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Trump impeachment trial live coverage: The president's defense digs in

New curveball: An explosive report alleges John Bolton says in his unpublished book that Trump personally tied aid for Ukraine to an investigation of the Bidens.
Image: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House voted to send impeachment articles against President Donald Trump to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell officially received the House managers on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House voted to send impeachment articles against President Donald Trump to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell officially received the House managers on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

President Donald Trump's defense lawyers on Monday presented the thurst of their defense against the president, undermining the testimony of key witnesses as well as raising questions about the conduct of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

The defense team has also attacked the impeachment proceedings themselves, arguing a lack of due process and accusing House managers of trying to interfere in this year's election.

They also largely avoided an explosive report that alleges former national security adviser John Bolton says in an unpublished book that the president personally tied aid for Ukraine to an investigation into the Bidens — an account that conflicts with the president's.

Highlights from the impeachment trial

Article II - The Bolton Factor

Today, on Article II, Steve Kornacki talks to Shannon Pettypiece, senior White House reporter for NBCNews.com, about the allegations by former National Security Adviser John Bolton that are upending the White House defense.

The two discuss:

  • How John Bolton’s allegations undermine the President’s legal teams arguments for acquittal
  • The shifting calculations on the part of Senate Republicans on whether to vote in support of witnesses
  • The question of whether the President could invoke Executive Privilege in blocking Bolton’s testimony

Listen here.

Blumenthal says WH counsel 'trying to confuse and distract'

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., spoke to reporters after leaving the Senate chamber for the night. He pointed out that Trump's defense team had largely avoided discussing the Bolton allegations and questioned why, if Trump was so concerned about Hunter Biden and Burisma, the DOJ didn't pursue its own investigation?

"Instead the president went to a foreign government to investigate a United States citizen," Blumenthal said. "That seems to me to be absolutely central to the corrupt abuse of power for personal gain. Never mentioned. Bolton. How many times was he mentioned? Once by Alan Dershowitz in passing. So you know where they are going and don't want to go. They are going toward trying to confuse and distract. They don't want to go to the facts."

Schumer on witness debate: 'Don't underestimate the power that Trump and McConnell' have on GOP

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday night that while Democrats might have gained some traction in their push for witnesses, he warned that no one should underestimate the grip that President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have over Republicans. 

“There’s no question we’re making good progress here, and we’re a lot better off today than we were yesterday,” Schumer said on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” about the latest Bolton revelations. 

Reacting to Sen. Angus King’s, I-Maine, prediction on Monday that five to 10 Republicans could vote in favor of witness testimony, Schumer said that while Democrats are “doing better and better” in that debate, he said he has to be a little less bold. 

“Don't underestimate the power that Trump and McConnell, the squeeze, that they will place on these members,” Schumer said of the GOP senators.

The report from The New York Times Sunday night about Bolton’s book manuscript prompted two senators — Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine — to speak out Monday and argue that the developments give greater weight to the need for calling witnesses in the trial. Romney said it's "increasingly likely" there will be enough Republican senators to vote to call witnesses.

Assuming all members of the Senate Democratic Caucus vote in favor of witnesses, they would need four Republicans to join some in order for the Senate to move to that stage. 

Dershowitz says 'nothing' impeachable about Bolton allegations

Dershowitz argued Monday night that even if explosive allegations made by former national security adviser John Bolton against Trump are true, they wouldn’t rise to the level of impeachment.

According to an unpublished manuscript of Bolton's upcoming book, as reported by The New York Times on Sunday night, Trump told Bolton that nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine would not be released until it offered assistance with investigations of Democratic targets, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

“If a president, any president, were to have done what the Times reported about the content of the Bolton manuscript, that would not constitute an impeachable offense. Let me repeat: nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense,” Dershowitz said on the Senate floor.

More here.

Warren: Dershowitz argument 'contrary to both law & fact'

And we're done for the day

After Dershowitz wrapped up, Cipollone offered concluding remarks — and the trial adjourned at 9:02 p.m. ET.

Trump's defense will continue its presentations for the third and final day Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. 

Dershowitz acknowledges flip-flop on 1998 comments in Clinton impeachment

Dershowitz acknowledged his changing position on whether a president can be impeached for "criminal-like conduct."

