President Donald Trump’s defense team wrapped up its opening arguments in the president’s impeachment trial on Tuesday, focusing on discrediting Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton as a potential witness in the case.
Many Senate Republicans had hoped to rush through Trump’s impeachment trial and quickly acquit the president, but Bolton threw a curveball last week when The New York Times reported the former Trump official was claiming in an upcoming book that the president directly sought to bribe Ukraine for his own political gain.
“President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript [by Bolton],” the Times reported on Sunday.
Attorney Jay Sekulow, arguing on Trump’s behalf in the impeachment trial, told the Senate on Tuesday that impeachment was “not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts” and called for the Senate to deny allowing Bolton to testify in Trump’s trial.
Bolton, who was fired by Trump last year, is a fixture of Republican politics. He has said he would be willing to testify at the trial if subpoenaed.
RELATED: John Bolton’s Claim That Trump Froze Ukraine Aid for Biden Investigation Throws Curveball in Trial
....many more mistakes of judgement, gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book. All Classified National Security. Who would do this?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2020
Trump, 73, has denied Bolton’s claims — contending it’s a ploy to boost sales of his “nasty & untrue” book — and piled onto his defense team’s effort to discredit the former aide, bashing Bolton on Twitter this week and claiming he was bad at his job.
Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collin, who are seen as two possible votes with Democrats on allowing witnesses at the impeachment trial, have said they will most likely vote in favor of allowing Bolton to testify, according to the Times.
Other conservatives would have to join with the Democratic minority, however. Should witnesses be allowed, the trial could stretch for an unclear number of weeks — something Republican leaders are hoping to avoid.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who’s helping lead the case against Trump as one of the House of Representatives’ impeachment managers, said on Twitter that Trump’s defense team’s opening arguments strengthened the case for allowing Bolton’s testimony in the trial.
“We already have strong and direct evidence that Trump withheld military aid to demand political investigations. Bolton further corroborates it,” he wrote. “Senators have taken an oath to be impartial. Don’t they want to hear the full truth? Bolton must testify.”
Senators are expected to vote Friday on the question of new witnesses and evidence, including document requests.
Both House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team have made their arguments. Wednesday and Thursday will likely focus only on questions to both sides from the senators.
In mid-December, Trump became the third president in American history to be impeached, following a months-long investigation which Democrats say found that he withheld nearly $400 in military aid and other support for Ukraine while pressuring their government to announce an investigation into his 2020 political rival Joe Biden.
The House impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Much of his defense has been based on the argument that his actions were mischaracterized and were legitimate anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine, not impeachable. Further, they contend that the Democrats’ evidence — including testimony from Trump government officials — did not conclusively prove some kind of corrupt quid pro quo in which Ukraine felt pressured by Trump for his personal gain.
House impeachment managers argued that Trump was essentially trying to bribe a foreign government into interfering with the 2020 presidential election.
“In a few weeks or a few months, do my Republican colleagues want to pick up the paper and read that one of the witnesses they blocked had crucial information about the president’s misconduct?” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday, according to Politico. “At this point, how can Senate Republicans not vote for the witnesses and documents we’re seeking?”