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Jan. 27, 2020, 11:35 p.m. EST

Pressure grows on Republican senators to call Bolton as witness

Dershowitz argues even if Bolton’s claim is true, it wouldn’t be impeachable offense

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By Associated Press


Associated Press
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leaves the chamber during a break in the impeachment trial Monday.

WASHINGTON — Senators faced mounting pressure Monday to summon John Bolton to testify at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial even as Trump’s lawyers mostly brushed past extraordinary new allegations from the former national security adviser and focused instead on corruption in Ukraine and historical arguments for acquittal.

Outside the Senate chamber, Republicans grappled with claims in a forthcoming book from Bolton that Trump had wanted to withhold military aid from Ukraine until it helped with investigations into Democratic rival Joe Biden. That assertion could undercut a key defense argument — that Trump never tied the suspension of security aid to political investigations.

Live blog recap : Trump’s team presents defense in impeachment trial after Bolton report

The revelation clouded White House hopes for a swift end to the impeachment trial, fueling Democratic demands for witnesses and possibly pushing more Republican lawmakers to agree. It also distracted from hours of arguments from Trump’s lawyers, who declared anew that no witness has testified to direct knowledge that Trump’s delivery of aid was contingent on investigations into Democrats. Bolton appeared poised to say exactly that if called on by the Senate to appear.

“We deal with transcript evidence, we deal with publicly available information,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said. “We do not deal with speculation.”

Trump is charged with abusing his presidential power by asking Ukraine’s leader to help investigate Biden at the same time his administration was withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid. A second charge accuses Trump of obstructing Congress in its probe.

Republicans are to conclude their arguments Tuesday.

On Monday, Trump’s attorneys, including high-profile lawyers Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz, launched a historical, legal and political attack on the entire impeachment process. They said there was no basis to remove Trump from office, defended his actions as appropriate and assailed Biden, who is campaigning for the Democratic nomination to oppose Trump in November..

Former Florida Attorney Ggeneral Pam Bondi devoted her presentation to Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukraine gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. The legal team argued that Trump had legitimate reasons to be suspicious of the younger Biden’s business dealings and concerned about corruption in Ukraine and that, in any event, he ultimately released the aid without Ukraine committing to investigations the president wanted.

Democrats say Trump released the money only after a whistleblower submitted a complaint about the situation.

Trump has sought, without providing evidence, to implicate the Bidens in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Though anti-corruption advocates have raised concerns, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.

Starr, whose independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton resulted in his impeachment — he was acquitted by the Senate — bemoaned what he said was an “age of impeachment.” Impeachment, he said, requires an actual crime and a “genuine national consensus” that the president must go. Neither exists here, Starr said.

“It’s filled with acrimony and it divides the country like nothing else,” Starr said of impeachment. “Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment understand that in a deep and personal way.”

Dershowitz, the final speaker of the evening, argued that impeachable offenses require criminal-like conduct, though that view is largely rejected by legal scholars. He said “nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense.”

“Purely non-criminal conduct, including abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, are outside the range of impeachable offenses,” Dershowitz said.

Elizabeth Warren, a presidential campaigner like Biden but also a Senate juror, told reporters she found Dershowitz’s arguments “nonsensical.”

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