

The gesture amounts to an implicit challenge for those present. Their job is to find ways of justifying, enacting or explaining Mr. Trump’s policy, not to advise the president on what it should be.

That is the reverse of what the National Security Council was created to do at the Cold War’s dawn — to inform and advise the president on national security decisions. But under Mr. O’Brien, the White House’s hostage negotiator when Mr. Trump chose him to succeed John R. Bolton in September, that dynamic has often been turned on its head.

Mr. O’Brien, a dapper Los Angeles lawyer, convenes more regular and inclusive council meetings than Mr. Bolton. But developing policy is not really Mr. O’Brien’s mission. In the fourth year of his presidency and in his fourth national security adviser, Mr. Trump has finally gotten what he wants — a loyalist who enables his ideas instead of challenging them.

Two of Mr. O’Brien’s predecessors, Mr. Bolton and the retired Lt. Gen H.R. McMaster, had strong policy views informed by deep military or diplomatic experience that differed from Mr. Trump’s in basic ways, and each sought to steer his policies. Mr. O’Brien does not, and the limited role he plays reflects a broader change in the president’s national security team.

Mr. Trump’s original team included independent figures like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, who were considered “the adults” who could counter the president’s impulsive tendencies. They have been replaced by relatively little known loyalists anxious to carry out Mr. Trump’s will and eager to embrace his zeal in rooting out members of the so-called deep state involved in his impeachment or seen as dissidents.

In the president’s most recent personnel move, he replaced Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, with Richard Grenell, an outspoken Trump supporter serving as ambassador to Germany who has no background in intelligence.

At the National Security Council, a particular target was Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a Ukraine expert who provided crucial testimony to support the impeachment of Mr. Trump, and was fired along with his twin brother, also an Army officer. Asked about their dismissals during an appearance last week at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, the usually voluble Mr. O’Brien was curt.

“Their services were no longer needed,” he said. “We are not a country where a bunch of lieutenant colonels can get together and decide what the policy is of the United States. We are not a banana republic.”

In the years the since the National Security Council was started by President Harry S. Truman in 1947, its influence has fluctuated, depending on the president, the national security adviser and the relative power of the cabinet members and agency chiefs the national security adviser must coordinate.

Mr. O’Brien has said he is rebuilding an apolitical National Security Council, following the model of Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George Bush, who was famed for acting as a neutral arbiter between the competing views of the Pentagon, the State Department, the intelligence agencies and the Treasury.

But virtually every national security adviser says they emulate Mr. Scowcroft. In reality, they selectively choose the elements of his style they admire. And many national security veterans see in Mr. O’Brien’s approach an intentional weakening of the council.

By the end of this month, Mr. O’Brien will have completed what he calls a streamlining of the National Security Council, chopping the council’s staff from 174 policy positions in October to fewer than 115.

The reductions have focused on the dozens of career officials who are detailed to the council from other federal departments and agencies, including the C.I.A., the Pentagon and the State Department. Former officials say the practice of loaning personnel, typically for terms of about 12 to 18 months, has blossomed over the years in part because it allows the White House to employ people without tapping its own budget.

It also means the White House is populated by career officials whose policy views do not necessarily reflect those of the president but which they are expected to mirror. Current and former Trump administration officials blame the detailees for not only slow-walking the enactment of some of Mr. Trump’s decisions with which they disagree, but also for undermining him with leaks to the news media. Reflecting widespread complaints among Trump allies, the Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs, whose program Mr. Trump regularly watches, singled out the National Security Council as a hotbed of dissent during an interview last week with Mr. O’Brien.

“Given what we’ve witnessed in the three years, a little over three years, of this administration, I couldn’t blame the president if he said, ‘Keep them 50 blocks away,’” Mr. Dobbs said. “The vast number of those leaks that have been so harmful to the president and to the administration have come from the National Security Council. Hopefully that’s all changed as a result of your good efforts.”

Mr. O’Brien smiled and nodded in response.

Mr. O’Brien often notes that both Democrats and Republicans have long said the council, whose staff peaked at 236 policy staff members during the Obama era, had grown unwieldy, prone to micromanagement and in need of culling.

“One thing a polarized Washington has been able to agree on is that the N.S.C. got too big,” said John Gans, who has worked at the Pentagon and is the author of a book on the National Security Council.

But shrinking the size of the National Security Council may actually hurt the president’s agenda since it holds departments and agencies accountable for carrying it out, according to Nadia Schadlow, who served as Mr. McMaster’s deputy and was the principal author of Mr. Trump’s national security strategy.

“I understand why this is happening,” Ms. Schadlow said. “But at some point, it could hurt the implementation of the president’s policies.”

As Mr. O’Brien has whittled down the council he manages, and declaring it was all about efficiency, the president has made little effort to disguise his appetite for purging his own government. “DRAIN THE SWAMP!” he tweeted last week, adding: “We want bad people out of our government.”

The same day, Mr. Trump said in a radio interview that he may drastically limit how many national security officials can listen in on his calls with foreign leaders, breaking from decades of White House procedure. “I may end the practice entirely,” he said.

Such commentary “creates the clear impression that this is about retribution, not reform,” said Senator Christopher S. Murphy, a Democratic member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

But Mr. Murphy questioned how much the National Security Council’s structure really matters under a president who often rejects professional advice in making impulsive policy decisions. “It’s not terribly clear what the N.S.C. has been doing for the last three years,” he said. “The N.S.C.’s function now seems to be war-gaming for potential presidential tweets instead of developing policy recommendations for presidential decision-making.”

Mr. Trump is unlikely to mind that. After more than three years in office, he feels more confident than ever in his management of national security, aides say, especially after some of his major decisions — including the killing of the Iranian commander Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani — failed to elicit the disastrous consequences many experts predicted.

Mr. O’Brien’s willingness to trim the National Security Council, Mr. Gans said, “says something about Trump’s Washington.”

“The national security adviser should have the strongest staff possible,” he continued. “But it seems like Robert O’Brien is focused more on that audience of one — and making sure that Donald Trump is happy.”

The case of China may be the most vivid example of the council’s diminishment. In past administrations, the national security adviser has been central to the complex balancing of security and economic issues the making of China policy requires.

But Mr. O’Brien has been a minor player in the administration’s open warfare on China policy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper have publicly called for a broad containment policy that would counter Beijing militarily and cripple key Chinese companies like Huawei, the telecommunications giant.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has taken the opposite view, working to mitigate the confrontation. And much of the White House policymaking has been overseen by Larry Kudlow, a key economic adviser loath to rattle markets.

Normally, the National Security Council would play a role in settling this kind of dispute. But when Mr. Trump tweeted on Tuesday against heavy restrictions on technology sales to China — days after Mr. Esper gave a fiery speech calling for just that — a White House meeting next week on the subject was abruptly postponed. Not only is the policy in some chaos, it is unclear who is supposed to resolve it.

Mr. Trump’s Syria policy is another case in point. When the president pledged in December 2018 to pull out of Syria, stunning top officials, Mr. Bolton worked to mitigate the decision, adding public conditions to the withdrawal that Mr. Trump had not mentioned.

But in October, when Mr. Trump abruptly pulled forces out of the way of a Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria, he did so with no National Security Council policy process — and no serious weighing of the costs to U.S. influence. Mr. O’Brien, still new to the job, offered no objections, officials say.

Mr. O’Brien held midlevel government posts, including a stint as a deputy to Mr. Bolton when he was ambassador to the United Nations before serving as Mr. Trump’s chief hostage negotiator.

He impressed the president in that job by securing the release of several Americans imprisoned by foreign governments and armed groups. Mr. Trump views the release of detained Americans as tactical “wins” that even his critics are reluctant to question, and Mr. O’Brien continues to pursue those cases in his new job.

Some White House aides joke that his experience navigating fraught situations is ideal preparation for serving Mr. Trump. The president, for his part, appreciates Mr. O’Brien’s quiet manner and tailored suits after his complaints about the gruff personalities and unstylish appearances of Mr. McMaster and Mr. Bolton, whose bushy mustache he often privately mocked.

Mr. O’Brien also gets along better than his predecessors did with Mr. Pompeo, who feuded with Mr. Bolton, and with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who often gives foreign policy advice. And he has been friends with Mr. Grenell, the latest addition to the national security team, for over a decade.

