Trump impeachment trial live updates: President’s defense team goes after Bidens


uschools/iStock(WASHINGTON) — As White House lawyers spend their second day defending President Donald Trump at his Senate impeachment trial Monday, questions raised by a reported draft manuscript of a forthcoming book by former national security adviser John Bolton have given Democrats new hope in their call for new witnesses to testify.In an unpublished version of Bolton’s book The Room Where It Happened reported by the New York Times on Sunday, Bolton said Trump told him he wanted to continue withholding nearly $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials in Ukraine helped investigate Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden.Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, one of four GOP moderates Democrats have targeted in hopes of getting their support for witnesses, said Monday it’s “important” senators hear Bolton’s account to make an “impartial judgment.””It’s pretty fair to say that John Bolton has a relevant testimony to provide to those of us who are sitting in impartial justice,” Romney said.

GOP Sen. Susan Collins said the reports about Bolton’s book “strengthen the case for witnesses.”Trump denied Bolton’s allegation in tweets early Monday morning.Here is how the day is unfolding:9:02 p.m. Second day of defense team’s opening arguments endsDershowitz’s arguments were largely constitutional and, at times, very scholarly. At one point he read William Blackstone quotes from two very old, large, yellowing books, which were dogeared with pink sticky notes.He acknowledged that his position on the matter has evolved over time and said that a crime is necessary for a president to be impeached.Impeachable offenses, he said, are treason, bribery or those actions that are similar, but perhaps lack certain jurisdictional elements. Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are not similar crimes, Dershowitz argues.”This is the key point in this impeachment case, please understand what I’m arguing, is that purely noncriminal conduct, including abuse of power and obstruction of congress are outside the range of impeachable offenses,” Dershowitz said.”The framers did intend to limit the criteria for impeachment to criminal-like conduct akin into treason bribery,” he added. “And they certainly did not intend to extend it to vague and open-ended and non criminal accusations such as abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.”At the close of arguments for the day, Cipollone encouraged senators to consider the “golden rule of impeachment.”For the Democrats the Golden Rule could be do unto Republicans as you would have them do unto Democrats,” Cipollone said. “And hopefully we will never be in another position in this country where we have another impeachment but vice versa for that rule.”The defense team’s opening arguments will continue on Tuesday. 8:47 p.m. Dershowitz argues Bolton revelations do not rise to the level of an ‘impeachable offense’The Harvard professor emeritus raised the new revelations from Bolton’s transcript, as reported on by the New York Times, in his presentation before senators.He argued that the details in the new reporting, even if true, do not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.”Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense that is clear from the history that is clear from the language of the Constitution,” Dershowitz said. “You cannot turn conduct that is not impeachable into impeachable conduct simply by using words like quid pro quo and personal benefit.” 7:46 p.m. Robert Ray argues charges ‘cheapen’ impeachment processRobert Ray argued the charges against Trump “cheapen” the impeachment process by relying on what he called insufficient evidence and that Trump actions do not rise to the level that they warrant removal from office.”The charge must be treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. It must be one for which clear and unmistakable proof can be produced. Only if the evidence actually produced against the president is indeed irrefutable such that his own constituents, in this case the sixty-three million people like me, who voted for President Trump accept his guilt of the offense charged in order to overwhelmingly persuade a super majority of Americans and thus their senators of malfeasance warranting his removal from office,” Ray said.6:49 p.m. GOP senators praise Trump team going after BidensDuring the dinner break, some Senate Republicans tell reporters they’re impressed with this last hour of opening arguments made by the White House legal team, including Eric Herschmann, who continued the attack on Hunter Biden’s work on the board of Burisma.”Why do they want to pay him millions of dollars?” Herschmann asked. “Well, he did have one qualification, he was a son of the vice president of the United States. He was the son of the man in charge of the Ukrainian portfolio for the prior administration and we are to believe there is nothing to see here, that for anyone to investigate or inquire about this would be a sham.””Let’s take a step back and realize what actually transpired, because the House managers would have us believe this had nothing at all to do with our government, nothing at all to do with our country’s interests, nothing at all to do with our vice president, nothing at all to do with the State Department,” Herschmann said. “It’s simply private citizen Hunter Biden doing his own private business, it was purely coincidental that it was in his father’s portfolio in Ukraine in the exact sector, the energy sector, that his father said was corrupt.””This afternoon was devastating for the House managers,” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas says. “We have heard just the beginning of the serious evidence of corruption, involving Burisma Ukrainian natural gas company that paid Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, a million dollars a year.” (There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either of the Bidens.)”So, I get the press loves to obsess over the latest bombshell,” he says, referring to a report about John’s Bolton’s allegations.

