'A drug deal': What Bolton could tell Congress about Ukraine affair
John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser, had a front-row seat to the White House's Ukraine dealings, including the decision to withhold military aid.
Fiona Hill, Trump's former top Russia expert, testified that Bolton was so disturbed by the administration's effort to persuade Ukraine to investigate Trump's political opponents that he called it a "drug deal" and wanted to alert White House lawyers. Hill also testified that Bolton, who was her boss, called Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who was heavily involved in the Ukraine pressure campaign, a "hand grenade."
Bolton, who left his post on poor terms with the president, announced this month that he is willing to testify in the Senate impeachment trial if subpoenaed.
Highly anticipated Bolton amendment arrives
The seventh amendment was tabled along party lines, just like the six before it.
And now the moment everyone has been waiting for: a subpoena for John Bolton's testimony.
Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser, did not testify during the House impeachment inquiry, saying at the time that he would fight a subpoena. However, he has since walked back that stance and said he would testify if subpoenaed. The administration has indicated that Trump is likely to try to block it.
Bolton is a key impeachment witness, as he was privy to much of the administration's Ukraine efforts. In particular, he had raised concerns about Rudy Giuliani's role in shaping Ukraine policy.
Where'd everybody go?
There were around 36 empty seats on the Senate floor as Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, spoke, meaning the chamber was about a third vacant. Some of the notable absences included Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Ben Sasse, R-Neb.; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Some senators eventually began to trickle back in, including several who remained standing to stretch their legs.
As Garcia continued, most Republicans had their hands in their laps and were not reading or taking notes, except for Republicans Cory Gardner of Colorado and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who were constantly flipping through binders and reading material and taking notes. Among the Democrat, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts were very focused on note-taking. Dianne Feinstein of California was also flipping through her large briefing book and notes.
The House managers were all reading or watching Garcia as she spoke while Trump's defense team sat huddled, passing a note among themselves and chatting. When Trump attorney Pam Bondi took the floor, the Republican side of the room seemed to re-engage and listen a little more intently. The House managers and Intelligence Committee staffers shook their heads when she attacked them personally; then they huddled to chat. While Bondi was speaking, Trump's defense team listened closely and watched her, and when she sat back down, the team nodded approvingly and smiled.
Sekulow objects ... to the brevity of Schumer's latest amendment?
Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's attorneys, made an odd assertion about the length of the amendment to the rules currently under debate, which, as Schumer promised, is indeed brief.
"The idea that you can cure constitutional defects in three paragraphs doesn't pass constitutional muster," Sekulow said.
The majority of the amendments to the Constitution, including all 10 in the Bill of Rights, are written in three paragraphs or fewer.
Republicans get restless; Schiff says it's 'not our job' to make this easy
A bit earlier, when impeachment manager Jason Crow, D-Colo., was arguing for an amendment to subpoena the Defnse Department for documents related to the freeze on aid to Ukraine, some Republicans appeared to have lost patience.
Republicans were fidgety and chatty on their side of the aisle, while Democrats appeared more serious and definitely not as talkative with their neighbors. Schumer remained in conversation with his aide throughout the presentations, while McConnell sat stone-faced and silent for the most part. During the defense's presentation, when White House attorney Patrick Philbin remarked that Democrats were spending the day arguing when to call witnesses and not whether they would, McConnell was visibly chuckling in his seat — as Schumer smirked.
When Schiff took the floor and said, "Senators, I'll be brief," Republicans audibly sighed and groaned.
"Yeah, we're making it hard for you. We're making it hard for you to say no," Schiff said. "We're making it hard for you to say, 'I don't want to hear from these people, I don't want to see these documents.' We're making it hard. It's not our job to make it easier for you. It's our job to make it hard to deprive the American people of a fair trial."
Schumer casts wide net with 7th amendment but insists 'it's short'
Per Schumer's office, the seventh amendment would require that if, during the impeachment trial, any party seeks to admit evidence that has not been submitted as part of the House record and that was subject to a duly authorized subpoena, that party shall also provide the opposing party all other documents responsive to that subpoena.
Schumer's amendment to subpoena two OMB officials fails
The sixth amendment introduced by Senate Democrats, to subpoena testimony from Robert B. Blair and Michael P. Duffey, two White House Office of Management and Budget officials with direct knowledge of the Ukraine aid freeze, was killed along party lines.
Schumer's not done, but McConnell announces a five-minute break.
Democratic senator throws cold water on Biden testimony
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., threw cold water on suggestions that Democrats agree to subpoena former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in exchange for testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton.
This comes as other Democrats, including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, have indicated that they would be open to letting Republicans call Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of the embattled Ukrainian gas company Burisma while his father, as vice president, was pushing to oust Ukraine's top prosecutor, which is at the center of the impeachment inquiry. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr to look into the Bidens during a phone call in July.
But others, including Coons, have argued that testimony from the Bidens would be a distraction and could add fodder to a baseless conspiracy. There has never been evidence that either Biden behaved improperly.
Why Democrats keep introducing doomed amendments
Despite multiple amendments for additional witnesses failing along party lines, Democrats have continued to push for additional subpoenas for witnesses and documents, causing the proceedings to go late into the night.
NBC News' Leigh Ann Caldwell explains.
Amendment 5 fails; Schumer introduces another to subpoena two White House officials
Schumer's fifth amendment, to subpoena certain Defense Department documents and records, was killed like all the others, 53-47, along party lines.
Schumer immediately introduced an amendment for the Senate to issue subpoenas for the testimony of two White House officials, Robert Blair and Michael Duffey.
Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas, the House manager rising in support of the amendment, argued that Blair and Duffey must appear as witnesses because they "operated the machinery of the executive branch ... and executed Trump's order" to freeze the aid to Ukraine. The pair had defied subpoenas from House impeachment investigators.
"They stood at the center of this tangled web," she said.
Crow argues Pentagon documents will further prove Trump-Ukraine scheme
Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., argued on behalf the impeachment managers in favor of Schumer's amendment to subpoena the Defense Department for certain records related to the freeze on military aid to Ukraine.
He cited the testimony of Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy toward Ukraine, as one reason those documents would shed additional light on whether Trump improperly withheld military aid for Ukraine as leverage to compel Ukraine to launch politically advantageous investigations.
In a public hearing in November, Cooper explained how and when she became aware of the hold on the aid and said she had recently learned of the existence of multiple emails that had been sent to her office (but that she hadn't received). The emails pertained to questions she had been asked during her deposition in October about whether she knew if the Ukrainians had known about the hold or had asked any questions about it.
Cooper said her staff later showed her two unclassified emails from the State Department. They were sent two hours apart on the afternoon of July 25. The first, Cooper said, showed that Ukraine's embassy was "asking about the security assistance," and the second suggested that "Hill knows about the [aid freeze] situation." Fiona Hill is Trump's former top Russia adviser.
The Pentagon had previously defied a subpoena from House impeachment investigators for information and documents related to the aid freeze.
Trump's defense team argued that Democrats were jumping the gun by pushing for additional documents and witnesses at this stage, saying McConnell's rules allow for the issue to be decided later, after both sides have presented their arguments.
"We're not here to make it easy for you," Schiff responded.