He speaks with the president several times a day, often first thing in the morning and sometimes in the White House’s private residence before Mr. Trump descends to the Oval Office.

But he has no prior ties to Mr. Trump or previously known affinity for the president’s “America First” style of nationalism. A book of essays he published in 2016 channeled mainstream conservative views.

Some national security professionals who have worked with or advised Mr. O’Brien say that it is a mistake to underestimate him and that he has a deft managerial touch that reflects his tenure leading dozens of lawyers in the Los Angeles office of Arent Fox, the Washington law firm.

Others complain that he lacks fluency in policy details and delegates heavy lifting to his chief deputy, Matthew Pottinger, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and Marine who is among a handful of White House aides to survive all three years of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

In a television interview in late December, Mr. O’Brien incorrectly referred to the North Korean ruler, Kim Jong-un, swapping the leader’s surname for his given one. It was, his critics said, not a mistake that a more experienced official would have made.

Julian E. Barnes, Adam Goldman, Katie Rogers and Edward Wong contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

3 Takeaways from Today’s Trump Impeachment Trial

Westlake Legal Group 31dc-takeaways-facebookJumbo 3 Takeaways from Today's Trump Impeachment Trial Zelensky, Volodymyr Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Schiff, Adam B Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Rubio, Marco Republican Party Putin, Vladimir V Presidential Election of 2020 Portman, Rob Murkowski, Lisa Kelly, John F (1950- ) impeachment House of Representatives Giuliani, Rudolph W Democratic Party Cipollone, Pat A Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — After 10 days of arguments and deliberations, the Senate voted against hearing from new witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial, signaling a vote to acquit him would likely come in the coming days.

House impeachment managers and President Trump’s defense team made their final arguments for and against hearing from new witnesses as the Senate trial entered its final stages on Friday before the evening vote. Not long before the session started, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, announced that she would vote against a measure to hear new witnesses erasing any doubt that the Republicans would have the support to end the trial without considering new material.

Here are five key takeaways from the afternoon.

In a nearly party-line vote, the Senate decided not to hear testimony from witnesses or review evidence before it moves to vote on whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office.

The 51-49 outcome was not surprising and paved the way for the Senate to acquit Mr. Trump. Senate leaders are negotiating over the next steps to end the trial.

Many of the arguments from the House managers over the past two weeks have been centered on the importance of hearing from witnesses, like Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, who has firsthand accounts of Mr. Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine.

Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, voted in favor of hearing witnesses, as they had signaled ahead of the trial.

Democrats have said that a trial without witnesses and documents is not a fair one. Republicans said that they did not need to hear any additional information and that the Democrats brought a weak case.

The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, said the trial was a sham and a tragedy.

“To not allow a witness, a document — no witnesses, no documents — in an impeachment trial is a perfidy,” Mr. Schumer said after the vote. “America will remember this day, unfortunately, where the Senate did not live up to its responsibilities.”

In the hours before the vote, House impeachment managers made their final plea, citing a New York Times report that published about an hour before the trial started.

The report, which draws from new details from an upcoming book by Mr. Bolton, shows that Mr. Trump had a direct role in the Ukraine pressure campaign earlier than previously known, and senior White House advisers were aware of it.

“Yet another reason why we want to hear from witnesses,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the lead manager.

In the book, Mr. Bolton describes a meeting in early May at which Mr. Trump instructed him to call President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to press him to meet with Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani. According to the book, one of Mr. Trump’s defense lawyers for the impeachment trial, Pat Cipollone, was also in the meeting, which took place months before Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke by phone on July 25. That conversation ultimately set the impeachment proceedings in motion.

The fight over witnesses had largely been an argument about hearing testimony from Mr. Bolton, particularly as details about what he knows of Mr. Trump’s motives and his efforts to pressure Ukraine emerged in the past week.

Mr. Trump blocked Mr. Bolton from testifying in the House impeachment inquiry, but Mr. Bolton has said he would comply with a subpoena to testify during the Senate trial.

Even before the Senate trial resumed on Friday, some Republican senators announced their plans to vote to acquit Mr. Trump, and there was noticeably less note-taking in the Senate chamber compared with previous days of the trial.

“Can anyone doubt that at least half of the country would view his removal as illegitimate — as nothing short of a coup d’état?” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, wrote in a statement on Friday.

His decision, he said, was made out of concern of further dividing the country.

Mr. Rubio added that if the president was removed from office, it would be a victory for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

“It is difficult to conceive of any scheme Putin could undertake that would undermine confidence in our democracy more than removal would,” he wrote.

Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, said that he did find some of Mr. Trump’s actions “wrong and inappropriate,” but he wanted to leave it to voters decide on a verdict in November.

“Our country is already too deeply divided and we should be working to heal wounds, not create new ones,” Mr. Portman said in a statement.

“It seems it was half a trial,” said John F. Kelly, Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, hours before the Senate officially voted.

“If I was advising the United States Senate, I would say, ‘If you don’t respond to 75 percent of the American voters and have witnesses, it’s a job only half-done,’” Mr. Kelly said, ahead of delivering a speech in New Jersey on Friday. “You open yourself up forever as a Senate that shirks its responsibilities.”

Mr. Kelly appeared to be referring to a recent national poll from Quinnipiac University, which found that 75 percent of independents think witnesses should testify. The independent vote is expected to be a critical one in November.

A retired four-star Marine general, Mr. Kelly was well-liked in the Senate — he was confirmed with bipartisan support to be Mr. Trump’s first homeland security secretary — which made his criticism on Friday even more pointed. He was later drafted to be the president’s chief of staff with the hope he would bring order to a White House defined by chaos.

Earlier this week, Mr. Kelly said he believed Mr. Bolton’s account of the president’s dealings with Ukraine, which the president has denied.

“If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton,” he said on Tuesday.

Mr. Kelly and Mr. Bolton overlapped at the White House for much of 2018 but were not always in lock step. On Friday, Mr. Kelly described Mr. Bolton as “an honest and an honorable guy,” and “a copious note-taker.”

Senators will vote at 4 p.m. on Wednesday to render a verdict in President Trump’s impeachment trial. But before then, they will vote on procedural motions on Friday and return at 11 a.m. on Monday to give closing arguments, senators said. They will also have a chance to give floor speeches on Tuesday before the Wednesday vote.

“I’d rather conclude it right away,” said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri. But the rules allowed for more time, and Democrats insisted, he added.

“It gives everybody the flexibility if they need to go somewhere over the weekend,” said Senator Mike Braun, Republican of Indiana.

The schedule means Mr. Trump would deliver the State of the Union address Tuesday night with his all but certain acquittal pending.

For the four senators running for the Democratic nomination to face Mr. Trump in November, it will be a busy few days as they rush to Iowa ahead of the caucuses there on Monday before needing to return to Washington for the closing phase of the trial.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump Told Bolton to Help His Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Book Says

Westlake Legal Group 31dc-bolton1-facebookJumbo Trump Told Bolton to Help His Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Book Says Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (Book) Mulvaney, Mick Manuscripts Kent, George P Giuliani, Rudolph W Cipollone, Pat A Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — More than two months before he asked Ukraine’s president to investigate his political opponents, President Trump directed John R. Bolton, then his national security adviser, to help with his pressure campaign to extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials, according to an unpublished manuscript by Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Trump gave the instruction, Mr. Bolton wrote, during an Oval Office conversation in early May that included the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, who is now leading the president’s impeachment defense.

Mr. Trump told Mr. Bolton to call Volodymyr Zelensky, who had recently won election as president of Ukraine, to ensure Mr. Zelensky would meet with Mr. Giuliani, who was planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss the investigations that the president sought, in Mr. Bolton’s account. Mr. Bolton never made the call, he wrote.

The previously undisclosed directive that Mr. Bolton describes would be the earliest known instance of Mr. Trump seeking to harness the power of the United States government to advance his pressure campaign against Ukraine, as he later did on the July call with Mr. Zelensky that triggered a whistle-blower complaint and impeachment proceedings. House Democrats have accused him of abusing his authority and are arguing their case before senators in the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump, whose lawyers have said he did nothing wrong.

The account in Mr. Bolton’s manuscript portrays the most senior White House advisers as early witnesses in the effort that they have sought to distance the president from. And disclosure of the meeting underscores the kind of information Democrats were looking for in seeking testimony from his top advisers in their impeachment investigation, including Mr. Bolton and Mr. Mulvaney, only to be blocked by the White House.

