White House legal team made the case for calling Bolton, Schiff says.
Republican senators huddled privately in the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon to determine whether to call witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial — a step that most of them hope to avoid — but reached no consensus on how to proceed.
As soon as Mr. Trump’s legal team finished its oral arguments against removing him from office, Republicans raced to a room near the Senate floor to decide whether to support the move, which could prolong the trial and muddle what until recently had seemed to be a smooth march to a speedy acquittal of the president.
Democrats have long demanded that witnesses be called, but until this week, all but a few Republicans had been opposed, calling it unnecessary. Revelations from a coming book by the president’s former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, reinvigorated the debate among Republicans about whether they needed to relent.
“It was a serious family discussion,” Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, said as he emerged from Tuesday’s session. “Some people are sincerely exploring all the avenues because they are still uncommitted.”
Senator Mitt Romney of Utah is the only Republican to have publicly called for witnesses and has said he wants to hear from Mr. Bolton. Senator Susan Collins of Maine has also said she would most likely vote for witnesses. Two other Republicans, Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, have expressed openness to the idea, but both were noncommittal after reports about Mr. Bolton’s manuscript, in which he said that Mr. Trump refused to release congressionally allocated military aid to Ukraine until the country furnished information about his political rivals.
To prevail in a vote to call witnesses, now expected on Friday, Democrats would need four Republicans to join them.
“The witness vote could easily be close,” said Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, adding that the private discussion among his colleagues on Tuesday was “vigorous.”
Senator Mike Braun, Republican of Indiana, said the group had broken up with no agreement on what to do.
Representative Adam B. Schiff said on Tuesday that the president’s own lawyers made the case for calling John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser.
“I don’t think quite frankly that we could have made as effective a case for John Bolton’s testimony as the president’s own lawyers,” Mr. Schiff, Democrat of California and the lead House impeachment manager, said at a news conference after the White House lawyers concluded their opening arguments.
“Are we going to get a fair trial, or are we not?” he added. “Is the Senate going to hear from someone that every American now knows is a key and important witness on the most egregious of the president’s conduct, or are we not? And I don’t see how the oath of impartiality can be interpreted any other way than in demanding a fair trial with witnesses and documents.”
Mr. Schiff dismissed efforts among Republicans to call him and other witnesses he deemed to be less relevant to the proceedings “red herrings,” adding that the concept of allowing one Democratic witness for one Republican witness is “not a game we’re interested in playing.”
“I can tell you what my testimony is: He’s guilty, and he should be impeached,” he said.
Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, has garnered attention as the only one in his party who has publicly committed to voting “yes” on calling witnesses.
Mr. Romney caught the spotlight on Tuesday for another reason, when he was seen momentarily breaking Senate rules by entering the chamber with a bottle of chocolate milk. He promptly exited and returned with the milk in a glass.
The courtroom artist Art Lien has been sketching the trial for The New York Times. See all of Mr. Lien’s drawings here.
The body language in the Senate chamber spoke louder than words after President Trump’s team wrapped up its defense in his impeachment trial. This is what C-SPAN viewers did not see: Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, bolted upright, looking startled, as Pat A. Cipollone, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, finished his closing statement. A murmur went up from the chamber as senators began rustling about. Finally, hour after hour, day after day of silence, senators could talk to one another.
Lawyerly camaraderie was on full display. Mr. Cipollone walked over to the Democrats’ counsel table and promptly went down the line, shaking the hands of each of the House impeachment managers. He gave Representative Jerrold Nadler — whom he upbraided when tempers flared last week — a pat on the shoulder. Norm L. Eisen, a lawyer for the Democrats, crossed the aisle to deliver back slaps to some of his Republican counterparts.
But the most intriguing interactions came from some of the senators themselves.
Senators Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, bipartisan allies who have twice worked together to bring an end to government shutdowns, were deep in conversation. Ms. Collins is likely to break with her party to call for witnesses to testify.
In the back corner of the chamber, Senators Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, and Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee were also having a lively talk; both could be seen gesturing. Ms. Sinema is viewed as someone who might cross party lines to vote to acquit Mr. Trump; Mr. Alexander has expressed openness to joining with Democrats to subpoena witnesses. They sat together for nearly 10 minutes after the proceedings concluded — sadly, out of earshot of the reporters staring from the gallery up above.