Dershowitz argued in 1998 during the Clinton impeachment that a president doesn't have to commit a "technical crime," such as abuse of power, in order for it rise to an impeachable offense. However, he has said in Trump's defense that the framers intended for impeachable conduct to mean "criminal-like conduct."

He said in 1998: "It certainly doesn't have to be a crime. If you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime."

However, on Monday he said that he had not done his research and was unaware of past scholarly arguments.

"During the Clinton impeachment, I stated in an interview that I did not think that a technical crime was required, but that I did think that abusing trust could be considered — I said that," he said. "At that time, I had not done the extensive research on that issue because it was irrelevant to the Clinton case, and I was not fully aware of the compelling counterarguments. So I simply accepted the academic consensus on an issue that was not on the front burner at the time."

Dershowitz argues that Congress is substituting 'its own judgment' for the Constitution

Dershowitz argued that the articles of impeachment are not "constitutionally authorized criteria for impeachment." 

Dershowitz, who has been a frequent defender of the president on cable news, claimed that the framers of the Constitution would not have considered the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress impeachable because they are not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, as treason and bribery are.

"For Congress to ignore the specific words of the Constitution itself and substitute its own judgment would be for Congress to do what it is accusing the president of doing," he said. 

He said that he argued in favor of the rights of presidents in past impeachments, such as Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, and said he would have argued in favor of the rights of Hillary Clinton if she were president and impeached by a Republican Congress. 

"I stand against the application and misapplication of the constitutional criteria in every case and against any president without regard to whether I support his or her policies," he said. 

As Trump's other defense lawyers have argued that the president had a right to look into corruption into Ukraine and did not tie investigations into the Bidens to withholding military aid, Dershowitz is arguing that the charges themselves are not legitimate because they are not what the founders thought of as impeachable offenses. 

ANALYSIS: Bolton pits Trump against Senate GOP's majority

It's going to hurt Senate Republicans more than they thought it would to give President Donald Trump the cover he wants in his impeachment trial.

Former national security adviser John Bolton's allegation that Trump linked U.S. aid for Ukraine to political investigations — the same charge at the heart of the impeachment trial — puts Republican senators in tight re-election fights, the GOP leaders who hope to keep their majority and assorted moderates all in the position of recalculating how much impeachment-related risk they are willing to accept, and how much should be shouldered by the president.

"Bolton's thumb has tilted the scale," said Dan Eberhart, a major GOP fundraiser for Senate candidates and a Trump supporter. "Protecting the president has become an even harder decision for Republican senators."

Read more here.

Dershowitz takes over, presenting constitutional argument against impeachment

Alan Dershowitz, the famed defense attorney whose clients included financier Jeffrey Epstein, kicked off his presentation by noting that he would be making the same constitutional argument against impeachment even if the president were Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump.

He added that he voted for Clinton in 2016, before beginning his argument that in order to impeach a president, a crime must be committed — "abuse of power" alone is not enough. 

Dershowitz argued the opposite in 1998, during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, which Democrats now prosecuting the case against Trump noted days earlier. "It certainly doesn't have to be a crime. If you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses greater danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime," Dershowitz said at the time.

 

Trump lawyer suggests Ukraine call wasn't quite perfect

Robert Ray made a point in his speech that Trump could have most likely avoided impeachment if he had gone through proper channels in “attempting to spur action by a foreign government in coordinating law enforcement efforts with our government.”

“While the president certainly enjoys the power to do otherwise, there is a consequence to that action as we have now witnessed. After all, that is why we are all here,” Ray said.

 

The trial resumes with Robert Ray

At 18:56:07 the trial resumed.

Sekulow said that Robert Ray will speak, and then Alan Dershowitz will conclude their arguments for today.  Dershowitz will be the final speaker for the WH defense today. We should expect them to go straight through to the end without a break.

For dinner Republicans had Chick-fil-a, and Democrats had Thai food.

Schiff says 'of course' Dems weren't behind Bolton leak

Schiff made a brief statement rebutting some of the claims the president's lawyers just made in the past two hours. 

He spent some time rebutting the claims having to do with Hunter Biden and Rudy Giuliani. He mentioned Bolton and said he hopes we will hear from him and he added that there seems to be a “real shift” from Senate Republicans in terms of witnesses.