In a statement after this article was published, Mr. Trump denied the discussion that Mr. Bolton described.

“I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of N.Y.C., to meet with President Zelensky,” Mr. Trump said. “That meeting never happened.”

In a brief interview, Mr. Giuliani denied that the conversation took place and said those discussions with the president were always kept separate. He was adamant that Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Mulvaney were never involved in meetings related to Ukraine.

“It is absolutely, categorically untrue,” he said.

Neither Mr. Bolton nor a representative for Mr. Mulvaney responded to requests for comment.

Mr. Bolton described the roughly 10-minute conversation in drafts of his book, a memoir of his time as national security adviser that is to go on sale in March. Over several pages, Mr. Bolton laid out Mr. Trump’s fixation on Ukraine and the president’s belief, based on a mix of scattershot events, assertions and outright conspiracy theories, that Ukraine tried to undermine his chances of winning the presidency in 2016.

As he began to realize the extent and aims of the pressure campaign, Mr. Bolton began to object, he wrote in the book, affirming the testimony of a former National Security Council aide, Fiona Hill, who had said that Mr. Bolton warned that Mr. Giuliani was “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”

Mr. Trump also repeatedly made national security decisions contrary to American interests, Mr. Bolton wrote, describing a pervasive sense of alarm among top advisers about the president’s choices. Mr. Bolton expressed concern to others in the administration that the president was effectively granting favors to autocratic leaders like Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Xi Jinping of China.

The New York Times reported this week on another revelation from Mr. Bolton’s book draft: that Mr. Trump told him in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter. That account undercuts a key element of the White House impeachment defense — that the aid holdup was separate from his requests for inquiries. Mr. Trump has denied the conversation took place.

Since that Times article, people who have reviewed the draft have further described its contents, including details of the May meeting. Mr. Bolton’s manuscript was sent to the White House for a standard review process in late December.

Its revelations galvanized the debate over whether to call witnesses in the impeachment trial, but late on Thursday, Republicans appeared to have secured enough votes to keep any new testimony out of Mr. Trump’s trial and to move toward a quick acquittal in the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.

The White House has sought to block the release of the book, contending that it contains classified information. The government reviews books by former officials who had access to secrets so they can excise the manuscripts of any classified information. Officials including Mr. Trump have described Mr. Bolton, who was often at odds with Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Mulvaney, as a disgruntled former official with an ax to grind.

Mr. Bolton has angered Democrats — and some Republicans — for remaining quiet during the House investigation, then announcing that he would comply with any subpoena to testify in the Senate and signaling that he is eager to share his story. Administration officials should “feel they’re able to speak their minds without retribution,” he said at a closed-door lunch in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, the NBC affiliate KXAN reported, citing unnamed sources.

“The idea that somehow testifying to what you think is true is destructive to the system of government we have — I think, is very nearly the reverse, the exact reverse of the truth,” Mr. Bolton added.

The Oval Office conversation that Mr. Bolton described came as the president and Mr. Giuliani were increasingly focusing on pushing the Ukrainian government to commit to investigations that could help Mr. Trump politically. At various points, Mr. Trump, Mr. Giuliani and their associates pressed Ukrainian officials under Mr. Zelensky and his predecessor to provide potentially damaging information on the president’s rivals, including Mr. Biden and Ukrainians who Mr. Trump’s allies believed tried to help Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Mr. Giuliani had just successfully campaigned to have the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, recalled, convinced that she was part of an effort to protect Mr. Trump’s political rivals from scrutiny. Mr. Giuliani had argued she was impeding the investigations.

At the time of the Oval Office conversation Mr. Bolton wrote about, Mr. Giuliani was planning a trip to Kyiv to push the incoming government to commit to the investigations. Mr. Giuliani asserted that the president had been wronged by the Justice Department’s Russia investigation and told associates that the inquiry could be partly discredited by proving that parts of it originated with suspect documents produced and disseminated in Ukraine to undermine his onetime campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, whose work in Ukraine became a central focus of the Russia inquiry.

Mr. Giuliani, a private consultant with a range of international clients, had said none were involved in the Ukraine effort, Mr. Bolton wrote, adding that he was skeptical and wanted to avoid involvement. At the time, Mr. Giuliani was working closely with two Soviet-born businessmen from Florida, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, to carry out the shadow Ukraine effort.

After pushing out Ms. Yovanovitch, Mr. Giuliani turned his attention to other American diplomats responsible for Ukraine policy. During the Oval Office conversation, he also mentioned a State Department official with the last name of Kent, whom Mr. Bolton wrote he did not know. Mr. Giuliani said he was hostile to Mr. Trump and sympathetic to George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who has long been a target of the far right.

George P. Kent, a top State Department official who oversees Ukraine policy, went on to be a key witness in House Democrats’ impeachment investigation, testifying that claims by Mr. Giuliani’s allies of Mr. Soros’ wide influence in Ukraine were used to smear Ms. Yovanovitch.

Mr. Bolton left the Oval Office after 10 minutes and returned to his office, he wrote. Shortly after, two aides came into his office, saying Mr. Trump had sent them out of a separate meeting on trade to ask about Mr. Kent, Mr. Bolton wrote.

The conversation that Mr. Bolton describes was separate from another one that Mr. Bolton wrote about, where he observed Mr. Mulvaney and Mr. Trump talking on the phone with Mr. Giuliani about Ukraine matters. Mr. Mulvaney has told associates he would leave the room when Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani were talking to preserve their attorney-client privilege, and his lawyer said earlier this week that Mr. Mulvaney was never in meetings with Mr. Giuliani and has “no recollection” of the first discussion.

Around the time of the May discussion, The Times revealed Mr. Giuliani’s efforts and his planned trip to Ukraine. Mr. Giuliani said at the time that Mr. Trump was aware of his efforts in Ukraine, but said nothing else about any involvement of Mr. Trump or other members of the administration. The disclosure created consternation in the White House and Mr. Giuliani canceled his trip.

A day after the Times article was published, Mr. Giuliani wrote a letter to Mr. Zelensky, saying he was representing Mr. Trump as a “private citizen” and, with Mr. Trump’s “knowledge and consent,” hoped to arrange a meeting with Mr. Zelensky in the ensuing days. That letter was among the evidence admitted during the House impeachment inquiry.

Peter Baker and Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Lamar Alexander, Key G.O.P. Senator, Plans to Oppose Move for New Evidence

WASHINGTON — Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said late Thursday that although he believed that Democrats had proved their case that President Trump acted “inappropriately” in his dealings with Ukraine, he did not think the president’s actions were impeachable and would vote against considering new evidence in the impeachment trial.

Mr. Alexander’s statement was a strong indication that Republicans had lined up the votes to block a call for more witnesses and documents on Friday and press toward a quick acquittal in the third presidential impeachment trial in history. His opposition was a significant victory for the White House and Republican leaders.

“The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did,” Mr. Alexander said in a late-night statement after the conclusion of a second marathon day of questioning by senators. “I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday.”

In announcing his stance, Mr. Alexander effectively conceded that the president had engaged in a corrupt effort to leverage taxpayer money to advance his own political objectives — the basis of the abuse-of-power charge against him — but said he had concluded such actions were not impeachable. He called the second charge, obstruction of Congress, “frivolous.”

“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” he said in a statement released at 11 p.m. “When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”

His announcement capped a day of intense lobbying both on the floor of the Senate and off as each side sought to appeal to a shrinking group of undecided Republicans. Shortly before Mr. Alexander declared his intentions, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, another moderate, became the second Republican to say definitively that she would vote in favor of considering new evidence, after Senator Mitt Romney of Utah.

Video

transcript

Questions at Impeachment Trial on Witnesses and Whistle-Blower

On their last day of questioning in the impeachment trial of President Trump, senators put Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the middle of the fray.

