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Dems Demand Bolton Testify at Trial    01/27 06:07

   The stakes over witness testimony at President Donald Trump's impeachment 
trial are rising now that a draft of a book from former national security 
adviser John Bolton appears to undercut a key defense argument.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The stakes over witness testimony at President Donald 
Trump's impeachment trial are rising now that a draft of a book from former 
national security adviser John Bolton appears to undercut a key defense 
argument.

   Bolton writes in the forthcoming book that Trump told him that he wanted to 
withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid from Ukraine until it 
helped him with politically charged investigations, including into Democratic 
rival Joe Biden. Trump's legal team has repeatedly insisted that the Republican 
president never tied the suspension of military assistance to the country to 
investigations that he wanted into Biden and his son. 

   The account immediately gave Democrats new fuel in their pursuit of sworn 
testimony from Bolton and other witnesses, a question expected to be taken up 
later this week by the Republican-led Senate. The trial resumes Monday 
afternoon with arguments from Trump's defense team.

   Bolton's account was first reported by The New York Times and was confirmed 
to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the manuscript on the 
condition of anonymity to discuss the book, "The Room Where It Happened; A 
White House Memoir," ahead of its release March 17.

   When the Times report went online Sunday night, the seven House Democratic 
managers immediately called on all senators to insist that Bolton be called as 
a witness and provide his notes and other relevant documents. Sen. Chuck 
Schumer, the Senate's top Democrat, issued the same call. 

   Trump denied the claims in a series of tweets early Monday. "I NEVER told 
John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, 
including the Bidens," Trump said in a tweet. "In fact, he never complained 
about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said 
this, it was only to sell a book." Trump said people could look at transcripts 
of his call and statements by Ukraine President Vlodymyr Zelinskiy that there 
was no pressure for such investigations to get the aid.

   Bolton, who acrimoniously left the White House a day before Trump ultimately 
released the Ukraine aid on Sept. 11, has already told lawmakers that he is 
willing to testify, despite the president's order barring aides from 
cooperating in the probe.

   "Americans know that a fair trial must include both the documents and 
witnesses blocked by the President --- that starts with Mr. Bolton," the 
impeachment managers said in a statement.

   First, though, Trump's legal team will begin laying out its case in depth, 
turning to several high-profile attorneys to argue against impeachment.

   The lawyers revealed the broad outlines of their defense in a rare but 
truncated Saturday session, at which they accused House Democrats of using the 
impeachment case to try to undo the results of the last presidential election 
and drive Trump from office. 

   The legal team is expected to pick up on that theme and also dive into areas 
that received negligible attention during the Democrats' presentation, 
including the now-concluded investigation into ties between Russia and Trump's 
2016 campaign. 

   Trump's lawyers aren't expected to take as much time for their arguments as 
the Democrats, whose impeachment managers spoke for about 24 hours over three 
days. But they also don't need to: Acquittal is likely in a Senate where 
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority, with a two-thirds vote needed for 
conviction. Still, they see an opportunity to counter the allegations, defend 
the powers of the presidency and prevent Trump from being weakened politically 
ahead of November's election.

   Trump faces two articles of impeachment. One accuses him of abusing his 
power by asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, his Democratic rival, while 
his administration withheld hundreds of millions of dollars from the country. 
The other alleges that Trump obstructed Congress by directing aides to not 
cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.

   The legal team will portray Trump as having been harassed by investigations 
from federal agents --- and Democrats --- since he took office and will seize 
on the FBI's recent acknowledgment of surveillance errors during the Russia 
probe. The lawyers have already hinted that they will focus attention on Biden 
just as he campaigns for a first-place finish in next week's Iowa caucuses.

   Monday's presentation is expected to include appearances by Alan Dershowitz, 
who will argue that impeachable offenses require criminal-like conduct, and Ken 
Starr, the independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation that led to the 
impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Former Florida Attorney General Pam 
Bondi is also expected to make arguments.

   Many legal scholars reject Dershowitz's arguments, saying the Founding 
Fathers meant for impeachable offenses to incorporate a broad range of conduct 
by presidents. Dershowitz told The Associated Press last week that he 
understood that some critics thought his argument was "bonkers" but encouraged 
them to listen nonetheless.

   Democrats argued their side of the impeachment case for three days last 
week, warning that Trump will persist in abusing his power and endangering 
American democracy unless Congress intervenes to remove him before the 2020 
election.

   On Saturday, the president's attorneys said there was no evidence that Trump 
made the military aid contingent on the country announcing an investigation 
into Biden. They also accused Democrats of omitting information that was 
favorable to Trump's case.

   Once Trump's team concludes, senators will have 16 hours to ask questions of 
both the House impeachment prosecutors and the president's legal team. Their 
questions must be in writing, and Chief Justice John Roberts, who has been 
presiding over the trial, will read them aloud. 

   Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told reporters Saturday that Republicans 
expected to get together on Monday to start formulating a list of questions. 

   "We will meet as a conference and decide what questions we want to pose, 
what the order may be of those of those questions," he said. 

   After the question-and-answer time has elapsed, the Senate will take up the 
question of whether to consider new witnesses and evidence --- a question that 
could be more politically complicated with the account in Bolton's book. 

   Four Republicans would have to break ranks to join Democrats to extend the 
trial for an undetermined amount of time.

   Democrats have been especially seeking testimony from Bolton and acting 
White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. 

   An attempt to call either probably would lead to a showdown with the White 
House, which claims both men have "absolute immunity" from being called to 
testify before the Senate, even in an impeachment trial.


(KR)

 
 
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