"At the end of the day,  the senators cannot hide from a relevant witness who will come forward," Schiff said. 

Schiff also responded to allegations from Rep. Mark Meadows that House Democrats were involved in leaking the Bolton manuscript by saying "of course not."

What's next for Trump's defense

The trial has paused for a brief dinner break. In the meantime, here's the latest on Trump's defense team:

What to watch for tonight

Alan Dershowitz appears to have arrived on the Hill, an indication he will likely deliver his presentation after the dinner break. It’s possible the defense team goes a little into Tuesday as we haven’t seen some of the expected presenters yet (like Robert Ray), but based on our most recent timing guidance, it is very unlikely to be a long day. We continue to work sources for timing guidance and will advise when we know more. If the defense arguments drip into tomorrow, Hill team advises the rules allow the senator Q&A session to begin once the defense team wraps.

What the president is saying today

Asked about the manuscript and the chances Bolton is called to testify, the president said: “Well, I haven't seen a manuscript. But I can tell you nothing was ever said to John Bolton, but I have not seen a manuscript. I guess he's writing a book, I have not seen it.” And when asked about the allegations, the president said simply: “False!”

What the Bolton world is saying today

One of his aides is denying any coordination “with The New York Times or anyone else regarding the appearance of information about his book, THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED, at online booksellers. Any assertion to the contrary is unfounded speculation,” per Sarah Tinsley.

What if the White House were to try to stop Bolton from testifying?

If the Senate votes to hear John Bolton's testimony and issue a subpoena, the White House could fight such a move in court. How would that work?

Probably not very well. Here's why.

In the usual fights between Congress and the White House, Congress demands the testimony of an administration official and the White House says no, claiming executive privilege. In such a situation nothing happens — there's no testimony — unless a judge orders the official to testify. So Congress waits while the issue grinds its way through the courts: Without a court ruling, there's no testimony.

But Bolton is not an administration official, and he has said he would testify if subpoenaed by the Senate. So he would be free to do that unless a court blocks it. The legal process, again, would take time. So this is the opposite scenario: Without a court ruling, he's free to testify.

There's potentially a bigger issue. In 1992, a federal judge from Mississippi, Walter Nixon, was impeached and convicted for lying to a grand jury that was investigating bribery. Nixon challenged his Senate conviction, arguing that the Senate improperly heard the witnesses in committee instead of on the Senate floor. He said that violated the Constitution's requirement that the Senate must "try" all impeachments. No witnesses on the floor, he said, means no trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously tossed his case out, ruling that the courts cannot second-guess how the Senate conducts impeachments because the Senate has the "sole power" to try them. The courts "were not chosen to have any role in impeachments," the ruling said. Letting the courts into the process would "expose the political life of the country to months, or perhaps years, of chaos."

For that reason, federal courts might be reluctant to entertain any lawsuits challenging Senate impeachment proceedings

'Debunked,' 'discredited,' 'a fountain of falsehoods': Biden campaign, citing newspapers, slams Trump team's attack

Andrew Bates, the Biden campaign's rapid response director, slammed the argument Pam Bond delivered Monday on the Senate floor, saying in a statement: "We didn't realize that Breitbart was expanding into Ted Talk knockoffs. Here on planet Earth, the conspiracy theory that Bondi repeated has been conclusively refuted. The New York Times calls it 'debunked,' The Wall Street Journal calls it 'discredited,' the AP calls it 'incorrect,' and The Washington Post fact checker calls is 'a fountain of falsehoods.' The diplomat that Trump himself appointed to lead his Ukraine policy has blasted it as 'self serving' and 'not credible.' Joe Biden was instrumental to a bipartisan and international anti-corruption victory. It's no surprise that such a thing is anathema to President Trump."

Pence's chief of staff says he didn't hear Trump tie aid to Biden investigations

Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short said in a statement Monday that he never heard Trump tie military aid to Ukraine to investigations into the Biden family or Burisma. 

