September 21, 2023

President Donald Trump’s lawyers finished presenting his defense on Tuesday, their third day of arguments in the Senate impeachment trial. The next phase, 16 total hours of senators’ questions for both sides, will begin Wednesday.

Democrats continue to insist that the Senate should call new witnesses, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton. At least four Republicans would need to vote with Democrats in favor of seeking additional evidence.

Energy Department Releases Perry Documents (9:45 p.m.)

The U.S. Energy Department on Tuesday night released more than 100 pages of documents related to former Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s May 2018 trip to Ukraine, but the purpose, key issues, and background related to his meeting with the country’s new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, were among the scores of redecations in the documents.

The documents, which were released after a lawsuit by the transparency group American Oversight, mark the first time the Energy Department has made public impeachment-related materials. The group said the department is scheduled to release more documents on Feb. 4 and March 16.

Perry, who resigned late last year, refused requests by House investigators to testify about the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine.

Democrats Seek to Restart Tax Return Lawsuit (7:31 p.m.)

House Democrats asked a federal judge to resume considering their lawsuit seeking Trump’s federal tax returns, after the judge put it on hold to await an appeals court ruling on whether Congress can make ex-White House Counsel Don McGahn testify.

“This case has been stalled long enough,” Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the House Democrats, said in court papers filed Tuesday. “The requested relief is necessary for the committee to move forward with its pressing legislative and oversight inquiry.”

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden said earlier this month that he would consider lifting the stay if the appeals court didn’t rule quickly in the McGahn case. House Democrats said that because two weeks have elapsed since then, they’re asking the judge to resume the proceedings.

The president has been fighting in court on several fronts to guard his financial information. The House Ways and Means Committee also sued for his tax returns in July.

In August, the House Judiciary Committee filed a separate suit seeking to force McGahn to obey a subpoena for his congressional testimony. He refused to appear at Trump’s direction. The Washington appeals court heard arguments in the case on Jan. 3. — Laura Davison

GOP Has Yet to Get Votes to Block Witnesses (6:14 p.m.)

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Republican senators during a private meeting that he doesn’t currently have the votes to block witnesses in the trial, a Senate GOP aide said.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported McConnell’s statement.

Republicans Differ on Calling Witnesses (4:53 p.m.)

Republican senators met privately after the arguments ended, but didn’t emerge with any consensus on whether to call witnesses to testify.

“I’m ready to vote against calling witnesses,” Kevin Cramer of North Dakota told reporters, but he also said he didn’t know what the final vote will be.

Susan Collins of Maine told CBS she is “very likely” to vote to hear witnesses.

“I, for one, believe that there’s some gaps, some ambiguities that need to be cleared up,” said Collins. The senator, one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents in 2020, has said for weeks that she is open to supporting a call for witnesses.

Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, one of a handful of senators who have said they’re willing to consider calling witnesses, said he’s still undecided on that question.

John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of Republican leadership, said the “overwhelming consensus” of the caucus is that they’ve heard enough and don’t need witnesses. However, he didn’t say whether there would be enough GOP votes to block witnesses.

Staunch Trump supporter Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he doesn’t know whether senators will call witnesses, but if they do there should be many witnesses. He has previously said that if Democrats are allowed to call any witnesses, Trump should get to call people such as Joe Biden, his son, Hunter, and the unidentified whistle-blower.

“The idea that you just call one witness, that’s not remotely possible,” Graham said.

Florida’s Marco Rubio said he’ll wait to discuss his views on calling witnesses until after the senators spend two days questioning the prosecution and defense lawyers on Wednesday and Thursday.

Poll Shows 75% of Voters Support Witnesses (3:54 p.m.)

Three-quarters of U.S. voters say senators should hear from witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

Much of the Jan. 22-27 poll was taken before Sunday’s revelation that former National Security Adviser John Bolton wrote in an upcoming book that Trump tied military aid for Ukraine with investigations of Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden.

“There may be heated debate among lawmakers about whether witnesses should testify at the impeachment trial of President Trump, but it’s a different story outside the Beltway,“ said Quinnipiac analyst Mary Snow, who said even 49% of Republicans favored hearing testimony.

Conducted among 1,905 self-identified registered voters, the poll found that Americans are split on whether Trump should be removed from office, with 48% opposed and 46% favoring it.

More than half of voters say Trump isn’t telling the truth about his actions in Ukraine, while 40% believe the president. Among Republicans, 89% said they believe the president. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said they’d like the president to provide more details about his actions involving Ukraine.

Majorities of voters believe Trump abused his power, 57%, and obstructed Congress, 52%. The poll has a 2.3% margin of error.

Senators Question Lawyers Starting Wednesday (3:01 p.m.)