When it came time to close out the defense of President Trump in his impeachment trial on Tuesday, Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, decided to be short and sweet.
There was no soaring language. No long, involved narratives about guilt or innocence. No detailed examinations of the facts bolstering the president’s case. And very little venom aimed at the Democratic House managers.
Instead, Mr. Cipollone simply called on senators to “end the era of impeachment” by declaring Mr. Trump not guilty.
“It is time for this to end, here and now. So we urge the Senate to reject these articles of impeachment for all of the reasons we have given you,“ Mr. Cipollone said, spending about six minutes for his closing remarks. Toward the end, he added merely: “You know it should end. You know it should end.”
Moments later, he brought the president’s impeachment defense to a close, telling senators: “Thank you again for your attention.”
After less than two hours in the chamber, President Trump’s defense team closed their opening arguments, and the Senate officially adjourned for the day.
On Wednesday, senators will begin the question period of the trial.
In laying out the days to come, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, drew scattered applause when he pointed to precedent to make a plea for brevity.
“During the question period of the Clinton trial, senators were thoughtful and brief with their questions, and the managers and counsel were succinct in their answers,” he said. “I hope we can follow both of those examples during this time.”
Even as he portrayed himself as a firmly-in-control head of state announcing a peace plan for the Middle East, President Trump could not resist injecting a moment of political spite against a NPR journalist into the White House ceremony.
With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel standing next to him, Mr. Trump turned to his chief diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was sitting in the audience.
“That reporter couldn’t have done too good a job on you yesterday, huh?” Mr. Trump said to Mr. Pompeo, with a half-smile on his face. “I think you did a good job on her, actually.”
Several people in the audience, which had loudly applauded Mr. Trump’s introduction of Mr. Pompeo, murmured at the reference to the State Department’s ongoing flap with NPR.
Last week, the radio network’s interview with Mr. Pompeo turned ugly when the journalist, Mary Louise Kelly, a host on “All Things Considered,” asked Mr. Pompeo about his role in a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine now at the center of the impeachment trial.
Mr. Pompeo claimed he was blindsided by the questions — even though Ms. Kelly said she had informed his staff before the interview that she would ask about Ukraine. Ms. Kelly also described an untaped portion of the interview — which Mr. Pompeo later insisted was off the record, a claim that NPR has disputed — in which he berated her with foul language and made her point to Ukraine on a blank map of the world, which she did.
Mr. Pompeo later said Ms. Kelly “lied to me” about the terms of the interview and described the news media as “unhinged.” On Sunday, the State Department informed NPR’s diplomatic correspondent, Michele Kelemen, that she would not be allowed to travel with other journalists on Mr. Pompeo’s government jet this week on official travel to Europe and Central Asia, including Ukraine.
Mr. Pompeo’s outburst has been widely criticized from across the political and media spectrum, with even a Fox News host calling him a “baby” and a “bully.” But it was clear on Monday that Mr. Trump was pleased with his top diplomat.
“That’s good — thank you, Mike. Great,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Pompeo after the verbal jab at NPR.
The president then raised the prospect of Mr. Pompeo running for the Senate — although Mr. Pompeo is said to have told Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, that he would not.
“Are you running for Senate? I guess the answer’s no after that, huh,” Mr. Trump said at the White House on Monday. “They all want him to. Kansas — great state — they want him to. But you’re doing a great job, don’t move.”
As President Trump’s legal team wrapped up its defense of the president, Jay Sekulow, the president’s lawyer, began tackling the revelations by John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, who states in an unpublished manuscript that Mr. Trump withheld military assistance to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that would help him politically.
“You cannot impeach a president on an unsourced allegation,” Mr. Sekulow said on Tuesday.
Mr. Sekulow did not directly assert that the contents of Mr. Bolton’s book, as reported by The New York Times, were false, but instead quoted the president, Attorney General William P. Barr, and other administration officials “responding to an unpublished manuscript that maybe some reporters have an idea of what it says.”
“I don’t know what you’d call that, I’d call it inadmissible,” Mr. Sekulow said.
During arguments on Monday, Alan M. Dershowitz, the constitutional scholar, had been the only member of the defense team to directly rebut the accusations leveled by Mr. Bolton.