“In every conversation with the president and the vice president in preparation for our trip to Poland, the president consistently expressed his frustration that the United States was bearing the lion’s share of responsibility for aide to Ukraine and that European nations weren’t doing their part," Short said in the statement, released by the vice president's office. "The president also expressed concerns about corruption in Ukraine. At no time did I hear him tie aid to Ukraine to investigations into the Biden family or Burisma."

Short added, “As White House counsel presented today, based upon testimony provided by Democrat witnesses in the House hearings, these were the only issues that the vice president discussed with Ukrainian officials — because that’s what the president asked him to raise.”

During a recent interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani and a key player in the Ukraine saga, alleged that Pence had canceled his trip to the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy last year because Ukraine hadn’t announced investigations into Biden and his son Hunter. He also said Pence was aware of the push for the investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens, which Pence has denied.

Bondi attacks Bidens on Burisma in presentation

Trump defense lawyer Pam Bondi began her presentation Monday afternoon by highlighting what President Donald Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate — former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. 

Bondi, a former attorney general of Florida, noted that the Democratic House managers's trial brief said claims made about the Bidens are baseless. “Now, why did they say that? Why did they invoke Biden or Burisma over 400 times?” Bondi asked. “The reason they needed to do that is because they are here saying that the president must be impeached and removed from office for raising a concern."

Democrats, she claimed, have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no basis for Trump to have raised concerns about the Bidens. She then discussed how the former vice president was tasked with dealing with corruption in 2014 just before Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of the natural gas company Burisma. 

Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, have alleged that Joe Biden used the prospect of U.S. financial support to pressure the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor in 2016, because the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was investigating Burisma and allegedly Hunter Biden. Shokin was widely believed to be soft on corruption, however, and the United States and other Western countries had called for his removal. The country's Parliament ultimately voted to remove Shokin.

Bondi read a quote from a Washington Post article that said, “The appointment of the vice president's son to a Ukrainian oil board looks nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst.”

There's little evidence, however, that the former vice president acted to help his son. This year, Bloomberg News reported that the Burisma investigation had been dormant for more than a year by the time Biden called for the crackdown on corruption. The then-Ukrainian prosecutor general told the news agency he found no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden. And PolitiFact reported it found no evidence to "support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son's interests in mind."

Dem aide offers point to counter defense's 'high crimes' assertion

A Democratic aide working on the impeachment trial provided a fact check of Trump's defense team's claim that "high crimes and misdemeanors” must be criminal violations.

Response: Every principle of constitutional interpretation rejects that view. President Trump’s conduct constituted the highest of high crimes against our country in abusing his power.

  • The Constitution does not require that an offense be a crime in order for it to be impeachable. Alexander Hamilton explained that impeachable offenses are defined fundamentally by “the abuse or violation of some public trust.”  They are “political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”   
  • The framers were acutely aware of the dangers of foreign influence in American elections. Explaining why the Constitution required an impeachment option, James Madison argued in part that a president “might betray his trust to foreign powers."
  • There has been no dispute about this fact in prior impeachments. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-N.C., when he served as a House manager during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, said: “It doesn’t have to be a crime. It is just when you start using your office and you are acting in a way that hurts people, you have committed a high crime.”

Trump lawyer Raskin: Giuliani is the House managers' 'colorful distraction'

Jane Raskin, one of Trump's defense lawyers, opened her argument by accusing the House impeachment managers of resorting to using Giuliani as a “colorful distraction” to take away from the idea that “both the law and the facts” were not on their side.

"Well, we've heard the House managers do some table-pounding and a little yelling," Raskin said, referring to an aphorism about what lawyers should do when the facts and law are against them. "But in the main, they've used a different tactic here, a tactic familiar to trial lawyers: If both the law and the facts are against you, present a distraction; emphasize a sensational fact or perhaps a colorful and controversial public figure who appears on the scene, then distort certain facts, ignore others, even when they're the most probative, make conclusory statements and insinuate the shiny object is far more important than the actual facts allow.”

“In short,” she continued, “divert attention from the holes in your case.”

“Rudy Giuliani is the House managers' colorful distraction,” she said. 

'I have nothing to defend. This is all a game,' Biden says

Former Vice President Joe Biden told reporters while on the campaign trail in Cedar Falls, Iowa, that if he were still a senator, he would demand that John Bolton testify given the reporting on what he writes about the Ukraine saga in his upcoming book. 

