White House Counsel Pat Cipollone has wrapped up the defense arguments.
“I have every confidence, every confidence in your wisdom,” he said. “You will do the only thing you can do, what you must do, what the Constitution compels you to do. Reject these articles of impeachment.”
The Senate has adjourned until Wednesday, when the senators’ question period begins. The Republican majority and Democratic minority will alternate questions for up to eight hours Wednesday and another eight hours on Thursday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said.
As he closes, Trump legal team lawyer Pat Cipollone reminds the Senate that this is an election year, and that a conviction of the president would remove him from office without voters having a say.
“Why not trust the American people with this decision. Why tear up their ballots, why tear up every ballot across this country. You can’t do that. You know you can’t do that. So I ask you to defend our constitution, to defend fundamental fairness, to defend basic due process rights, but most importantly — most importantly, to respect and defend the sacred right of every American to vote and to choose their president. The election is only months away.”
On Monday, the president’s lawyers made scant mention of Mr. Bolton’s allegations, saying that they intended to focus on evidence introduced in the trial. By Tuesday, they had shifted gears. Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow described Mr. Bolton’s claims as an “unpublished manuscript that maybe some reporters have an idea of maybe what it says,” and called the allegations inadmissible.
“I want to be clear on this, because there’s a lot of speculation out there with regard to what John Bolton has said,” Mr. Sekulow said. He repeated President Trump’s denial that he “NEVER” told Mr. Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
“In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination,” Mr. Sekulow said. “If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.
“Responding to an unpublished manuscript that maybe some reporters have an idea of maybe what it says … I don’t know what you’d call that, I’d call it inadmissible. That’s what it is,” Mr. Sekulow said. Impeachment, he added, “is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts. That is politics, unfortunately.”
Mr. Sekulow argued that impeachment was only the latest effort to take down the president, citing the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into his campaign’s ties with Russia and former special counsel Robert Mueller’s ensuing two-year probe.
“Put yourselves in the shoes of not just this president, of any president that would have been under this type of attack,” Mr. Sekulow said. “You can’t view this case in a vacuum.”
Trump team lawyer Jay Sekulow references the four Democratic senators who are currently running for president as he reminds the jurors about the high stakes of the trial.
“You are being asked to remove a duly elected president of the United States and you’re being asked to do it in an election year. In an election year. There are some of you in this chamber right now that would rather be someplace else, and that’s why we’ll be brief.”
Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet are currently off the campaign trail, with the Iowa caucuses looming next week.
Shortly before Tuesday’s trial session got underway, Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) got busted by the Senate floor staff for bringing a bottle of chocolate milk into the chamber.
Mr. Romney retreated to the Republican cloakroom after the staff member appeared gently to chide him. He returned a few minutes later with the chocolate milk in a glass, which is allowed, while bottles aren’t. He held up the glass for inspection. It passed, and he put it on his desk. A few feet away, Sen. Ron Johnson was openly snacking on Sour Patch Kids.
The official rules allow only water, still or sparkling, served by Senate pages. But the Senate historian points to “anecdotal evidence” that in past years, senators have been allowed to sip other beverages in the chamber, and during the impeachment trial of President Trump, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been seen sipping milk at their desks, including Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.), Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Richard Burr (R., N.C.) and Ted Cruz (R., Tex.).
Politico has identified chocolate milk as Mr. Romney’s vice. The brand he brought to the Senate floor on Tuesday was from Mr. Romney’s alma mater, Brigham Young University, according to an aide. The campus creamery there makes chocolate milk and ice cream.
The White House legal team is closing out its defense of President Trump in an abbreviated session Tuesday aimed at persuading the Senate to look past new disclosures and end the trial without hearing additional witnesses or evidence.
Pat Philbin, Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow are each expected to speak for the president’s team on Tuesday. In total, the president’s team expects the session to last for a few hours, wrapping up by dinner and finishing well before the allotted time for opening arguments expires.
Mr. Philbin opened the session by arguing that Democrats’ article of impeachment for abuse of power was too open-ended and “infinitely malleable.”
“The president can do something perfectly lawful, perfectly within his authority, but if the real reason is something that they ferret out and decide is wrong, that becomes impeachable,” he said. “How are we supposed to get the proof of what’s in the president’s head?”