“Senator from Kentucky?” “I have a question to present to the desk for the House manager Schiff and for the president’s counsel.” “Thank you.” “The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted.” “The question from Senator Warren is for the House managers: At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?” “I don’t think a trial without witnesses reflects adversely on the chief justice. I do think it reflects adversely on us.” “Senators for both parties —” “Senator from South Dakota —” “The question from Senator Portman —” “The senator from Wisconsin —” “Senator Brown and Wyden —” “Mr. Chief Justice.” “Senator from Alaska?” “May I send a question to the desk?” “Thank you.” “Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton?” “The House could have pursued Ambassador Bolton. The House considered whether or not they would try to have him come testify and subpoena him. They chose not to subpoena him. And it will do grave damage to this body as an institution to say that the proceedings in the House don’t have to really be complete — you don’t have to subpoena the witnesses that you think are necessary to prove your case, you don’t really have to put it all together before you bring the package here, even when you’re impeaching the president of the United States, the gravest impeachment that they could possibly consider.”

Westlake Legal Group merlin_168116028_c2803c0d-03b1-4ab8-81be-491741fcef9a-videoSixteenByNine3000 Lamar Alexander, Key G.O.P. Senator, Plans to Oppose Move for New Evidence United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Romney, Mitt Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 Pelosi, Nancy McConnell, Mitch Johnson, Andrew impeachment House of Representatives Democratic Party Collins, Susan M Bolton, John R Biden, Joseph R Jr Barrasso, John Alexander, Lamar

On their last day of questioning in the impeachment trial of President Trump, senators put Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the middle of the fray.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Democrats would need four Republicans to join them in voting for a motion to consider additional witnesses and documentary requests. After Mr. Alexander and Ms. Collins made their positions clear on Thursday night, all eyes turned to a fourth possible Republican swing vote, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who said she would announce her decision on Friday.

Both parties deemed it nearly impossible that any other Republican senator would defect.

As the trial neared a critical turning point, both parties were already looking beyond the verdict and framing their arguments to voters ahead of the November elections.

“If the American people decide that they don’t like what’s happened here, that they don’t like the constitutional violations that have happened, that they don’t like the attack on a successful president for purely partisan political purposes, then they can do something about it, and they can throw them out,” said Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel.

Bracing for a likely defeat of their efforts to force witnesses to be heard at the trial, Democrats forecast what is likely to be their message after the verdict is reached, asserting that Mr. Trump’s acquittal would be illegitimate because the trial was flawed.

“He will not be acquitted,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, told reporters at her weekly news conference. “You cannot be acquitted if you don’t have a trial. You don’t have a trial if you don’t have witnesses and documentation.”

Even before Mr. Alexander announced his stance on witnesses, Senate Republican leaders projected confidence that they would line up the requisite votes, and privately plotted the trial’s endgame. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, spent much of Thursday toiling behind the scenes to cajole wavering moderates and stifle any move to prolong the trial by admitting additional evidence.

Asked about the looming vote as he arrived on Thursday morning to the Capitol, he told reporters: “I’m always confident.”

Ms. Murkowski appeared to be grappling with her position on Thursday evening. After the Senate broke for dinner, she submitted a question for Mr. Trump’s defense team asking why the Senate should not hear from John R. Bolton, his former national security adviser, who wrote in an unpublished book that Mr. Trump said he would not release the military aid for Ukraine until the country assisted in investigations of his political rivals.

She noted that account, reported on Sunday by The New York Times, contradicted Mr. Trump’s explicit denials that he had linked the military aid and investigations.

“This dispute about material facts weighs in favor of calling additional witnesses with direct knowledge,” Ms. Murkowski asked. “Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton?”

But later, she joined with Mr. Alexander and other senators in asking Mr. Trump’s team if they agreed that even if Mr. Bolton’s account were true, the president’s conduct did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. They did.

The House Democratic prosecutors made their final pleas to call the former national security adviser as the vote drew closer.

“The truth is staring us in the eyes,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House manager. “We know why they don’t want John Bolton to testify: It’s not because we don’t know what really happened here, they just don’t want the American people to hear it in all its ugly, graphic detail.”

Mr. Alexander, a former education secretary and presidential candidate set to retire at the end of the year, met privately with Ms. Murkowski earlier Thursday evening when the trial broke for dinner and also informed Mr. McConnell of his decision.

He then returned to the floor and read a copy of “Impeachment: An American History” and hand-drafted a statement announcing a decision that even his staff did not yet know.

Mr. Alexander’s final statement made clear that he would vote to acquit Mr. Trump, as well, even if he did not condone his conduct.

“If this shallow, hurried and wholly partisan impeachment were to succeed, it would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist,” he said.

Ms. Collins gave far less insight into her thinking on the underlying charges, but said that she saw value in hearing more.

“I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity,” she said in a statement released just before Mr. Alexander’s. “Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed.”

Earlier inside the Senate chamber, the usually scripted trial got off to a tense start on Thursday when Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, submitted a question that included the name of a person widely believed to be the C.I.A. whistle-blower whose anonymous complaint about Ukraine helped prompt the impeachment inquiry.

After studying the question card, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. refused to read it aloud, instead saying, “The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted.”

An indignant Mr. Paul then rushed out of the chamber straight to waiting television cameras to read the question aloud himself. He asked if the prosecution and defense teams were aware of reports that two government officials “may have worked together to plot impeaching the president before there were formal House impeachment proceedings.”

Mr. Paul’s move reflected how Mr. Trump’s conservative allies have sought to turn the tables on the entire inquiry, shifting the focus away from the president’s conduct and toward what they suggest was a conspiracy by his opponents to manufacture a basis for removing him.

The theme has been a favorite of the president’s, and is all but certain to figure prominently in his re-election campaign after his acquittal as he makes the case to voters that the impeachment effort was an affront to them as much as a challenge to him.

In a rare bipartisan question — one of only three out of more than 170 submitted — Ms. Murkowski and Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, asked that given the actions of any president are to some extent inherently political, how should senators distinguish between permissible political actions and impeachable ones.

Patrick Philbin, a deputy White House counsel, said trying to discern a politician’s motive “is very dangerous.”

“There is always some eye to the next election,” he said, “and it ends up becoming a standard so malleable that in reality really is a substitute for a policy difference: If we don’t like a policy difference, we attribute it to a bad motive.”

Mr. Schiff countered that impeachment was the appropriate “political punishment for a political crime” involving corrupt activity.

“If we go down that road” of ignoring a corrupt motive, Mr. Schiff said, “there is no limit to what this or any other president can do.”

The vote on Friday does not deal directly with individual witnesses or sets of documents. Rather, it will resolve whether the trial should even consider calling additional witnesses and evidence.

If a majority of senators vote no, Republican leaders could move the proceeding to final deliberations and a speedy up or down vote on each article of impeachment, possibly as early as Friday. If they vote yes, the trial would blow open and could become a free-for-all in which any group of 51 senators could band together to issue subpoenas for testimony and records of their choosing.

But senators in both parties were also bracing for the distinct possibility that the witness and documents vote could end in a 50-50 tie. Such an outcome would put Chief Justice Roberts in a difficult position. There is precedent, drawn from the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, of a chief justice casting a tiebreaking vote on a procedural motion. But despite Democratic hopes, Chief Justice Roberts is unlikely to want entangle himself in a dispute that has been so thoroughly politicized.

If the chief justice abstained from breaking a tie, the motion would fail.

Michael D. Shear, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Alexander, Conceding Case Against Trump, Announces Vote to Block Witnesses

WASHINGTON — Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said late Thursday that although he believed that Democrats had proved their case that President Trump acted “inappropriately” in his dealings with Ukraine, he did not think the president’s actions were impeachable and would vote against considering new evidence in the impeachment trial.

Mr. Alexander’s statement was a strong indication that Republicans have lined up the votes to block a call for more witnesses and documents on Friday and press toward a quick acquittal in the third presidential impeachment trial in history. His opposition was a significant victory for the White House and Republican leaders.

“The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did,” Mr. Alexander said in a late-night statement after the conclusion of a second marathon day of questioning by senators. “I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday.”

In announcing his stance, Mr. Alexander effectively conceded that the president had engaged in a corrupt effort to leverage taxpayer money to advance his own political objectives — the basis of the abuse of power charge against him — but said he had concluded such actions were not impeachable. He called the second charge, obstruction of Congress, “frivolous.”

“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” he said in a statement released at 11 p.m. “When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”

His announcement capped a day of intense lobbying both on the floor of the Senate and off as each side sought to appeal to a shrinking group of undecided Republicans. Shortly before Mr. Alexander declared his intentions, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, another moderate, became the second Republican to say definitively that she would vote in favor of considering new evidence, after Senator Mitt Romney of Utah.