Asked if he should testify as his own best witness, Biden said: “I have nothing to defend. This is all a game.” 

Biden added, "There is no one [who] said I'd done anything that was wrong, period. What is there to defend? The reason he's being impeached is because he tried to get a government to smear me and they wouldn't. Come on."

Sekulow says no witness tied investigations and aid. Bolton revelations allege link

Arguing before the Senate on Monday, Sekulow listed as noteworthy one of the Trump legal team's "six facts" about the president's efforts in Ukraine.

Sekulow said that "no witness" testified to a direct link between the investigations Trump wanted Ukraine to announce and the withholding of nearly $400 million in aid to the country.

However, ex-national security adviser John Bolton reportedly would say just that if the Senate voted in favor of calling him to testify before the trial. He reportedly alleges in his upcoming book that Trump linked the two things — Ukraine aid and an investigation into Democrats, including the Bidens — in an August conversation with him, which the president has denied doing.

Several other Trump administration witnesses testified that they believed there was a link between the aid and the investigations Trump sought.

Starr slams House Democrats for denying Trump 'basic rights' during impeachment process

Former independent counsel Ken Starr, who investigated President Bill Clinton, slammed House Democrats in arguments for Trump's legal defense Monday morning, saying they had denied Trump “basic rights.”

Trump, Starr said, was “denied the basic rights that have been afforded to every single accused president in the history of the Republic, even to the racist Andrew Johnson, seeking to undo Mr. Lincoln's great legacy."

Republicans have repeatedly argued that Trump was denied due process during the House impeachment inquiry.

Starr, who was speaking generally about the history of impeachment, accused House Democrats of having "chose to conduct a wholly unprecedented process in this case.”

“They did so knowingly and deliberately,” he said.

Moments later, Starr added that the two articles of impeachment against Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — “come before this court, this high court of impeachment, dripping with fundamental process violations."

'Torture,' 'excruciatingly boring': Starr blasted for opening with long discussion of history of impeachment

Former independent counsel Ken Starr has been speaking for more than 30 minutes about the history of impeachment.

Quoting centuries-old law school deans and what he dubbed the “Rodino Rule,” and citing the minutiae of the Iran-Contra scandal and the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, Starr, despite a 30-minute-plus discussion so far, has yet to mention Trump by name. His lecture is beginning to attract the ire of its watchers — even among Trump allies.

Ken Starr, former Clinton investigator, laments 'age of impeachment'

Ken Starr, a member of Trump's legal team who served as the independent counsel investigating former President Bill Clinton, lamented that the U.S. is now in the "age of impeachment."

"In this particular juncture in America's history, the Senate is being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently," Starr said. "Indeed, we are living in what I think can aptly be described as the 'age of impeachment.'"

"How did we get here, with presidential impeachment invoked frequently in its inherently destabilizing as well as acrimonious way?" he asked.

Starr said that "like war, impeachment is hell, or at least presidential impeachment is hell."

GOP Sen. Murkowski says she's 'still curious' about what Bolton might say

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Monday that she was "still curious" to hear what ex-national security adviser John Bolton could say in testimony following the reported revelations in his upcoming book.

“I’ve said before I’m curious about what Ambassador Bolton might have to say," Murkowski said. "I’m still curious.”

In a written statement, Murkowski said, “I stated before that I was curious as to what John Bolton might have to say. From the outset, I’ve worked to ensure this trial would be fair and that members would have the opportunity to weigh in after its initial phase to determine if we need more information. I’ve also said there is an appropriate time for us to evaluate whether we need additional information —that time is almost here. I look forward to the White House wrapping up presentation of its case.”

Fellow moderate Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins also said Monday that the Bolton revelations strengthen the case for calling witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial. 

Hawley, preparing motions to subpoena Bidens, Schiff, whistleblower, says Bolton reporting 'a bunch of hearsay'

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., told "Fox & Friends" on Monday that if new testimony is approved, the Senate should hear from those Trump-sought witnesses too — something he tweeted about last week.

In the event additional witness testimony and documents are approved, Hawley said he has prepared subpoenas for testimony and documents from the Bidens, the whistleblower who alerted Congress to Trump's Ukraine dealings and lead House manager Adam Schiff, among others. His office said the subpoenas would also include documents and testimony from and intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.

