KEY POINTS

  • Trump's legal team presents its first full day of arguments against the impeachment articles
  • The goal is to convince senators not to call any additional witnesses during the Senate impeachment trial
  • The team's job was made harder during the weekend with revelations from John Bolton's forthcoming book

 

Update: 5:10 p.m. EST

Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., reportedly has suggested just two witnesses be called to testify at President Trump's impeachment trial: one called by Democrats and the other called by Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, has discouraged making any one-for-one witness deal the Republican position, saying lawmakers should wait until the issue comes up formally at the end of the week.

Republicans came under increasing pressure Monday over the witness issue following revelations that national security adviser John Bolton said in his forthcoming book that aid to Ukraine was explicitly tied by the president to a Ukrainian investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Democrats have said they want four key administration officials to testify. Republicans have been resisting, saying Democrats should have worked through the system to compel the testimony before voting its articles of impeachment.

The witness deal was proposed as Trump's lawyers laid out their case against impeachment, with former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi talking about corruption at the Ukraine energy company Burisma, which hired Biden's son, Hunter, for its board.

"It looks nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst," she said.

Update: 4:55 p.m. EST

Former Vice President Joe Biden commented on President Trump's impeachment trial Monday, saying the president is in that position because "he was afraid to run against me."

While campaigning in Iowa, Biden told reporters  to remember "why the man's on trial ... . He was afraid to run against me."

Update: 4:35 p.m. EST

Deputy counsel to the president Patrick Philbin, addressing the importance of executive privilege, told the Senate Monday the House should never have gone directly to impeachment without attempting to negotiate with the White House or going to court.

Calling impeachment the thermonuclear option, Philbin said the House’s approach would create a parliamentary form of government in the U.S. – something the Founding Fathers sought to avoid – by allowing the removal of a president over policy disagreements.

“Impeachment is a nuclear bomb,” Philbin said, adding that the Constitution requires incremental moves before getting to impeachment. He said the Democrats’ arguments would allow the House to become the supreme branch of government, dangling an impeachment threat over ever demand made of the executive.

“Virtually every president could be impeached,” Philbin said, saying nearly every president has asserted the prerogatives of his office.

“One of the greatest issues … is how the precedent in this case affects the future,” he said, adding the Founding Fathers were concerned about a rogue House going after the president.

Update: 2:05 p.m. EST

Former Clinton special counsel Kenneth Starr, a member of President Trump’s legal team, argued Monday impeachment should be based on a statutory crime and called the process “disruptive.”

Starr, who developed the impeachment case against President Bill Clinton for his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, went through the history of impeachment and told the Senate is it not a legislative body at the moment but, rather, a high court when it comes to removing a president from office.

Starr said actual statutory crimes were charged in the Clinton (perjury), Richard Nixon (obstruction of justice) and Andrew Johnson (violating the Tenure of Office Act) impeachments.

“Will law school professors agree with this? No,” Starr said, “but with all due respect, this is not an academic exercise.”

Starr also noted the earlier impeachments had bipartisan support while no Republicans voted to back the two articles of impeachment approved against Trump.

Starr noted impeachment is a “disruptive act” and said the “people should be allowed to decide” whether Trump should be removed from office. Democrats had argued that waiting until the November general election could allow Trump to cheat his way into a second term.

Update: 1:40 p.m. EST

Republican senators Monday predicted a vote would come Friday on whether to call witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial.

“It probably happens Friday or Saturday at the latest,” the No. 2 Senate Republican John Thune of South Dakota told reporters.

“We’re going to get to the specific question of witnesses on Friday,” Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind.

Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, and Susan Collins of Main, said revelations from former national security adviser John Bolton’s book make it more likely witnesses will be called.

Original story

President Trump’s legal team opens the first full day of its impeachment defense Monday amid fallout from an allegation by former national security John Bolton that Trump explicitly tied an investigation of Vice President Joe Biden to $391 million in military aid to Ukraine.

The revelation intensified calls from Democrats, who presented their case last week, for witnesses to be called at Trump’s Senate trial, something Republicans are hoping to head off.

You can watch the impeachment trial live below beginning at 1 p.m. EST:

Trump’s attorneys offered a preview of their case Saturday, arguing the president had valid reasons for freezing aid to Ukraine. They are expected to argue Trump’s request for an investigation was justified because of Ukraine’s history of corruption.

Trump tweeted Monday Bolton never complained about the Ukraine aid freeze. Bolton reportedly made the allegation in his forthcoming book, a draft of which was turned over to the White House nearly a month ago for vetting.

Democrats want Bolton and other key administration officials to testify before the Senate. Trump, however, ordered administration officials not to cooperate in any way with House impeachment investigators. House impeachment managers said they did not subpoena Bolton for the initial investigation because they wanted to avoid a lengthy court battle that would have delayed the impeachment process.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Monday it's getting more likely Bolton will be called to testify.

"It's important to be able to hear from John Bolton for us to be able to make an impartial judgment," Romney told reporters Monday.

Bolton initially said he would testify once a court ordered him to do so; he subsequently said he would testify before the Senate.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday if Bolton and other key administration officials are called to testify by Democrats, Republicans would call witnesses Trump had requested, including Biden and his son, Hunter, to delve into the younger Biden’s time on the board of Ukraine energy company Burisma.

The New York Times reported Republicans are complaining they were blindsided by Bolton’s manuscript, which demolishes Trump’s impeachment defense, which holds the witnesses who testified before the House had made assumptions about Trump’s motives and that there was no direct evidence that the freeze on military aid and the investigations actually were linked.