The argument from Mr. Sekulow comes as Republicans grapple with the pressure to agree to subpoena Mr. Bolton as part of the impeachment trial, as Democrats have pushed for. At least one senator, Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, has advocated for support on such a vote, which is expected in the coming days. Some Republicans have also begun to publicly discuss the possibility of obtaining a copy of the manuscript ahead of its publication.
Two Republican senators are backing a proposal to make the manuscript of John Bolton’s forthcoming book available in a classified setting to all members of the Senate, an idea some Republicans are considering as they grapple with a new account by the former national security adviser that corroborates a central piece of the impeachment case against President Trump.
Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma and an ally of Mr. Trump, said Monday night that the manuscript amounts to the “minimum amount that we should actually be able to get.”
“I am encouraging the White House, anybody that I can talk to to say: That manuscript is pertinent and we should get access to that manuscript to see what they’re actually saying,” Mr. Lankford said during a livestream on his Facebook page.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, endorsed that proposal on Monday, and reiterated his support on Tuesday, writing on Twitter that he “totally supports” Mr. Lankford’s proposal.
Attempting to make the manuscript available to senators, however, could create a number of roadblocks. It is unclear whether Mr. Bolton’s publisher would be willing to release the manuscript or whether Mr. Bolton himself would be able to release it under the terms of his contract. In order for the Senate to subpoena the transcript, senators would have to clear a 51 vote threshold that would open up a floodgate of motions, an outcome Republican leadership would find unappealing.
Still, Mr. Lankford said, “My encouragement would be, 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.”
Moments before the trial was set to resume on Capitol Hill, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Trump unveiled his long-awaited Middle East peace plan with a flourish on Tuesday, outlining a proposal that would give Israel most of what it has sought over decades of conflict while creating what he called a Palestinian state with limited sovereignty.
Mr. Trump’s plan would guarantee that Israel would control a unified Jerusalem as its capital and not require it to uproot any of the settlements in the West Bank that have provoked Palestinian outrage and alienated much of the outside world. He promised to provide $50 billion in international financing to build the new Palestinian entity and open an embassy in its new state.
“My vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides, a realistic two-state solution that resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood into security,” the president said at a White House ceremony that demonstrated the one-sided state of affairs as he was flanked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel but no counterpart from the Palestinian leadership, which is not on speaking terms with the Trump administration.
The event in the East Room of the White House had a Kabuki-theater quality to it as the president ended years of suspense over a highly promoted peace plan that was widely considered dead on arrival. Rather than a serious blueprint for peace, analysts called it a political document by a president in the middle of an impeachment trial working in tandem with a prime minister under criminal indictment who faces his third election in a year in barely over a month.
Middle East Peace Plan
Senate Democrats, who have been holding daily 11 a.m. news conferences during President Trump’s impeachment trial, used their time with reporters on Tuesday to serve up a little dramatic outrage over “the nerve and the gall” of President Trump’s legal team.
“Give me a break!” declared Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, referring to Jay Sekulow, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer. “He has the nerve and the gall to get up there and say that there is no eyewitness testimony when we know that John Bolton has eyewitness testimony and is willing to testify?”
(Mr. Schumer initially flubbed this line, using Hunter Biden’s name instead of Mr. Bolton’s. But his colleagues quickly corrected him, and he regrouped for the cameras.)
Then it was Senator Debbie Stabenow’s turn. The Michigan Democrat who offered a triple takedown of three other lawyers for the president: Ken Starr, whose investigation led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment; Rudolph W. Giuliani, who is not on the defense team but is a central figure in the impeachment trial; and Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor emeritus whose clients have included the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
“I was quite appalled by what we sat through all day,” Ms. Stabenow said. “We started by hearing Ken Starr lecture us about how divisive impeachment is. Really?”
She went on: “Then we heard that Rudy Giuliani is a great American hero. And then we finally heard a summation from Jeffrey Epstein’s attorney.”
John F. Kelly, the former chief of staff to President Trump, told an audience in Florida on Monday night that he believed the revelations in an upcoming book by John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, and thought the Senate should call witnesses in the impeachment trial.
In a draft manuscript, Mr. Bolton says that the president told him he wanted to continue freezing security aid meant for Ukraine until that country’s leaders announced investigations into Democrats that Mr. Trump sought.