Of Bolton's book, Hawley said "it's certainly going to sell a lot of" copies.

"Listen, I can't tell from the New York Times report what is actually being reported here," he said. "I can't tell if this is something new. I can't tell if they've actually seen the manuscript. It's all a bunch of hearsay and clearly it's an attempt to try to influence the course of the trial."

Trump says 'nothing was ever said' to Bolton

President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House that "nothing was ever said" to his former national security adviser, John Bolton, who reportedly alleges in an unpublished book that Trump told him he would continue to withhold aid to Ukraine to pressure its leaders to announce investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens.

"Well, I haven't seen a manuscript, but I can tell you, nothing was ever said to John Bolton. But I have not seen a manuscript. I guess he's writing a book. I have not seen it."

Trump tweeted earlier Monday, "I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens," Trump wrote. "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."

"The Democrat controlled House never even asked John Bolton to testify," the president added, though the House asked but did not subpoena Bolton for testimony. "It is up to them, not up to the Senate!"

Graham says he wants to subpoena Bolton manuscript

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday that he is interested in subpoenaing John Bolton's manuscript for his upcoming book — in which the former national security adviser reportedly claims President Trump linked Ukrainian aid to the investigations of Democrats in an August 2019 discussion.

"I want to know what's in the manuscript," Graham said. "Yeah, I think that’s important."

Graham said Bolton's claims are "probably" not going to "change" his view of Trump's innocence, "but I’ll determine whether or not it’s relevant.'

Asked if he trusts Bolton, Graham said, "I don’t know if I trust anybody right now."

"He may be a relevant witness, but I’ve also said I want to comply with reasonable requests by the president about the Bidens and their involvement with Burisma," he said, adding, "We’re not going to get part of it, we’re going to get all of it."

Graham declined to commit to voting in favor of witnesses and documents.

GOP Sen. Braun: Bolton revelations 'may move the needle' toward a vote on witnesses

Sens. Mike Braun, R-Ind., and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told reporters at a Monday news conference that they weren't terribly concerned with Bolton's reported claims and pointed to the president having denied making such comments to his then-national security adviser.

But Braun said the revelations "may move the needle" toward a vote on witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial.

The latest reports on Bolton's book will "change the decibel level and the intensity of which we talk about witnesses," Braun said, earlier pointing to the president's denial.

Barrasso called the reporting a "so-called blockbuster" and said it was more a "story about selective leaks." He insisted the president did not engage in a quid pro quo with regard to Ukraine, said there is "nothing new here," and compared the revelations to reports from Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing.

Their comments came after Romney and Collins said the revelations from the soon-to-be-released book strengthened the case for witnesses, with Romney saying it was "increasingly likely" enough Republicans will vote in favor of new testimony.

So who knew about the Bolton book, and when?

A source familiar with the matter says the president's defense team was largely blindsided by The New York Times report on the Bolton book, as were members of Congress. Note that National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said in a statement, "No White House personnel outside NSC have reviewed the manuscript." It's possible that could be an attempt to absolve Cipollone and his team from blowback if they had known and didn't share.

What's the thinking about witnesses now from that end of Pennsylvania Avenue

An acknowledgment that this increases the pressure on the Senate to call witnesses. So what will the defense team do if in fact senators vote to call witnesses? Sources have repeatedly said they're prepared for all contingencies — including that one.

Collins says Bolton revelations strengthen case for witnesses

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, tweeted out a statement saying the "reports about John Bolton's book strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues."

The statement also maintained, "I've always said that I was likely to vote to call witnesses, just as I did in the 1999 Clinton trial."

Another moderate Republican senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, said earlier Monday that it's "increasingly likely" there will be enough Republican senators to vote in favor of calling witnesses in the president's ongoing trial.

"I think, with the story that came out yesterday, it's increasingly apparent that it would be important to hear from John Bolton," Romney told reporters in brief comments.

Read the full story.

Schumer, citing reporting on Bolton, implores Senate Republicans to call him to testify

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the revelations from a soon-to-be released book by former national security adviser John Bolton “stunning” on Monday and implored Senate Republicans to vote to call Bolton and others to testify.