Video

transcript

Impeachment Trial Highlights: Questions on Witnesses and the Whistle-Blower

On their last day of questioning in the impeachment trial of President Trump, senators put Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the middle of the fray.

“Senator from Kentucky?” “I have a question to present to the desk for the House manager Schiff and for the president’s counsel.” “Thank you.” “The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted.” “The question from Senator Warren is for the House managers: At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?” “I don’t think a trial without witnesses reflects adversely on the chief justice. I do think it reflects adversely on us.” “Senators for both parties —” “Senator from South Dakota —” “The question from Senator Portman —” “The senator from Wisconsin —” “Senator Brown and Wyden —” “Mr. Chief Justice.” “Senator from Alaska?” “May I send a question to the desk?” “Thank you.” “Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton?” “The House could have pursued Ambassador Bolton. The House considered whether or not they would try to have him come testify and subpoena him. They chose not to subpoena him. And it will do grave damage to this body as an institution to say that the proceedings in the House don’t have to really be complete — you don’t have to subpoena the witnesses that you think are necessary to prove your case, you don’t really have to put it all together before you bring the package here, even when you’re impeaching the president of the United States, the gravest impeachment that they could possibly consider.”

Westlake Legal Group merlin_168116028_c2803c0d-03b1-4ab8-81be-491741fcef9a-videoSixteenByNine3000 Alexander, Conceding Case Against Trump, Announces Vote to Block Witnesses United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Romney, Mitt Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 Pelosi, Nancy McConnell, Mitch Johnson, Andrew impeachment House of Representatives Democratic Party Collins, Susan M Bolton, John R Biden, Joseph R Jr Barrasso, John Alexander, Lamar

On their last day of questioning in the impeachment trial of President Trump, senators put Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the middle of the fray.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Democrats would need four Republicans to join them in voting for a motion to consider additional witnesses and documentary requests. After Mr. Alexander and Ms. Collins made their positions clear on Thursday night, all eyes turned to a fourth possible Republican swing vote, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who said she would announce her decision on Friday.

Both parties deemed it nearly impossible that any other Republican senator would defect.

As the trial neared a critical turning point, both parties were already looking beyond the verdict and framing their arguments to voters ahead of the November elections.

“If the American people decide that they don’t like what’s happened here, that they don’t like the constitutional violations that have happened, that they don’t like the attack on a successful president for purely partisan political purposes, then they can do something about it, and they can throw them out,” said Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel.

Bracing for a likely defeat of their efforts to force witnesses to be heard at the trial, Democrats forecast what is likely to be their message after the verdict is reached, asserting that Mr. Trump’s acquittal would be illegitimate because the trial was flawed.

“He will not be acquitted,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, told reporters at her weekly news conference. “You cannot be acquitted if you don’t have a trial. You don’t have a trial if you don’t have witnesses and documentation.”

Even before Mr. Alexander announced his stance on witnesses, Senate Republican leaders projected confidence that they would line up the requisite votes, and privately plotted the trial’s endgame. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, spent much of Thursday toiling behind the scenes to cajole wavering moderates and stifle any move to prolong the trial by admitting additional evidence.

Asked about the looming vote as he arrived on Thursday morning to the Capitol, he told reporters: “I’m always confident.”

Ms. Murkowski appeared to be grappling with her position on Thursday evening. After the Senate broke for dinner, she submitted a question for Mr. Trump’s defense team asking why the Senate should not hear from John R. Bolton, his former national security adviser, who wrote in an unpublished book that Mr. Trump said he would not release the military aid for Ukraine until the country assisted in investigations of his political rivals.

She noted that account, reported on Sunday by The New York Times, contradicted Mr. Trump’s explicit denials that he had linked the military aid and investigations.

“This dispute about material facts weighs in favor of calling additional witnesses with direct knowledge,” Ms. Murkowski asked. “Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton?”

But later, she joined with Mr. Alexander and other senators in asking Mr. Trump’s team if they agreed that even if Mr. Bolton’s account were true, the president’s conduct did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. They did.

The House Democratic prosecutors made their final pleas to call the former national security adviser as the vote drew closer.

“The truth is staring us in the eyes,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House manager. “We know why they don’t want John Bolton to testify: It’s not because we don’t know what really happened here, they just don’t want the American people to hear it in all its ugly, graphic detail.”

Mr. Alexander, a former education secretary and presidential candidate set to retire at the end of the year, met privately with Ms. Murkowski earlier Thursday evening when the trial broke for dinner and also informed Mr. McConnell of his decision.

He then returned to the floor and read a copy of “Impeachment: An American History” and hand-drafted a statement announcing a decision that even his staff did not yet know.

Mr. Alexander’s final statement made clear that he would vote to acquit Mr. Trump, as well, even if he did not condone his conduct.

“If this shallow, hurried and wholly partisan impeachment were to succeed, it would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist,” he said.

Ms. Collins gave far less insight into her thinking on the underlying charges, but said that she saw value in hearing more.

“I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity,” she said in a statement released just before Mr. Alexander’s. “Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed.”

Earlier inside the Senate chamber, the usually scripted trial got off to a tense start on Thursday when Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, submitted a question that included the name of a person widely believed to be the C.I.A. whistle-blower whose anonymous complaint about Ukraine helped prompt the impeachment inquiry.

After studying the question card, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. refused to read it aloud, instead saying, “The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted.”

An indignant Mr. Paul then rushed out of the chamber straight to waiting television cameras to read the question aloud himself. He asked if the prosecution and defense teams were aware of reports that two government officials “may have worked together to plot impeaching the president before there were formal House impeachment proceedings.”

Mr. Paul’s move reflected how Mr. Trump’s conservative allies have sought to turn the tables on the entire inquiry, shifting the focus away from the president’s conduct and toward what they suggest was a conspiracy by his opponents to manufacture a basis for removing him.

The theme has been a favorite of the president’s, and is all but certain to figure prominently in his re-election campaign after his acquittal as he makes the case to voters that the impeachment effort was an affront to them as much as a challenge to him.

In a rare bipartisan question — one of only three out of more than 170 submitted — Ms. Murkowski and Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, asked that given the actions of any president are to some extent inherently political, how should senators distinguish between permissible political actions and impeachable ones.

Patrick Philbin, a deputy White House counsel, said trying to discern a politician’s motive “is very dangerous.”

“There is always some eye to the next election,” he said, “and it ends up becoming a standard so malleable that in reality really is a substitute for a policy difference: If we don’t like a policy difference, we attribute it to a bad motive.”

Mr. Schiff countered that impeachment was the appropriate “political punishment for a political crime” involving corrupt activity.

“If we go down that road” of ignoring a corrupt motive, Mr. Schiff said, “there is no limit to what this or any other president can do.”

The vote on Friday does not deal directly with individual witnesses or sets of documents. Rather, it will resolve whether the trial should even consider calling additional witnesses and evidence.

If a majority of senators vote no, Republican leaders could move the proceeding to final deliberations and a speedy up or down vote on each article of impeachment, possibly as early as Friday. If they vote yes, the trial would blow open and could become a free-for-all in which any group of 51 senators could band together to issue subpoenas for testimony and records of their choosing.

But senators in both parties were also bracing for the distinct possibility that the witness and documents vote could end in a 50-50 tie. Such an outcome would put Chief Justice Roberts in a difficult position. There is precedent, drawn from the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, of a chief justice casting a tiebreaking vote on a procedural motion. But despite Democratic hopes, Chief Justice Roberts is unlikely to want entangle himself in a dispute that has been so thoroughly politicized.

If the chief justice abstained from breaking a tie, the motion would fail.

Michael D. Shear, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

White House Assumed ‘Disgruntled’ Bolton Would Write a Critical Book

Westlake Legal Group 29dc-bolton01-facebookJumbo White House Assumed ‘Disgruntled’ Bolton Would Write a Critical Book United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (Book) National Security Council Manuscripts Eisenberg, John A Cooper, Charles J Classified Information and State Secrets Cipollone, Pat A Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — When John R. Bolton’s book manuscript landed on the desk of a White House national security aide shortly after Christmas, no one had to page through it to know that the draft could upend the impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

Now the question of who did review the book — and to what extent — has become a subject of the Senate impeachment trial of Mr. Trump. The White House has acknowledged that National Security Council staff members reviewed the draft, and that they briefed the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone.