The defense team is seeking to persuade senators that further testimony isn’t necessary, after reports surfaced that John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, wrote in a draft book that Mr. Trump told him that he wanted to keep aid to Ukraine frozen until Kyiv had aided investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. The reports unsettled the Senate Republican conference, where GOP leaders mounted a rear-guard action to stem a growing willingness to subpoena Mr. Bolton to testify.
Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden quipped a Republican senator was “pretty subtle” when she suggested the discussion of the former vice president during the impeachment trial would hurt his standing among critical Iowa voters.
Iowa caucus-goers “have a chance for a two-fer” on Monday, when they become the first voters in the nation to pick their choices for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“You can ruin Donald Trump’s night by caucusing for me,” he said at an event in Muscatine, Iowa. “And you can ruin Joni Ernst’s night.”
On Monday, some Republican senators emerged from the defense team’s presentation saying the discussion of the Bidens could prove politically damaging.
“It opened the eyes of not just the folks in the Senate, but many for those folks at home that were watching this afternoon,” said Sen. Ernst, an Iowa Republican. “And with the Iowa caucuses coming up Feb. 3, this next Monday night, maybe it will influence some of those voters as well.”
Republican lawmakers who are open to calling witnesses in the impeachment trial are offering support for calling John Bolton—and also backing calling others. The vote on possible witnesses and documents is expected on Friday.
“I think if you hear from one side, you probably ought to have a chance to hear from witnesses from the other side,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) when asked if he’d support a motion to subpoena Hunter Biden or Joe Biden.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) who has said she would be open to hearing from witnesses, signaled she would back a subpoena for John Bolton.
“I think that John Bolton probably has something to offer us,” she said. “So we’ll, we’ll figure out how we’re going to learn more.”
We’re under way with the final day of opening arguments from the Trump team. The Senate chaplain reads his opening prayer: “Use our senators to bring peace and unity to our world…Provide them with such humility, hope and courage that they will do your will. Lord, grant that this impeachment trial will make our nation stronger, wiser and better. “
The sergeant at arms is next and warns senators to remain quiet.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) says the session will last several hours, with a break. The Trump team says it expects to be done well before dinner.
In comments to reporters Tuesday morning, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said the details from Mr. Bolton’s book “get to the heart of the first article of impeachment.” He said the manuscript also underscores the importance of testimony of other officials including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, calling him a “more important witness probably than Bolton.”
He also dismissed Republican suggestions that Hunter Biden should testify.
“Hunter Biden has nothing to do with the facts of this trial,” Mr. Schumer said. “What can Hunter Biden tell us about the president’s conduct with Ukraine? What can Biden tell us about the president’s obstruction of Congress? Nothing obviously.”
Mr. Schumer also rejected the idea proposed by Sen James Lankford (R., Okla.) that senators would read the Bolton manuscript in a secure setting.
“What an absurd proposal,” he said. “It is a book. There is no need for it to be read in the SCIF unless you want to hide something,” he said, referring to a secure facility at the Capitol used for reviewing classified material.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), a top ally of the president, has thrown his support behind a proposal by Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma to make John Bolton’s manuscript available to the Senate in a classified setting.
That would give “each Senator… the opportunity to review the manuscript and make their own determination.”
Mr. Lankford made the proposal in a video on Facebook late Monday, saying: “I think getting that information first-hand would be really important for us.”
He also encouraged Mr. Bolton to make a public statement about the matter.
“John Bolton is no shrinking violet… If John Bolton’s got something to say, there’s plenty of microphones all over the country that he should step forward and start talking about it right now,” he sid.
He said senators should get the manuscript, rather than having to read about it through press reports.
Here’s what’s happening today in the impeachment trial.
At 1 p.m. ET, the trial resumes with President Trump’s defense team set to hold its third and final day of opening arguments.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal lawyers, are each set to speak for about 45 minutes, and other members of the defense team may also speak.
Trump Defense Team to Close Arguments Complicated by Bolton Reports
The White House legal team plans to close out its defense of President Trump in an abbreviated session Tuesday aimed at persuading the Senate to look past new disclosures and end the trial without hearing additional witnesses or evidence.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal lawyer, are each expected to speak for about 45 minutes, according to a person familiar with the plans. In total, the president’s team expects the session to last for only a couple of hours Tuesday, finishing well before the allotted time for opening arguments expires.