“Listen, I don’t know what John Bolton’s book says or doesn’t say, I’ve seen the New York Times coverage but at the end of the day, it doesn’t impact the legal issue before the Senate. The legal issue before this Senate is whether it president has the authority to investigate corruption,” Cruz says.GOP Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming takes a shot at the presidential hopefuls on the Democratic side, joking that they sat with eyes “wide open” in shock.”Everyone was paying close attention for the discussion about the Bidens but the four people whose eyes were fully wide open were Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Michael Bennett and Amy Klobuchar,” Barrasso says.Ernst, from Iowa, then chimes in with a laugh, and a taunt about Iowa caucuses next week.

“Iowa caucuses, folks. Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening and I’m really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters,” she says. 5:05 p.m. Bondi uses Bidens to claim Trump’s concern about Ukraine corruption justifiedHitting on the alleged conflict of interest theme, Bondi uses a video clip of House testimony from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent in November: “I raised my concern that Hunter Biden status as a board member to create the perception of a conflict of interest,” Kent, who oversaw Ukraine policy, says.Questioning Hunter Biden’s qualifications to hold a board position, Bondi cites the generous monthly compensation he received as more grounds for suspicion.Bondi turned to Vice President Joe Biden’s efforts to force the corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor general Victor Shokin out of office, in exchange for $1 billion in security assistance, alleging that Shokin was investigating the Ukrainian oligarch owner of Burisma at the time.Bondi played a 2016 video clip of Vice President Biden appearing to brag about his ability to use the U.S. aid as leverage to get the Ukrainians to vote Shokin out: “I’m leaving in 6 hours, if the prosecutor’s not fired you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch, he got fired and they put in place someone who was solid at the time,” Biden says in the clip.She then suggested that Joe Biden advocated for the Shokin’s 2015 dismissal in an effort to protect his son, Hunter.”What he didn’t say on that video, according to the New York Times, this was the prosecutor investigating Burisma — Shokin,” Bondi says. “What he also didn’t say on the video was that his son was being paid significant amounts by the oligarch owner of Burisma to sit on that board.”But there is a notable omission: Shokin faced widespread criticism from several high-profile international leaders (and anti-corruption advocates in Ukraine) who said Biden’s recommendation was well-justified.The IMF threatened to withhold aid to Kiev in early 2016 citing “Ukraine’s slow progress in improving governance and fighting corruption,” according to Christine Lagard, the IMF’s managing director. And once Shokin was removed, the European Union’s envoy to Ukraine, Jan Tombinski, lauded the decision as “an opportunity to make a fresh start.”She also doesn’t mention that Kent repeatedly denied GOP suggestions that Biden did anything wrong. In fact, Biden was acting in accordance with U.S. policy and in agreement with concerns raised by European governments and anti-corruption advocates in Ukraine.Bondi then, in the context of all these allegations against the Bidens, quotes Trump’s request from the transcript of the call with Zelenskiy.”The House managers talked about the Bidens and Burisma 400 times but they never gave you the full picture,” Bondi argues. She attempts to make the request sound fair and reasonable under the circumstances.After laying the narrative out, Bondi says there is enough to make the case that it was fair for Trump to ask Zelenskiy to look into the matter from an anti-corruption standpoint.”You’ve heard from the House managers, they do not believe that there was any concern to raise here. That all of this was baseless,” Bondi says. “And all we are saying is that there was a basis to talk about this, to raise this issue, and that is enough,” she says. 4:45 p.m. Trump’s defense team goes after Bidens at lengthPam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general and a member of Trump’s defense team, brings the argument back to Hunter Biden and the questions from Republicans about whether his role with the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma was a conflict of interest with his father’s position in the Obama administration.It’s the first time Trump’s defense team has brought up the Bidens at length.Bondi argues that Democrats have made Biden part of the impeachment issue even though Democrats did so saying accusations of any wrongdoing are “baseless.” So have the Bidens.”We would prefer not to be discussing this. But the House managers have placed this squarely at issue, so we must address it,” Bondi says before reviewing the timeline of Hunter Biden’s involvement with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and news media coverage and questions about the appearance of a conflict of interest when he served on the company’s board.”Now, the House managers might say without evidence that everything we just have said has been debunked, that the evidence points entirely and unequivocally in the other direction,” she says. “That is a distraction you’ve heard from the House managers, they do not believe that there was any concern to raise, all of this was baseless and all we are saying is that there was a basis to talk about this, to raise this issue and that is enough.”Bondi has the chamber riveted, according to ABC News’ Devin Dwyer. As she started on the topic of Hunter Biden, Sen. Maria Cantrell mouths “bull****” as she turns to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen beside her.There are expressions of dismay and concern on several faces of Democratic senators. Sen. Cory Booker openly scowls as he stands in the back of the chamber.Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stares dead on at Bondi with a look of skepticism. Sen. Chris Coons, a close ally of former Vice President Joe Biden, aggressively takes notes.Many of the president’s Republican allies — Sens. Graham, Barrasso, Braun, Thune — are nodding along. Sens. Romney, Collins and Murkowski diligently take notes.4:26 p.m. Inside the Senate chamber: Republicans listening intently During Jane Raskin’s presentation focusing on Rudy Giuliani (in which she tried to downplay his role while attempting to distance the White House from Giuliani by telling senators his style may not appeal to them), senators seemed very engaged — especially Republicans — who intently listened and took notes.GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney are especially engaged, and members of the Trump defense team are noticeably craning their necks during certain portions of the presentation to see how senators are reacting. 3:30 p.m. Raskin: Democrats using Giuliani as ‘a colorful distraction’“Rudy Giuliani is the House managers’ colorful distraction,” another member of the president’s legal team, Jane Raskin, tells senators, in her first turn speaking during the Senate arguments.”The House managers would have you believe that Mr. Giuliani is at the center of this controversy. They’ve anointed him the proxy villain of the tail the leader of a rogue operation their presentations were filled with ad hominem attacks and name-calling: ‘cold-blooded political operative,’ ‘political bagman.’ But I suggest to you that he’s front and center in their narrative for one reason and one reason alone: to distract from the fact that the evidence does not support their claims,” she says.Raskin argues the Democrats’ case is based on assumptions around Giuliani’s role, including that his motivation was to benefit the president politically, and that the case for impeachment doesn’t put his role in context as the president’s personal attorney.She says Giuliani has said multiple times that his interest in Ukraine is not related to the 2020 presidential election and predated the announcement of former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign, a big talking point in the Democrats’ argument about the timeline of events.Raskin argues Giuliani was a “minor player” and a “shiny object” designed to distract senators and that his work related to Ukraine would be used to defend Trump against allegations that were the focus of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation — that his campaign colluded with Russian operatives to interfere in the 2016 election.Giuliani, like Trump, has pushed a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine, and not Russia, sought to interfere in the election, even though U.S. officials have said there is no information to support that claim.”As he has stated repeatedly and publicly, he was doing what good defense attorneys do,” Raskin says. “Following a lead from a well-known private investigator, he was gathering evidence regarding Ukrainian election interference to defend his client against the false allegations being investigated by special counsel Mueller.”Mueller’s report found that while there was insufficient evidence to charge members of the Trump campaign with engaging in a criminal conspiracy with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election — it did not find there was no evidence of contacts and cooperation or “no collusion” as Trump has claimed. It also found that Russian operatives sought to manipulate the election through misinformation and other types of interference.”If Rudy Giuliani is everything they say he is, don’t you think they would have subpoenaed and pursued his testimony? Ask yourselves, why didn’t they?” Raskin says. “In fact it appears the House Committee wasn’t particularly interested in presenting you with any direct evidence of what Mayor Giuliani did or why he did it. Instead, they ask you to rely on hearsay, speculation and assumption evidence that would be inadmissible in any court.”2:42 p.m. Purpura: White House was working to set up Ukraine meeting even without an investigation announcementWhite House deputy counsel Michael Purpura rails against the Democrats’ assertion that a meeting with President Trump was linked to the opening of an investigation, arguing that he was genuinely interested in combating corruption in Ukraine when he asked President Zelenskiy to announce investigations and withheld military aid.He argues that, despite arguments the White House made the announcement of investigations into the Bidens a requirement before Trump would meet with Zelenskiy, the White House was working to schedule a meeting for weeks without any announcement.Purpura says the two presidents met as early as their schedules allowed at the United Nations