Bolton center stage as Senate impeachment shifts phases

With the Senate trial of U.S. President Donald Trump’s impeachment shifting to a new phase of back-and-forth questioning Wednesday, the thrust turned to former National Security Advisor John Bolton and the possibility of his and other testimony ahead of a critical vote.

Senators took turns submitting written questions read aloud by Chief Justice John Roberts in a steady questioning of Trump’s defense team and House managers prosecuting the case against the president.

Bolton has sent shockwaves through Trump’s defense in revelations from a forthcoming book first reported by the New York Times, which obtained draft excerpts, in which Trump’s former top national security aide says the president told him in August he wanted to keep hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine frozen until Kiev declared probes into former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democrat seeking his party’s presidential nomination.

The claim undermines a key pillar of Trump’s defense, which maintains the president sought the investigations to help fight corruption, not for his own personal benefit.

House managers continued to insist Bolton should be heard to answer any questions stemming from the bombshell and any other knowledge he may have about the president’s alleged wrongdoing.

“There is no way to have a fair trial without witnesses,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who is leading seven House managers, said in response to a query posed by senators. He further called Bolton’s prospective testimony “plainly relevant” to the case against Trump.

“To turn him away, to look the other way, is deeply at odds with being an impartial juror,” he said, referring to the role senators are to assume during impeachment proceedings. “If you have any question about it at all, you need to ask his former national security advisor.”

Patrick Philbin, Trump’s deputy counsel, said there was nothing wrong with the president acting in his own self-interest as long as he was also acting in the interests of the country. He argued that as long as House managers are in “mixed motive land” their case fails.

“There’s always some personal interest in policy decisions,” he maintained.

Trump has denied Bolton’s claims, saying on Twitter that his former top official made them “only to sell a book.”

Bolton said on Jan. 6 that he is “prepared to testify” in the Senate if the body issues a subpoena.

Republicans are seeking a quick dismissal of the case against Trump, but a vote on Friday on whether additional witnesses, including Bolton, will be called has increasingly brought those plans into question.

Momentum within the Senate GOP rank-and-file has been building among key lawmakers for at least Bolton to be called, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly said Tuesday that he lacks the votes to dismiss the possibility of calling witnesses.

Democrats, who hold 47 seats in the chamber, needed support from at least four Republicans to hit the 51-vote threshold that is needed to call witnesses or request critical documents from the Trump administration.

Adding fuel to the fire, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said Bolton “strongly implied that something improper” happened with the ouster of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during a Sept. 23 telephone call.

“At the time, I said nothing publicly about what was a private conversation, but because this detail was relevant to the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight Committees’ investigation into this matter, I informed my investigative colleagues. It was one of the reasons we wished to hear from Ambassador Bolton, under oath, in a formal setting,” Engel said in a statement.

“Ambassador Bolton has made clear over the last few months that he has more to say on this issue. And now that the President has called his credibility into question, it’s important to set the record straight,” he said, in calling for the Senate to subpoena Bolton.

Trump ousted Yovanovitch in May amid a smear campaign spearheaded by the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Democrats say she was removed because Trump and Giuliani viewed her as a roadblock in getting Ukraine to open the investigations sought by the president.

Trump is facing two separate articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives in December tied to his repeated attempts to get Ukraine to declare criminal investigations into Biden and his subsequent decision to refuse to cooperate in the congressional probe into the matter.

The first article, abuse of power, is centered on Trump’s decision to hold up millions of dollars in security assistance to Ukraine as well as a coveted Oval Office meeting sought by President Volodymyr Zelensky while he was pushing to have the probes declared. The second article, obstruction of Congress, is tied to his refusal to cooperate with the congressional investigation and his directive that top officials and government agencies do the same.


Related Articles

Bir yanıt yazın

Başa dön tuşu
Breaking News