But the president’s impeachment defense lawyers — Mr. Cipollone among them — insisted on Wednesday that they were unaware it contained the explosive revelation by Mr. Bolton, the former national security adviser, that Mr. Trump had directly linked aid for Ukraine to investigations he sought for personal gain.

“No one from inside the White House or outside the White House told us publication of the book would be problematic for the president,” Patrick F. Philbin, a deputy White House counsel and one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, said on the Senate floor. “We assumed Mr. Bolton was disgruntled and wouldn’t be saying a lot of nice things about the president, but no one told us anything like that.”

The acrimony between Mr. Bolton and the White House also escalated on Wednesday as both sides jockeyed for the upper hand over whether he can publish his book as planned or must wait for government censors to strip it of classified information, which would also serve to help keep more damning details from coming out during the impeachment trial.

The National Security Council released a letter sent last week to a lawyer for Mr. Bolton saying that the draft contained “significant amounts” of it.

Mr. Bolton’s lawyer fired back, releasing his response sent last week to the White House: Because Mr. Bolton could be called to testify to the Senate shortly, he said, it was “imperative” that officials review his Ukraine writings immediately.

Mr. Trump also jumped in, saying on Twitter that he had fired Mr. Bolton because “if I had listened to him, we’d be in World War Six by now.”

White House officials insist that their handling of Mr. Bolton’s manuscript was legally sound. But however by the book they played the initial review of the manuscript, the strategy proved politically treacherous.

Mr. Bolton’s account came out in the middle of the president’s lawyers’ presentation of their impeachment defense, undercutting a key element — that the aid freeze was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations he stood to benefit from — and forcing the president’s defense team to scramble to address the charge.

And Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader who had worked to keep witnesses out of the impeachment trial, raged that he was not warned that such dramatic revelations could come at the 11th hour.

But National Security Council lawyers and staff members believed they had little choice but to keep the book’s details closely held, according to people familiar with their decision making. White House officials had faced accusations of a cover-up last year after deciding to initially block Congress from receiving the whistle-blower complaint about the president’s dealings with Ukraine that set off impeachment proceedings.

Though Mr. Cipollone was briefed about the manuscript, lawyers for the National Security Council — the foreign policy arm of the White House — withheld the draft from other White House officials, administration officials said. The lawyers asked career civil servants, not political appointees, to review the book, in an effort to ensure it was handled similarly to any other book written by a former official with access to classified secrets, the officials said.

The lawyers did realize that Mr. Bolton’s book would by its nature be politically sensitive. One of the career lawyers, Yevgeny Vindman, did not take part in the review to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. His twin brother is Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a Pentagon official detailed to the National Security Council and a key witness about the president’s Ukraine dealings in the impeachment hearings.

The political appointees among the national security lawyers, Michael Ellis and his boss, John A. Eisenberg, saw the manuscript but had no direct role in scouring the document for potential classified material, according to a person familiar with the matter.

At critical moments throughout the Ukraine matter, Mr. Eisenberg and the National Security Council legal team have been drawn in, prompting questions by others in the White House about how they handled the issues. Mr. Eisenberg and Mr. Ellis handled the internal complaints immediately after Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and ordered records of the conversation be restricted.

The White House has said Mr. Cipollone did not review the manuscript or know details about its content. On Monday, a spokesman for the National Security Council said that “no White House personnel outside N.S.C. have reviewed the manuscript.”

Former officials say that while there are few regulations constraining the National Security Council, officials adhere to past procedures, which in reviews of manuscripts allows them to notify other officials of their existence but not to review their content.

The office that conducts prepublication reviews of manuscripts by former council officials is staffed by career officials rather than political appointees, said Brian Egan, who served as legal adviser to the National Security Council from 2013 to 2016. The career officials, about half a dozen, conduct reviews among other responsibilities, including ensuring that no presidential records are destroyed, declassifying old presidential records and reviewing proposed speeches, papers and quotes by former officials.

“Their job is not a P.R.-type job — their job is a much more technical job,” Mr. Egan said. “That’s how they see themselves.”

Still, Mr. Egan said, it was routine for the office to circulate portions of a manuscript to subject-matter experts on the council staff for input, suggesting that it might have shared any portions of Mr. Bolton’s draft about Ukraine with the European affairs office.

Mr. Bolton’s manuscript was not shared with the European affairs office, a person familiar with the matter said.

The White House notified Mr. Bolton’s lawyer that it had significant issues with classified information in the manuscript last Thursday, just days before Mr. Bolton’s draft was made public on Sunday.

Some information in the manuscript was classified at the top-secret level, said the National Security Council letter, signed by Ellen Knight, a senior director for records. The council staff would work with Mr. Bolton to identify classified information to “ensure your client can tell his story in a manner that protects national security,” she wrote.

It was not clear what material the National Security Council staff considered classified and would seek to block. But Mr. Bolton’s lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, said in his response that if his client was called as a witness in the impeachment trial, he was sure to be asked questions that would elicit the material contained in the Ukraine chapter of the manuscript.

Classification reviews can often drag on for years, delaying publication and drastically restricting what former officials can reveal in a book.

The review process “is liable to abuse,” said Kevin Carroll, a lawyer who is representing former C.I.A. and Air Force officers trying to publish a book.

“I find it highly unlikely that a very experienced official such as Ambassador Bolton, the former national security adviser, would put top-secret material in his manuscript,” Mr. Carroll said.

Ms. Knight offered no deadlines for completing the review.

Charlie Savage contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

6 Takeaways From Senators’ Questions to Impeachment Lawyers

Westlake Legal Group 29dc-takeaways-facebookJumbo 6 Takeaways From Senators’ Questions to Impeachment Lawyers Senate McConnell, Mitch impeachment Dershowitz, Alan M Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — After days of listening to the House lawyers and the president’s defense team argue their cases, uninterrupted, senators on Wednesday finally had their turn.

Up to 16 hours is allotted for the question and answer phase of the Senate trial, and lawyers spent the first five of them on Wednesday addressing a steady stream of queries from the senators. The answers showed off the strikingly divergent views of presidential power that have dominated the entire trial.

Here are some of the other main takeaways from the first day.

Asked about what is considered standard practice for a president when conducting foreign policy, Alan Dershowitz, one of President Trump’s lawyers, appeared to make a new argument for broad presidential powers — so broad that anything a president does to help himself get re-elected, he said, is inherently in the public’s interest, including a “quid pro quo.”

“If the president does something that he thinks will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” Mr. Dershowitz said.

The lead house manager, Representative Adam B. Schiff, called the theory “very odd.”

Mr. Dershowitz was answering a question from Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who has been a staunch defender of the president throughout the impeachment process.

Mr. Trump’s defense has also argued that there was no “quid pro quo” in his dealings with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Later, when answering another question, Mr. Schiff pushed back against Mr. Dershowitz’s view on the extent of the president’s power.

Mr. Schiff said Mr. Trump is “a president who identifies the state as being himself.”

Addressing Mr. Trump directly, Mr. Schiff said, “You are not a king.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, asked House impeachment managers a question that set them up to cross-examine a claim from the defense: “There is simply no evidence anywhere that President Trump ever linked security assistance to any investigations.”

Ms. Feinstein asked, “Is that true?”

It was a softball, but a strategic one.

“There is in fact overwhelming evidence that the president withheld the military aid directly to get a personal political benefit to help his individual political campaign,” said Representative Jason Crow of Colorado, one of the House managers.

Throughout the day, Democrats repeatedly asked about whether senators could reach a verdict without hearing testimony from the president’s former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, and other presidential aides involved in Ukraine foreign policy.

This was not a hard one for the House managers, either.

“There is no way to have a fair trial without witnesses,” Mr. Schiff said. “And when you have a witness who is as plainly relevant as John Bolton — who goes to the heart of the most serious and egregious of the president’s misconduct, who has volunteered to come and testify — to turn him away, to look the other way, I think is deeply at odds with being an impartial juror.”

In what did not appear to be an intentional taunt to the Democrats, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Patrick Philbin, said what most in the Senate chamber already knew: “John Bolton was the national security adviser to the president. He has all the nation’s secrets.”

Democrats want Mr. Bolton to testify about what he knew of Mr. Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine. And almost all the Republicans want to make sure that Mr. Bolton does not have the opportunity to do so.

Once the question-and-answer portion of the trial is complete, senators are expected to vote Friday on whether to hear new witnesses.

