U.S. President Donald Trump‘s lawyers resume their impeachment defense Monday, as Democrats issue fresh calls for new witnesses in the Senate trial after accounts emerged of Trump telling his then-national security adviser he wanted to withhold security aid to Ukraine until it launched an investigation of a Democratic rival.
The New York Times first reported the allegations that appear in John Bolton‘s upcoming book Sunday, and they were later confirmed by other news organizations who spoke to people familiar with the text.
Trump is currently on trial in the Senate on articles of impeachment charging he withheld $391 million in Ukraine aid while pushing Ukrainian leaders to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and a debunked theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, which interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. A second charge is that Trump obstructed Congress by seeking to thwart investigations of his actions.
The president rejected Bolton’s reported account in a series of early Monday tweets.
“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” Trump said.
I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book. With that being said, the…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2020
A Bolton attorney said in a statement the text had been sent to the National Security Council a month ago to undergo standard reviews for classified information ahead of its release.
The House of Representatives members serving as prosecutors in the impeachment trial issued a statement renewing their calls for Bolton to be called as a witness, saying he “has vital information to provide.”
“During our impeachment inquiry, the President blocked our request for Mr. Bolton’s testimony. Now we see why. The President knows how devastating his testimony would be, and according to the report, the White House has had a draft of his manuscript for review. President Trump’s cover-up must come to an end,” they said.
The White House blocked several current and former administration officials from testifying before House committees during the impeachment investigation, including Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, citing executive privilege.
Bolton left his post in September, and said this month he is willing to testify if the Senate subpoenas him.
The rules for the impeachment trial blocked any consideration of new witnesses at the outset, leaving only the possibility for a vote after both sides have made their presentations and the 100 Senators have had 16 hours to ask them questions. That discussion will come later this week, and Democrats will try to convince four Republicans to join them to get the simple majority necessary to vote in favor of witnesses.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone began his defense Saturday during two hours of arguments.
Cipollone said Trump’s legal team does not believe the House Democrats came “anywhere close to meeting their burden” that Trump committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” — the U.S. Constitution’s standard for impeachment and removal from office.
Now, Cipollone and other Trump defense attorneys have said they will expand on their defense, in part focusing on why they believe there was nothing wrong with Trump’s request last July to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, his son Hunter Biden‘s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company and the Ukraine election meddling theory. No evidence has ever surfaced against either of the Bidens.
The Republican majority in the Senate makes a conviction of the president highly unlikely given that such an outcome requires two-thirds of the senators to vote in favor.