The defense team enters the day with the challenge of deciding which arguments to emphasize after reports surfaced that John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, wrote in a draft book that Mr. Trump told him that he wanted to keep aid to Ukraine frozen until Kyiv had aided investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. The reports unsettled the Senate Republican conference, where GOP leaders mounted a rear-guard action to stem a growing willingness to subpoena Mr. Bolton to testify.
Democrats, who control 47 seats, need four Republicans to join them to approve motions for fresh testimony or previously unseen documentation. Sens. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) and Susan Collins (R., Maine) indicated on Monday that they were likely to favor witnesses. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) and Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) remained open, with Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) suggesting at a closed-door Senate lunch an arrangement in which the Senate subpoena Mr. Bolton as well as a witness sought by the White House.
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One of the president’s attorneys, Alan Dershowitz, brought up the revelations in a forthcoming book by former national security adviser John Bolton in his closing remarks for the day. In the book, as first reported by the New York Times, Mr. Bolton wrote that President Trump told him that he wanted to freeze aid to Ukraine until the country aided in investigations of Democrats.
“If a president, any president were to have done what the Times reported about the Bolton manuscript, that would not constitute an impeachable offense,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “Let me repeat: Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense….You cannot turn conduct that is not impeachable into impeachable conduct simply by using words like quid-pro-quo and personal benefit.”
Mr. Dershowitz argued that “presidents often have mixed motives” and that it wouldn’t matter what motivated Mr. Trump to seek investigations of a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, from Ukraine.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) told reporters that she believed Mr. Dershowitz’s interpretation of the law was unsupported.
“He is a criminal law professor who stood in the well of the Senate, and talked about how law never inquires into intent, and that we should not be using the president’s intent as part of understanding impeachment,” said Ms. Warren, a former Harvard law professor. “Criminal law is all about intent. Mens rea is is the heart of criminal law,” she said, citing the Latin term for the state of mind statutorily required in order to convict a defendant of a crime.
“That’s the very basis of it,” Ms. Warren said. “So it makes his whole presentation just – just nonsensical. I truly could not follow it.”
The impeachment trial resumes at 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
In his defense of the president, Mr. Dershowitz said that “abuse of power” was campaign rhetoric. He then read a list of past presidents who faced such accusations.
He said Thomas Jefferson faced claims of abusing his power of office when he purchased Louisiana, John Tyler was accused of corruptly using veto power. Abraham Lincoln faced accusations for suspending the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War. Ronald Reagan faced intense abuse-of-power allegations in the Iran-Contra affair, a secret U.S. arms deal that traded missiles and other arms to free some Americans held hostage by terrorists.
In recent history, Mr. Dershowitz said, former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama faced such allegations.
Mr. Dershowitz said “nearly any controversial act by a chief executive” could be called abuse of power, and that it is more of a political attack than an impeachable offense.
The House approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump in a largely party-line vote: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Abuse of power has been used in impeachment proceedings in the past. It was one of the articles of impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee against Richard Nixon in 1974. Mr. Nixon resigned before the full House voted on impeachment and thus did not face a Senate trial.
In his comments for President Trump’s defense team, Alan Dershowitz argued that impeachment requires a violation of criminal statutes, saying the country’s founders intended a high bar while guarding against political charges.
“Purely noncriminal conduct, including abuse of power and obstruction of Congress” — the two charges facing Mr. Trump — “are outside the range of impeachable offenses. That is the key argument I’m presenting today,” he told the Senate.
Mr. Dershowitz, emeritus constitutional-law professor at Harvard Law School, acknowledged that many legal scholars disagree with him on this point.
He said that the “great fallacy of many contemporary scholars and pundits, and with due respect, members of the House of Representatives, is that they fail to understand the critical distinction between the broad reasons for needing an impeachment mechanism and the carefully enumerated and defined criteria that should authorize the deployment of this powerful weapon.”
On Twitter, Jonathan Turley, a constitutional-law professor at George Washington University who testified in front of the House impeachment inquiry, said he disagreed with Mr. Dershowitz’s assertion that the president couldn’t be impeached for noncriminal acts.