Mr. Philbin argued that if the Senate subpoenaed Mr. Bolton to testify, he would likely be unable to comply because Mr. Trump could claim executive privilege, but Democrats disagree.

Senator Kamala Harris, Democratic of California, asked the House managers what would happen if the Senate “fails to hold the president accountable for misconduct,” and what that would mean for the integrity of the justice system.

It has long been expected that the Republican-led Senate would not convict Mr. Trump. But Mr. Schiff responded with a sobering prediction, directed at every senator in the room: The Senate as an institution will lose its power and erase the oversight authority given to it in the Constitution.

“There will be no force behind any Senate subpoena in the future,” Mr. Schiff warned, reminding senators that the White House also ignored congressional subpoenas before the impeachment proceedings. “If you allow a president to obstruct Congress so completely — in a way that Nixon could never have contemplated, nor would the Congress of that day have allowed — you will eviscerate your own oversight capability.”

To convict Mr. Trump, one of the president’s lawyers, Mr. Philbin said, the Senate needs to find the president “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

It was a surprising argument, given that the Constitution offers no such direction.

Mr. Philbin was responding to a question from a group of Republican senators who asked whether the standard for impeachment in the House had a lower threshold than the standard for conviction in the Senate.

Mr. Philbin explained that the House impeachment managers did not do their job. They “are held to a standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said, adding, “Here they have failed in their burden of proof.”

Frank O. Bowman III, a University of Missouri law professor and an expert on impeachment whose work on the topic was even cited in a Trump defense brief, called the claim “a complete fantasy.”

A written standard of proof in either the House or the Senate does not exist, he said.

As the Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, had the advantage of selecting the first question from his party. And it was a strategic choice. He turned to Senator Susan Collins, of Maine, who is facing one of the toughest re-election races in the country. She is a moderate whose support Republicans cannot afford to lose.

Ms. Collins asked the question on behalf of herself and senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah: “How should the Senate consider more than one motive in its assessment” of the first article of impeachment from the House, that Mr. Trump abused the power of his office?

That those three senators asked a question jointly was not surprising. Even before the trial started in earnest, they have signaled that they are open to hearing from new witnesses, specifically Mr. Bolton, whose recent accounts from an upcoming book have rattled the Republicans’ plans for a fast trial and an even faster acquittal.

The Democrats need the support of every senator in their caucus and at least four Republicans to pass a measure that would allow witnesses.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Republicans Move to Block Impeachment Witnesses, Driving Toward Acquittal

Westlake Legal Group 29dc-impeach1-facebookJumbo Republicans Move to Block Impeachment Witnesses, Driving Toward Acquittal United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Schiff, Adam B Romney, Mitt Roberts, John G Jr Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 McConnell, Mitch impeachment Dershowitz, Alan M Democratic Party Collins, Susan M Bolton, John R Biden, Hunter

WASHINGTON — The White House and Senate Republicans worked aggressively on Wednesday to discount damaging revelations from John R. Bolton and line up the votes to block new witnesses that would bring President Trump’s impeachment trial to a swift close.

As the Senate entered a two-day, 16-hour period of questioning from senators, Mr. Trump laced into Mr. Bolton, his former national security adviser, whose unpublished manuscript contains an account that contradicts his impeachment defense. The president described Mr. Bolton on Twitter as a warmonger who had “begged” for his job, was fired, and then wrote “a nasty & untrue book.”

Mr. Trump’s aides circulated a letter on Capitol Hill informing Mr. Bolton that the White House was moving to block publication of his forthcoming book, in which he wrote that the president conditioned the release of military aid for Ukraine on the country’s willingness to investigate his political rivals. That is a central element of Democrats’ impeachment case against the president, which charges him with seeking to enlist a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election on his behalf.

Off the floor, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and other Republicans signaled that they were regaining confidence that they would be able cobble together the 51 votes needed to block new witnesses and documents and bring the trial to an acquittal verdict as soon as Friday, after the revelations from Mr. Bolton, reported Sunday by The New York Times, had threatened to knock their plans off course.

Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Senate Republican, declared that he had “heard enough” and predicted that the Senate would vote to acquit the president by week’s end.

“I’m ready to vote on final judgment,” Mr. Barrasso told reporters. Asked if Republicans planned to move directly to a vote on the two articles of impeachment on Friday, Mr. Barrasso said, “Yes, that’s the plan.”

By Wednesday afternoon, Democrats were sounding a note of pessimism about the prospect of witnesses and securing new evidence in the trial.

“We’ve always known it will be an uphill fight on witnesses and documents, because the president and Mitch McConnell put huge pressure on these folks,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said during a break in the trial.

“Is it more likely than not? Probably no,” Mr. Schumer said. “But is it a decent, good chance? Yes.”

In answering questions, Mr. Trump’s lawyers offered their most expansive defense of the president to date, effectively arguing that a president cannot be removed from office for demanding political favors if he believes his re-election is in the national interest.

“Every public official I know believes that his election is in the public interest,” said Alan M. Dershowitz, the celebrity defense lawyer and constitutional scholar who is part of the Mr. Trump’s legal team. “Mostly, you’re right.”

“If the 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 said.

Many of the arguments and much the day was tailored to persuading a few Republicans who remained holdouts on the question of whether to call witnesses. Mr. McConnell gave his party’s first question on Wednesday to Senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in an effort to allay the concerns of the three lawmakers, Republican moderates who are swing votes on the matter. The trio teamed up to ask Mr. Trump’s lawyers how they should judge the president if they conclude he acted in the Ukraine matter with both political and policy motives.

The selection of Ms. Collins, who is facing the toughest re-election campaign in her long Senate career, was revealing: It suggested that Mr. McConnell was keenly focused on giving her every opportunity to have her voice heard before moving forward.

Notably absent from the group was the fourth Republican who had expressed interest in witnesses: Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a close friend of Mr. McConnell’s who has said he will not decide whether to support witnesses until after the question period has closed.

On Tuesday, Mr. McConnell warned Republicans privately that he did not currently have the votes to stop Democrats from summoning them. One after the other on Wednesday, in statements and hallway interviews, they made clear they would side with their leader.

Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, who had previously floated the idea of a witness deal, said Wednesday that he was “very, very skeptical” of new witnesses. Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, facing a tough re-election in a swing state, issued a statement saying that he had heard enough and would vote against hearing from more witnesses.

Democrats need the votes of four Republicans to compel the Senate to subpoena witnesses and new documents. But it seems increasingly likely that Mr. Alexander, who is retiring from the Senate and is thus free to do as he chooses, will break from his party.

Mr. Trump is charged with abusing his power and obstructing Congress by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, and concealing evidence of it from lawmakers who were investigating. Republicans have said that if Mr. Bolton testifies, so too should Hunter Biden, who drew Mr. Trump’s interest because he sat on the board of Ukrainian energy company.

In the first hint of a possible crack in Democratic unity, Senator Doug Jones of Alabama suggested Wednesday that he might vote to acquit Mr. Trump on the charge of obstruction of Congress, though he said that the president’s own behavior was strengthening the case against him. And Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia said he thought that Hunter Biden might be a relevant witness.

“I’m still looking at that very closely; there are some things that trouble me about it,” Mr. Jones said, without elaborating. “But I will tell you this about the obstruction charge: The more I see the president of the United States attacking witnesses, the stronger that case gets.”

Fielding friendly questions from Democratic senators, House managers reiterated the heart of their case and accused Mr. Trump’s lawyers of incorrectly stating that there was no evidence that Mr. Trump linked security assistance to investigations. Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House impeachment manager, responded to Mr. Dershowitz’s argument by saying it was “very odd.”

“If you say you can’t hold a president accountable in an election year where they’re trying to cheat in that election, then you are giving them carte blanche,” Mr. Schiff said. “All quid pro quos are not the same. Some are legitimate and some are corrupt.”

Democrats have argued that Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine was precisely the kind of corrupt scheme that the nation’s founders had in mind when they created impeachment, fearing that an out-of-control executive would abuse his power for personal gain. But throughout the day, lawyers for Mr. Trump argued that all elected officials make policy decisions to help themselves get re-elected.

Answering the question from the three Republican moderates, Patrick Philbin, a deputy White House counsel, said a president could not be removed for a “mixed-motive situation” in which he is acting out of both personal and policy concerns.