“If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton,” said Mr. Kelly, who was the president’s second chief of staff, according to a report in the Herald Tribune. Mr. Kelly spoke at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota as part of the Ringling College Library Association Town Hall lecture series.
Mr. Kelly did not specifically say whether Mr. Bolton should testify in the president’s impeachment trial as Democrats demand. But he said he supported the idea of allowing senators to hear from people who have not yet testified in the case, saying that Americans want to hear the “whole story” about what Mr. Trump did.
“So I think if there are people that could contribute to this, either innocence or guilt … I think they should be heard,” Mr. Kelly said, according to the newspaper, adding: “I think some of the conversations seem to me to be very inappropriate but I wasn’t there. But there are people that were there that ought to be heard from.”
Since the publication of the article revealing the contents of Mr. Bolton’s book, some Republicans have trashed the former national security adviser, a lifelong conservative who served in several Republican administrations. But Mr. Kelly heaped praise on his former White House colleague. Mr. Bolton “always gave the president the unvarnished truth,” Mr. Kelly said.
“John’s an honest guy,” Mr. Kelly added. “He’s a man of integrity and great character, so we’ll see what happens.”
The politics of President Trump’s impeachment trial has taken center stage as the Iowa caucuses approach, and at least one Republican suggested the proceeding could hurt the chances of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading Democratic contender.
Mr. Trump’s legal defense team spent part of Monday arguing that it was entirely proper for the president to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, claiming that the pair might have been involved in corrupt activities.
“I’m really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucusgoers,” Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa said. “Will they be supporting former Vice President Joe Biden at this point?”
Just as Republicans have accused Democrats of wielding impeachment as a cudgel to hurt politically vulnerable senators, Ms. Ernst’s comment underscored the other side of the coin: that many Democrats believe the president is using the trial to bloody Mr. Biden as he seeks his party’s presidential nomination.
“Iowa caucusgoers take note. Joni Ernst just spilled the beans,” he wrote on Twitter, along with a video clip of Ms. Ernst’s remarks. “She and Donald Trump are scared to death I’ll be the nominee. On Feb. 3, let’s make their day.”
As senators left town last week, the trial of President Trump appeared to be racing toward a record-fast acquittal, with no bigger supporter of getting it done by the end of this week than Senator Mitch McConnell.
But in the wake of revelations that John R. Bolton has evidence that could prove out, with direct evidence, the House managers’ case, the pace has suddenly eased up. Mr. Trump’s defense team is taking one more day than expected to deliver its oral arguments. Senators’ time for questioning the prosecution and defense is now expected to unfold over two days, rather than in one long marathon session. All that delays a vote on whether to allow witnesses and questions: It is now expected on Friday, rather than Wednesday.
It appears Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, may now be seeing the advantages of a more deliberative approach. Putting as much distance as possible between the Bolton news and a vote on whether to call him to testify might just cool the temperature in the Capitol enough to prevent four Republicans from joining Democrats in a vote to prolong the trial. Slowing down now, in other words, could speed up the final result.
“Take a deep breath,” Mr. McConnell told fellow Republicans in private on Monday after the Bolton news. Let’s take this one step at a time, and remember no one needs to take a position until Friday’s vote.
President Trump believes the chances that witnesses will be called at his impeachment trial in the Senate have grown, even as advisers believed they might be able to allay concerns from senators after reports about assertions made by his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, in an unpublished manuscript.
According to several people who spoke to him, Mr. Trump has sounded resigned to the possibility of witnesses after The New York Times reported Sunday that Mr. Bolton’s manuscript described the president directly tying the release of security aid to Ukraine to the country’s pursuit of investigations he sought into Democrats.
Still, several Trump advisers said that Republican senators seemed reassured after hearing from one of the president’s defense lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, the only member of Mr. Trump’s team to reference the manuscript’s claims during the legal team’s presentation on Monday. Even if what Mr. Bolton wrote was true, Mr. Dershowitz told the senators, it did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.
Mr. Bolton’s book was sent by his lawyer to the White House on Dec. 30 for a standard security review process for books written by former and current officials. The book has been with the National Security Council, officials have said.
The manuscript may have given White House lawyers insight into what Mr. Bolton would testify to if called as a witness, and some Trump advisers’ concerns about Mr. Bolton testifying intensified with the book’s completion.