Senators will ask questions of the trial lawyers for eight hours on Wednesday and again on Thursday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

He said he and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed that the questioners will alternate between the political parties. The questions will be submitted in writing to Chief Justice John Roberts.

During President Bill Clinton’s 1999 trial, McConnell said, “senators were thoughtful and brief with their questions, and the managers and counsel were succinct in their answers.” He said he hoped all sides will follow that example.

Roberts said that when Chief Justice William Rehnquist was the presiding officer in Clinton’s trial, he operated with the “rebuttable presumption” that each question could be answered in five minutes or less. At the time, Rehnquist’s statement was met by laughter, he said.

Roberts said he considered the late chief justice’s time limit to be a good one and would “ask both sides to abide by it.”

Trump Team Wraps Up Its Trial Defense (2:52 p.m.)

Trump’s lawyers completed their defense, with lead lawyer Pat Cipollone saying, “I think we’ve made our case.”

“The articles of impeachment fall far short of any constitutional standard and they are dangerous,” said Cipollone, the White House counsel.

“What they are asking you to do is to throw out a successful president on the eve of an election with no basis, in violation of the Constitution,” Cipollone said. He asked senators to “respect and defend the sacred right of every American to vote and to choose their president.”

Next will be senators’ questions to lawyers for both sides, beginning on Wednesday.

Sekulow Urges Senators to Ignore Bolton Leak (2:05 p.m.)

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow urged the Senate to ignore the latest leaks about former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s upcoming book.

“It is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts,” he said. “That’s politics, unfortunately. And Hamilton put impeachment in the hands of this body, the Senate, precisely and specifically to be above that fray.” He was referring to founding father Alexander Hamilton.

“You cannot impeach a president on an unsourced allegation,” Sekulow said. He called Bolton’s book an “unpublished manuscript that maybe some reporters have an idea, maybe, of what it says.”

”I don’t know what you call that evidence,” said Sekulow of the Bolton manuscript. “I call it inadmissible.”

Sekulow also went into a lengthy attack on former FBI director Jim Comey’s leaks, special counsel Robert Mueller’s handling of the Russia investigation, and FBI investigators who were accused of showing bias against Trump, including Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.

Sekulow said that helps explain Trump’s frame of mind. “Put yourself in his shoes,” he said.

Biden Says GOP Seeks to ‘Smear’ Him in Trial (1:28 p.m.)

Democrat Joe Biden said GOP Senator Joni Ernst’s comments a day earlier show that Republicans are using the impeachment trial to harm his campaign for the presidential nomination.

“She spilled the beans,” Biden told reporters in Muscatine, Iowa. “She just came out and flat said it. You know the whole impeachment trial for Trump is just a political hit job to try to smear me because he is scared to death of running against me.”

Ernst of Iowa suggested to reporters that the presentation by Trump’s lawyers could hurt Biden’s showing in next Monday’s caucuses.

“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, those Democratic caucus-goers. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?” Ernst said.

Earlier Monday, Trump lawyer Pam Bondi described how Biden’s son Hunter served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. She said the president had ample reason to be concerned about it. — Tyler Pager

Trump Team Begins Final Defense Arguments (1:06 p.m.)

Trump’s legal team began its last few hours of arguments, as a crucial decision looms for the Senate later in the week over whether to call former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify.

After Tuesday’s arguments, senators on Wednesday and Thursday will question lawyers for both sides, in queries submitted in writing to Chief Justice John Roberts.

GOP Senator Says He Pushed Bolton to Talk (12:49 p.m.)

Senator Ron Johnson, already a player in the impeachment drama for saying he confronted Trump about withholding security aid for Ukraine, told reporters he personally urged Bolton on Jan. 7 to come forward if he had something to say that would be relevant to the impeachment charges.

Bolton told him he would only respond to a Senate subpoena, however — something Johnson has yet to publicly support.

The Wisconsin Republican said the leak of Bolton’s book manuscript “is exquisite timing, perhaps suspicious timing.” — Laura Litvan, Steven T. Dennis

‘I Believe John Bolton,’ Kelly Says (12:17 p.m.)

Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said he would believe Bolton’s claims regarding Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate a political rival, according to a report from the Herald Tribune about a public event in Florida on Monday.

“If John Bolton says that in the book I believe John Bolton,” Kelly said. “John’s an honest guy. He’s a man of integrity and great character, so we’ll see what happens.”

Kelly said witnesses who could help establish the facts of the case should be heard, adding that “the majority of Americans would like to hear the whole story.” — Daniel Flatley, Laura Litvan, Billy House

Schumer Rejects Closed Bolton Draft Viewing (11:40 a.m.)

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called Republican suggestions that senators could read Bolton’s book manuscript in a secure setting “an absurd proposal.”