“There’s always some personal interest in the electoral outcome of policy decisions and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Mr. Philbin told senators. “That’s part of representative democracy.”

Mr. Trump’s legal team also argued that the House needed to prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt” — a standard of proof that legal experts say has no basis in either the Constitution or the rules of the Senate. And the legal team said that the case was merely “based on a policy difference” between the president and the career diplomats who sounded the alarm on his pressure campaign in Ukraine.

The questioning is a formal affair: Senators submit questions in writing and they are read aloud by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. The chief justice set a five-minute time limit for answers, citing a similar limit imposed by his predecessor Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999.

White House lawyers have a system to help their speakers stay within the five minutes: a stack of small white cue cards showing when the clock is about to run out. They hold them up when 2 minutes, 1 minute 30 seconds and 10 seconds are left.

The Democratic House members do not appear to have such a system — which may explain why Mr. Schiff was cut off by the chief justice when his first answer ran long.

Catie Edmondson, Nicholas Fandos and Patricia Mazzei contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A Deal That Has Two Elections, Rather Than Mideast Peace, as Its Focus

WASHINGTON — A president trying to prevail in an impeachment trial stood with an Israeli prime minister under indictment on Tuesday to announce a long-delayed plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the result sounded more like a road map for their own futures than for the Middle East.

For President Trump, it is a plan that builds on his decision to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem — a huge political success among his conservative Jewish donors and evangelicals that, contrary to predictions, did not touch off a violent reaction in the region.

Mr. Trump now enters the heart of his election campaign declaring that he has delivered a plan that makes Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel and relegates the Palestinian capital to a suburb, and one that Mr. Trump, in a triumph of real-estate branding, is suddenly calling “East Jerusalem.”

And the timing is no accident: At a moment when cable television is focused on impeachment and the prospect that the former national security adviser John R. Bolton might testify, Mr. Trump had a chance to stand in the East Room and cast himself as a peacemaker. With rare self-discipline, he never mentioned the word impeachment.

For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel marches toward his March elections wielding the potent argument that Israelis should ignore his indictment on corruption charges and focus on the fact that he, by force of his relationship with Mr. Trump, moved Washington to give permanent legitimacy to the Jewish settlements in disputed territory.

By Sunday, the prime minister said as he was leaving Washington, Israel will essentially annex the strategically vital part of the Jordan Valley that its military already controls. As the Israeli election nears, those moves allow him to sell himself as the Trump whisperer, the indispensable man who bent the White House to his will.

“Strip away the domestic and Israeli political considerations that determined the timing of the plan’s release,” said Robert Malley, the president of the International Crisis Group and a former Obama administration official, “and the message to the Palestinians, boiled down to its essence, is: You’ve lost, get over it.”

That message, implicitly or explicitly, rewrites the art of the Middle East deal. By tilting the map of a future Palestinian state so precipitously in Israel’s direction, Mr. Trump has embraced a plan that essentially dismantles 60 years of bipartisan support for a negotiated process between Israelis and Palestinians, in which both make concessions and land swaps that would define the lines of a new map.

As Mr. Trump acknowledged, Washington would no longer play the role of neutral arbiter — even while vowing to be Israel’s source of protection. Instead, the United States has drawn the lines in a series of maps that sketch out a future Palestinian state that is so gerrymandered that it requires the construction of a giant tunnel across Israel to connect two areas of Palestinian control.

To Mr. Trump, this is the merger of deal making, Middle East urban planning and election-year politics — or rather, potential deal making.

A few days ago Mr. Trump said, “I think we’re relatively close but we have to get other people to agree to it.” In other words the “deal of the century” was no deal at all. And the other people were the Palestinians, who dismissed the proposal and the accompanying map on Tuesday hours after its publication.

Trump’s Proposal for a Palestinian State

Westlake Legal Group mideast-plan-map-300 A Deal That Has Two Elections, Rather Than Mideast Peace, as Its Focus Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Obama, Barack Netanyahu, Benjamin Kushner, Jared Jerusalem (Israel) Israel East Jerusalem Bolton, John R

State of

Palestine

Israeli

enclaves

Westlake Legal Group mideast-plan-map-460 A Deal That Has Two Elections, Rather Than Mideast Peace, as Its Focus Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Obama, Barack Netanyahu, Benjamin Kushner, Jared Jerusalem (Israel) Israel East Jerusalem Bolton, John R

Mediterranean

Sea

Mediterranean

Sea

State of Palestine

Israeli enclaves

Westlake Legal Group mideast-plan-map-600 A Deal That Has Two Elections, Rather Than Mideast Peace, as Its Focus Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Obama, Barack Netanyahu, Benjamin Kushner, Jared Jerusalem (Israel) Israel East Jerusalem Bolton, John R

Mediterranean

Sea

Mediterranean

Sea

State of Palestine

Israeli enclaves

Note: Boundaries are approximate and based on available data provided by the White House, some of which was obscured.

Source: White House

By The New York Times

For election purposes, Mr. Trump does not need a deal, he simply needs the impression that progress is being made.

And at the White House on Tuesday, the ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman — but not Saudi Arabia, the country Mr. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has worked hardest to woo — were in the room for the announcement, a seeming endorsement of his approach, if not the specifics.

Their presence would have been unimaginable in the past, especially for any announcement that fell well short of creating a real Palestinian state.

And this one certainly falls short of that goal. Mr. Trump’s 180-page plan would require the Palestinians to accept only partial sovereignty over a future Palestinian state, at least for a considerable time, and give up any claim to territory where the Israelis have already accepted settlements. And it asked them to take the bet that, as Mr. Trump promised, they would ultimately get rich because of a $50 billion investment fund, paid for by Arab neighbors.

It has a brilliant twist: The Palestinians do not have to say yes or no for four years. That means their bottom-line response would not come until the very end of Mr. Trump’s next term, if he is re-elected. In the meantime, Israel would freeze settlements in the territory that Mr. Trump has set aside for the Palestinians, much of it areas the Israelis have little interest in.

That proviso defers all the hard questions for several years of negotiations — with their inevitable breakdowns and crises. But it gives Mr. Trump the campaign-trail talking point that he has fulfilled a 2016 promise and proposed an actual solution, rather than just a process.

The proposal, of course, helps Mr. Netanyahu by moving the goal posts. The status of Jerusalem is set out in the Trump document, rather than being a subject of negotiation. And while past presidents lectured Mr. Netanyahu about his creation of Jewish settlements in territories that are subject to negotiation, Mr. Trump’s plan makes them a permanent feature.

To critics, that is the fatal flaw.

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, who was among the lawmakers briefed by Mr. Kushner at the White House, called it “a total abandonment of decades of U.S. Middle East policy.”

He was referring to the longtime American support for a deal that would include only modest adjustments to the Israeli borders drawn in 1967, the year of the Arab-Israeli War, and by a process created in the Oslo Accords, which began in 1993 and largely ended with the failed summit in 2000 at Camp David. The premise of those talks was that the Israelis and Palestinians would set up a complex process and inch their way toward agreements on borders, settlements, political rights and the withdrawal of the Israeli military from Palestinian lands.

There were years of talks, stalemates, “road maps to peace,” collapsed negotiations and intifadas.

Mr. Trump, the disrupter, has made it clear he does not believe that approach would work. On Tuesday, he noted that every president since Lyndon B. Johnson had tried and failed to negotiate a peace deal. Always the real-estate mogul, Mr. Trump has declared that he is more interested in working with existing facts on the ground than on creating processes.

So his plan, three years in the making, is less about future negotiations and more about cementing what exists today and making deals around the edges. If the Palestinians take it, he suggested, riches would follow. There would be a million new jobs, he said, and poverty would be cut in half. Mr. Trump has offered a similar incentive to the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

It was pretty familiar Trump language, born of a certainty that economic incentives will overcome ethnic, tribal and religious differences, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. And for the Israeli prime minister, it was a plan tailor-made for an election four weeks away. So tailor-made that a dozen Democratic senators wrote in a letter to Mr. Trump on Tuesday that “the timing of this proposal to coincide with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s indictment on bribery charges also raises disturbing questions about your intention to intervene in the Israeli election process.”

Not surprisingly, Mr. Netanyahu disagreed. “It’s a great plan for Israel,” he said, with an enthusiasm he rarely showed during visits to the White House in the Obama years. “It’s a great plan for peace.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com