The White House Counsel’s Office told Republican senators over the course of the last twelve hours that they didn’t know the substance of what was in the book. That has relieved some of them, according to Republican officials. Pat A. Cipollone, the head of the office, is helping lead the president’s defense team.
One loyal Fox News viewer is not thrilled about the network’s impeachment coverage.
“Really pathetic,” President Trump declared on Tuesday, writing on Twitter that Fox News “is trying to be so politically correct” after the network interviewed a Democratic senator, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
Despite pro-Trump programming in the mornings and prime-time, Fox News has irked Mr. Trump when he detects any hint of disloyalty. On Tuesday, he insulted the anchors Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith by name, though Mr. Smith left the network in October. (“How’s Shep Smith doing?” Mr. Trump wrote, perhaps or perhaps not taking credit for the anchor’s departure.)
The president also lobbed a derisive nickname at MSNBC, calling the network “MSDNC.”
It was the second time Mr. Trump has used the term on Twitter, although the Fox host Sean Hannity is a fan of the sobriquet. Despite his fealty to TV, Mr. Trump concluded his missive with a vote of confidence for a rival medium: “Social Media is great!” he wrote.
Tell us how you really feel about Alan Dershowitz, Democrats.
Mr. Dershowitz, an emeritus Harvard Law School professor, was the last of President Trump’s lawyers to present late on Monday. His presentation was panned by Democratic senators — including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a former Harvard law professor herself, who declared it “nonsensical.”
“I truly could not follow it,” she said.
“It was just like word salad,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, said. “It’s an embarrassing day for Harvard Law School.”
Mr. Dershowitz argued that the founders meant for impeachment to be used for explicitly criminal acts such as treason or bribery, not what he called “vague” and “noncriminal” charges like abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. That interpretation is at odds with many constitutional scholars, as well as Mr. Dershowitz’s own comments from 1998 related to the impeachment case against President Bill Clinton.
“In the end, he admitted that he’s a total outlier in the case that he’s making,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, added, “I now understand listening to Professor Dershowitz that he’s smarter than all other professors. He said so himself.”
For the third time in American history, the Senate has convened as a court of impeachment to consider whether to remove a sitting president, and two teams of lawyers are facing off in a confrontation with heavy political and constitutional consequences.
The seven House Democratic impeachment managers, handpicked by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, have argued that President Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to help smear his political rivals and obstructed Congress to conceal his actions. Mr. Trump’s defense team — drawn from the White House counsel’s office and outside lawyers, including a few who frequently appear on television — has argued that the president did nothing wrong and accused Democrats of using impeachment as a tool to remove an opponent they could not defeat at the ballot box.
Here is a look at the opposing legal teams and how they see impeachment, in their own words.
As Republicans face mounting pressure to subpoena new witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial, Democratic senators are again rejecting the idea of a deal that would schedule depositions from John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, in exchange for a witness that Mr. Trump wants, like Hunter Biden, the son of the former vice president.
Revelations from Mr. Bolton’s forthcoming book have rocked the Republicans, and Senator Pat Toomey, Republican from Pennsylvania, has privately suggested a one-for-one deal. But Democratic senators say they will refuse to sign off on witnesses that they believe are irrelevant to the case.
“I’m not making a deal,” Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, said Tuesday after the trial ended. “All they have to do is file a motion, and with 53 Republicans, you’d think they could probably get 51 votes out of it. I don’t need to make a deal. If they want a witness, whoever they want, put it up, have a vote on it.”
Senator Richard J. Durbin picked up the theme on Tuesday morning. “Listen, we’re not trading baseball cards,” Mr. Durbin said on CNN, later adding, “This idea of bargaining — ‘Well, we’ll give you one irrelevant witness for one material witness’ — baloney.”
President Trump’s legal team is expected to sum up his defense, including a strong argument against calling witnesses who would shed more light on Mr. Trump’s actions. His lawyers will seek to drive home the argument that the House made a shoddy case, and the Senate need not reach in and bolster it by hearing new evidence.
Democrats have been calling for witnesses to appear in the Senate before the trial began, and the House impeachment managers have aimed their arguments at a handful of moderate Republican senators in hopes of persuading them to break with their party.
The trial will resume at 1 p.m.
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