He pointed to a recent article in which he wrote: “Indeed, the majority of impeachments in the United States have contained noncriminal allegations. What is different in this case is that it is the first time a president has been impeached solely on noncriminal grounds.”
Ken Starr, who is part of President Trump’s defense team and delivered arguments earlier today, is a veteran of impeachment battles, having run the investigation that culminated in former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment by the House and subsequent acquittal by the Senate.
In 1998, Mr. Starr pursued documents from the White House and objected to the White House claiming executive privilege in a grand jury investigation.
“We have to do what we have to do to get at the facts,” he told reporters in February 1998 at a news conference that is archived by C-SPAN. He said that the invocation of executive privilege would prevent the grand jury from getting the information it needed.
“What we are looking for is all the information,” he said. “It is helpful to us. It’s helpful to the country for as much information as possible. If it exists, we would like it.”
Mr. Starr’s report outlined evidence for 11 grounds for possible impeachment of Mr. Clinton. The House eventually passed two articles of impeachment and rejected two others.
On Monday, 19 years later, Mr.Starr spoke to senators and said that impeachment was becoming too frequent and that House investigators had not done enough to pursue evidence and said the House investigation was “dripping with fundamental process violations.”
“How did we get here, with presidential impeachment invoked frequently in its inherently destabilizing as well as acrimonious way?” he asked.
Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Rep. Mark Meadows (R., N.C.) accused Democrats of leaking the contents of John Bolton’s book during a break in the trial.
Mr. Meadows acknowledged when pressed by reporters that he did not have evidence, although he sees it as part of a pattern of selective leaking to bolster Democrats’ case.
“I think probably the biggest thing that a lot of Americans are asking right now is why was this leaked out at this particular time, right before today’s presentation by the Trump defense team,” Mr. Meadows said. “I know I’m asking that…Some have suggested that it was to sell more books. Some have suggested that indeed the leak was designed to create chaos.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) said he and other House Democratic managers, who are prosecuting the case against President Trump, had nothing to do with the leak.
“Of course not,” Mr. Schiff said. “It came as quite a surprise to all of the House managers when the New York Times story came out. But I guess that’s the best that Rep. Meadows has right now.”
Mr. Schiff said he can understand why Mr. Trump and his allies have allegedly wanted to suppress the former national security adviser’s testimony.
“They evidently had this manuscript. They understood what John Bolton had to say. And they were deathly afraid the American people would find out,” Mr. Schiff alleged. “What the question the senators will have to answer is: How will they explain why they waited until March 17 when the book comes out for the American people and the senators themselves to learn key facts in this trial?”
Mr. Meadows, a close ally of Mr. Trump who has been advising the White House during the trial, said his Republican colleagues in the Senate are going to make up their own minds on whether to call witnesses, but that the Bolton leak “was designed for one purpose, and one purpose only, and that was to try to manipulate the thinking of my Republican colleagues in the Senate to encourage them to open it up and provide for more witnesses.
“Why? Will we all of a sudden find more facts? No, the facts are clear, the facts have been clear,” he said.
Mr. Meadows clarified that he was not suggesting any particular Democrat leaked the book contents. “But I can say that there is a history of my Democratic colleagues leaking to some of you that are around here … I would go out and find that you had documents that I didn’t even have access to before, literally I was finding out about the documents from all of you. So there is a history of that happening.”
President Trump’s defense team has planned two more presentations tonight.
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
Eric Herschmann, a member of the Trump legal team, focused on the monthlong delay by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) in sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate, calling Democrats’ stated concerns about an imminent national security threat from President Trump insincere.
“The House managers would have the American people believe that there’s … an imminent threat to the national security of our country for which the president must be removed immediately from the highest office in the land,” Mr. Herschmann said. He played television clips of Mrs. Pelosi and other Democrats highlighting the purported urgency of the matter, but noted lawmakers went on recess after approving the articles of impeachment and then held on to them for several more weeks.
“Urgency? Urgency? …You sat on the articles for the longest delay in the history of our country. They adopted them Friday, Dec. 13, 2019 …Went on vacation, finally decided after one of their Democratic presidential debates had finished and after the BCS football championship game that it was time to deliver them.”
The trial is in recess and is expected to resume at 6:45 p.m.