Other Democratic senators said viewing Bolton’s book would be a good starting point but no substitute for being able to question the former Trump adviser under oath.

Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin said questioning Bolton as a witness is important because it “tests a person’s veracity and their memory,” rather than just reading a book.

“We ought to see the book — let’s start there,” Durbin said. “It’s not sufficient for what we need. We need testimony.”

Delaware Democrat Chris Coons said reading the book manuscript in a classified setting is “the absolute bare minimum demonstration of interest in learning facts,” though it is an “obvious, reasonable step.”

“I think if we can get that information and utilize it, better than what we got now,” Montana Democrat Jon Tester said. “I mean, it’s going to be in a book.” — Daniel Flatley, Laura Litvan, Billy House

GOP Floats Classified Access to Bolton Draft (10:36 a.m.)

South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham said he backs a proposal to allow senators to view the book manuscript from former National Security Adviser John Bolton in a classified setting.

Graham, a close Trump ally, tweeted his support for the idea floated by Oklahoma Senator James Lankford on Monday. The Oklahoman newspaper reported that Lankford stressed the importance of first-hand information about what Bolton knows, and he suggested that senators could view the book manuscript before it’s screened for classified material because lawmakers have the necessary clearance.

Senator Mike Braun said people are “soul searching” about reports that Bolton spoke with Trump about withholding security aid for Ukraine in exchange for politically motivated investigations. Braun said he’s not convinced that Trump’s conduct was impeachable, even if the Bolton allegations are true.

“There’ll be a lot of people soul searching about the whole conversation,” Braun said. “Everybody will take it into consideration.” — Daniel Flatley, Steven T. Dennis

Romney Says He’d Like to Hear from Bolton (9:45 a.m.)

Senator Mitt Romney said he would like to call former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify in the Senate trial.

“I’d like to hear from Mr. Bolton,” Romney said when asked whether he’d be satisfied with just getting a look at the manuscript from Bolton’s upcoming book. The New York Times reported that the book includes details relevant to the impeachment charges.

The Utah Republican said he “wouldn’t begin” to speculate how many other Republicans want to hear from additional witnesses. Maine Republican Susan Collins has also said she’d likely vote to hear additional testimony. –

Trump Lawyers to Speak for About Two Hours (9:27 a.m.)

Trump’s legal team plans to speak for about two more hours when impeachment proceedings resume this afternoon, an administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The defense team’s plan to wrap up will usher in a period allowing questions from senators to both Trump’s team and the House impeachment managers. It’s unclear whether that will begin Tuesday or Wednesday.

Trump’s defense has largely skirted the reported revelations from a draft of a book written by former National Security Adviser John Bolton. A vote on whether to call Bolton or other witnesses will follow the time for senators’ questions, but appears unlikely to pass unless more Republicans come out in favor of it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office would not say when after the Trump team rests its case will the trial would move into allowing senators to ask questions. Under that process, which could last as long as 16 hours, individual questions will be read and the senators asking the question will be identified.

Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, said he doesn’t expect the questioning period to begin Tuesday because senators need more time to streamline their queries. Blunt said Chief Justice John Roberts will help eliminate duplicate questions. — Josh Wingrove, Erik Wasson

Trump Lawyers to Finish Defense Argument (6 a.m.)

The president’s lawyers have one more day to argue in his defense, with his impeachment trial in its second week. Senate Republican leaders still hope to end the trial later this week, although several GOP senators are mulling whether to join Democrats in voting to call witnesses.

While Trump ripped into his Bolton on Twitter, the president’s defense team barely mentioned him during arguments Monday amid a firestorm over whether he should be subpoenaed to testify.

Constitutional law professor Alan Dershowitz was the only Trump lawyer to refer to Bolton by name, saying, “Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense.”

The New York Times reported that Bolton wrote in his forthcoming book that Trump told him last August that he didn’t want to release U.S. aid to Ukraine until that country turned over material related to former Vice President Joe Biden.

Dershowitz also argued that the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are so “vague and open-ended” that the nation’s founders would have rejected them as grounds for impeaching and removing a president.

After the argument, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shook Dershowitz’s hand and said, “wonderful!”

Catch Up on Impeachment Coverage

Trump Lawyers Sidestep Bolton Revelations in Making Defense Case

Bombshell Bolton Report Pressures GOP on Impeachment Witnesses

Bombshell Bolton Report Pressures GOP on Impeachment Witnesses

Trump Caught on Tape Saying ‘Get Rid Of’ U.S. Envoy in 2018 (1)

Democrats Make Trial Case That Trump Is a Danger: Key Takeaways

Trump Lawyers Dispute Democrats’ ‘No Evidence’ Impeachment Case

Democrats Close Case Saying Trump Must Be Held Accountable

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