meeting in September, but that Democrats insist that was significantly different than a meeting at the White House.”They claim the meeting couldn’t be just an in-person meeting with President Trump. What it had to be was a meeting at the Oval Office and in the White House. That’s nonsense,” he says.”Putting to one side the absurdity of the House managers trying to remove a duly elected president of the United States from office because he met a world leader in one location versus another, this theory has no basis in fact,” he adds.1:57 p.m. Starr calls this ‘age of impeachment’Ken Starr, the independent counsel who pushed for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, says “the Senate is being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently. Indeed we’re living in what I think can be aptly described as the age of impeachment.””Like war, impeachment is hell. Or at least presidential impeachment is hell,” he says. “Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment including members of this body, full well understand that a presidential impeachment is tantamount to domestic war but thankfully protected by our beloved first amendment a war of words and a war of ideas. But it’s filled with acrimony and it divides the country like nothing else.”He then argues that the Constitution and the “common law” of impeachment requires a “violation of law” to be alleged.”And so, the appropriate question, were crimes alleged in the articles in the common law of presidential impeachment in Nixon? Yes. In Clinton? Yes. Here? No. A factor to be considered as the judges in the high court. Come as you will individually to your judgment. Even in the political cauldron of the Andrew Johnson impeachment, article 11 charged a violation of the controversial tenure of office act, you’re familiar with it, and that act warned expressly the Oval Office that its violation would constitute a high misdemeanor, employing the very language of cognizable crimes. This history represents and I believe may please the court, it embodies the common law of presidential impeachment,” Starr says.He repeats Republican arguments against the obstruction of justice charge against the president, saying House Democrats should have gone to court to compel documents and testimony blocked by the White House. He counters comments from Adam Schiff and other Democrats that the court process would have taken too long, adding to the risk the president’s actions would influence the 2020 election.Starr says there is a precedent for expedited proceedings in a case like impeachment.”The House of Representatives could have sought that well-trodden path, it could have sought expedition, it could have sought expedition, the courthouse six blocks down the judges are there, they’re all very able, they’re hardworking people of integrity. Follow the path, follow the path of the law. Go to court,” he says, adding that he believes all House subpoenas issued before the House voted to authorize the impeachment inquiry would be ruled invalid.He argues that Congress should use its oversight powers to hold the president and administration accountable, despite the administration’s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations, release documents, or comply with subpoenas. The lack of cooperation from the White House has been a main argument in Democrats’ charge that the president has obstructed justice in the impeachment inquiry.”Again, sitting as a court, this body should signal to the nation the return to our traditions. Bipartisan impeachments. What’s the alternative? Will the president be king? Do oversight. The tradition of oversight. An enormous check on presidential power throughout our history and it continues available today,” Starr says.”In Iran-contra, no impeachment was undertaken,” Starr says, referring to the scandal under President Reagan in which Reagan agreed to send arms to Iran to use money from that sale to fund Nicaraguan rebels or “contras.”1:19 p.m. McConnell tells GOP colleagues to ‘stay the course’Sen. Mitch McConnell tells his GOP colleagues “stay the course” during their pre-trial lunch, Republican Sens. Mike Rounds and Kevin Cramer tell ABC News’ Devin Dwyer.Both men said McConnell offered repeated assurances that their game plan is sound and a vote on witnesses will happen at the appropriate time.Cramer said it was a “keep your powder dry” pep talk.”It’s more of a wrinkle” he added of the Bolton news.”The whole message is still we made the right choice in the first place. We said we finished through phase one we’ve heard the attacks and now let’s hear the defense and then we’ll ask our questions and then we make a decision on material witnesses,” said Sen. Rounds.Asked if he wants to hear Bolton, Sen. Lamar Alexander said: “I worked with my colleagues to make sure we have a chance after we’ve heard the arguments. After we’ve asked our questions to decide if we need additional evidence and I’ll decide that at that time.”Meanwhile, President Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow begins by previewing the arguments the president’s defense will make today.While he doesn’t make a direct mention of the Bolton claim, he appears to refer to it. noting that his team will deal only with “publicly available information.””What we have done on Saturday is the pattern that we’re going to continue today as far as how we’re going to deal with the case. We deal with