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Jan. 29, 2020, 4:42 p.m. EST

Trump’s impeachment trial moves to Q&A as Collins asks about president’s motives

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer focuses on getting John Bolton and others as witnesses

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By Victor Reklaitis and Robert Schroeder, MarketWatch


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Sen. Susan Collins arrives Wednesday on Capitol Hill during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

As President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial shifted to its question-and-answer phase on Wednesday, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine went first and asked Trump’s attorneys about the president’s motives.

Democratic senators, meanwhile, asked about subpoenaing witnesses and leaving the decision on removing Trump to voters.

The question from Collins was read as follows by Chief Justice John Roberts: “If President Trump had more than one motive for his alleged conduct — such as the pursuit of personal political advantage, rooting out corruption and the promotion of national interest — how should the Senate consider more than one motive in its assessment of Article 1?”

The first article of impeachment charges Trump with abuse of power.

Patrick Philbin, one of the president’s lawyers, responded to the query from Collins. She said she was asking the question on behalf of herself as well as Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, two other Republican lawmakers viewed as key swing votes in the Senate trial.

Related: What moderate Republican senators are saying about calling witnesses at Trump’s impeachment trial

And see: Republicans don’t have enough votes yet to block witnesses, McConnell says

“If there is something that shows a possible public interest and the president could have that possible public-interest motive, that destroys their case. Once you’re into mixed-motive land, it’s clear that their case fails,” Philbin said.

Senate Minority Leader and New York Democrat Chuck Schumer asked the House managers serving as prosecutors to address whether there was any way for the Senate to render a “fully informed verdict” without subpoenaing former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, as well as other witnesses and documents.

“The short answer to that question is no. There’s no way to have a fair trial without witnesses,” said Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, one of the House managers.

Philbin then had a chance to respond to Schiff.

“It’s not just a question of ‘Well, should we just hear one witness?’” Trump’s attorney said. “For this institution, the real question is ‘What is the precedent that is going to be set for what is an acceptable way for the House of Representatives to bring an impeachment of a president of the United States to this chamber, and can it be done in a hurried, half-baked partisan fashion?’”

Bolton has shaken up the trial as he reportedly claims in a forthcoming book that Trump personally told him that aid to Ukraine should be frozen until officials there agreed to investigate Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son. The Democrats’ push to remove the president from office centers on Trump’s pressure on his Ukrainian counterpart to announce probes into the Bidens, as well as into an unsubstantiated theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Bolton’s claim has been embraced by lawmakers who want to have new witnesses or documents in the impeachment trial. Philbin, responding to a question from New Mexico Democrat Tom Udall, read a White House letter to Bolton’s lawyer that said the book can’t be published in its current form, since it “appears to contain significant amounts of classified information.”

Related: White House demands changes to Bolton’s book

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