transcript evidence,” Jay Sekulow said. “We deal with publicly available information. We don’t deal with speculation, allegations. That are not based on evidentiary standards at all”.He said the president always acted within his legal authority when he says Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelenskiy to investigate corruption in his country, even when that involved a U.S. citizen, and repeated Zelenskiy’s statements that he did not feel pressured in his July 25 conversation with Trump.1:06 p.m. Prayer for Kobe Bryant as trial resumesSenate Chaplain Barry Black, in his opening prayer, references the deaths of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash over the weekend, saying it serves as a reminder of our limited time on Earth.”As this impeachment process unfolds, give our senators the desire to make the most of our time on Earth,” he says.On a lighter note, the chaplain and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also recognize Chief Justice John Roberts’ 65th birthday as the proceedings get underway.1:05 p.m. Sources: Trump legal team preparing legal fight to block witnessesAs the second day of opening arguments from Trump’s legal team gets underway in the Senate, senior level White House sources tell ABC News the president’s lawyers are preparing for the possibility of witnesses in the impeachment trial.Sources say the legal team is preparing an aggressive, drawn out legal fight to block the testimony of potential witnesses. 11:58 a.m. Trump says he hasn’t seen Bolton manuscript, calls allegations ‘false’President Trump says this morning that the allegations in the Bolton manuscript are “false,” and says he hasn’t seen the manuscript.Asked in the Oval Office, “What about the allegations in the Bolton manuscript?” Trump replies, “False,” then scoffs and mouths “false” again.He makes the comment before a meeting in the Oval Office with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Earlier, before entering the Oval Office for that meeting, Trump told reporters outside the West Wing that he had not seen the manuscript. 11:46 a.m. Republican Graham suggests he could now be open to witnessesGOP Sen. Lindsey Graham suggests he could now be open to witnesses provided it’s done in a “balanced way” — possibly to include votes on Hunter and Joe Biden.”If we’re going to add to the record, then we’re going to go to Hunter Biden, Joe Biden and all these people,” Graham tells ABC News’ Devin Dwyer Monday morning.When asked whether this means he’s changed his position on calling the Bidens — he says he has not — that he still opposes calling them for the sake of calling them — but says it might be reasonable to include them in votes if the Senate moves to votes on witnesses.As to whether he has any reason to doubt Bolton, Graham says he’s withholding judgment until he sees more: “I’m not going to make a commitment about something I don’t know about.” He says he might be interested in subpoenaing the manuscript.At the same time, other Republicans dismiss the Bolton allegations.There is “nothing new here,” says Sen. John Barrasso, a member of the Senate GOP leadership from Wyoming.”It really doesn’t change anything, in terms of the process. We knew that the discussion of witnesses would be here soon … What it’s done is taken an already hot topic and added some fuel to the fire,” says GOP Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana.11:15 a.m. Schumer calls Bolton report ‘stunning’Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calls the Bolton revelations “stunning,” saying they “go to the heart” of the case against the president.”Ambassador Bolton essentially confirms the president committed the offense charged in the first article of impeachment.” Schumer tells reporters.The Senate’s Democratic Leader repeats his accusation that the White House had engaged in a “cover-up” in order to subvert the impeachment investigation and Senate trial.”Anyone who says the House case lacks eyewitnesses and then votes to prevent eye witnesses from testifying is talking out of both sides of their mouth,” Schumer adds.He asks, given the Bolton developments: “How can Senate Republicans not vote to call that witness?””This the test for the senators. They have taken an oath to be impartial. They have just learned there’s a key witness going to the heart of the allegations. The question they have to answer is do they want to hear the truth?” lead House manager Adam Schiff told CNN Monday.10:54 a.m. GOP’s Collins says Bolton revelations ‘strengthen case for witnesses’GOP Sen. Susan Collins, another key Republican moderate, issues a statement on Twitter shortly after Sen. Mitt Romney speaks, saying, “The reports about John Bolton’s book strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a numbers of conversations among my colleagues.””From the beginning, I’ve said that in fairness to both parities the decision on whether or not to call witnesses be made after both the House managers and the President’s attorneys have had the opportunity to present their cases,” she says.”I’ve always said that I was likely to vote to call witnesses, just as did in the 199 Clinton trial,” she adds.Earlier, Romney said he can’t speculate on what impact Bolton’s testimony would have on a final decision of whether to acquit the president but said that “it’s relevant and therefore, I’d like to hear it.”Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.