“It goes right to the heart of the charges against the president,” Schumer said, referring to The New York Times report on a manuscript of Bolton’s book.

“Bolton essentially confirms the president committed the offenses charged in the first article of impeachment,” Schumer said. “He is ready and willing to testify. How can Senate Republicans not vote to call that witness and request his documents?”

“It’s up to four Senate Republicans — just four Senate Republicans,” Schumer said. 

The minority leader added that if Senate Republicans “are not going to vote to call Bolton” and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, “they’re going to be part of the cover-up.”

What to expect from Trump's defense team today

What's today's overriding headline?

The Bolton book. You saw the president’s tweet-denials overnight and this morning of the allegations Bolton reportedly makes. Pompeo, Mulvaney and Barr all mentioned as well. Hill team will have best guidance on what they’re hearing from Senate Republicans on whether this will be a game-changer for the impeachment trial witness vote, but the White House is keeping a close eye.

What to expect from defense team today

The “big guns,” so to speak, and the argument that the president’s conduct did not rise to the constitutional level of removal. This will be Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz’s areas of presentation, among others. You will likely hear more about the Bidens. And it’ll go longer than Saturday’s short session, though TBD on whether the defense team will choose to finish up Tuesday or not.

Meanwhile, at the White House ...

The president is meeting with both Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz (separately!) today, with his Middle East peace plan on the agenda.

Romney says 'increasingly likely' GOP senators will support witnesses at Trump trial after Bolton revelations

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Monday it's "increasingly likely" that there will be enough Republicans to vote in favor of calling witnesses in President Donald Trump's Senate trial in the wake of the major revelations from a soon-to-be released book from former national security adviser John Bolton.

At least four Republicans would need to vote alongside all Democratic senators in order to secure new testimony.

Romney, Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., are considered to be most likely Republicans to vote in favor of witnesses.

Other Republicans cast doubt on the bombshell report that Bolton alleges in his book that Trump directly linked the withheld Ukrainian military aid and his push for investigations into Democrats. And they also said that if the Senate now votes to hear from witnesses such as Bolton, senators better allow for Trump's preferred witnesses to be called to testify as well.

Read the full story.

Trump disputes Bolton bombshell book, tweets he 'NEVER' linked Biden investigation, Ukraine aid

President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday that he "NEVER" told former national security adviser John Bolton that the hold on nearly $400 million in military aid was tied to investigations of Democrats after it was reported Bolton insisted as much in an upcoming book.

"I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens," Trump wrote. "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."

"The Democrat controlled House never even asked John Bolton to testify," Trump added, though the House asked but did not subpoena Bolton for testimony. "It is up to them, not up to the Senate!"

According to a manuscript of Bolton's book, obtained by The New York Times and not seen by NBC News, Trump told Bolton in August that nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine would not be released until it provided all of the information it had in connection to the investigations of Democrats that the president sought. One month earlier, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden and Democrats.

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Democrats demand Bolton testify after report his book says Trump tied Ukraine aid to Biden probe

Democrats stepped up their calls Sunday night for former national security adviser John Bolton to testify at President Donald Trump's impeachment trial after an explosive report alleged that in his unpublished book, he said Trump personally tied aid for Ukraine to an investigation of the Bidens — an account that conflicts with the president's.

"John Bolton has the evidence," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted.

According to the manuscript, as reported by The New York Times on Sunday night, Trump told Bolton that nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine would not be released until it offered assistance with investigations of Democratic targets, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

NBC News has not seen a copy of the manuscript or verified the report, which cited multiple sources familiar with Bolton's account.

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OPINION: Trump's impeachment trial has a lot to do with his inability to fire Marie Yovanovitch

The formal documents on the impeachment of President Donald Trump ring with charges of greed and betrayal. But presidents don’t get impeached only because — or even mainly because — they’re egregiously corrupt. They get impeached because they don’t know how to get what they want without violating laws, rules and norms in order to do it.

With Trump, we have a president who regularly demonstrates he has no knowledge of the intricacies of how the government works — and didn’t think he had to learn.

We are watching this play out now in his Senate impeachment trial. The House managers have been presenting their case of alleged corruption. But they’ve also exposed the sheer dumbness of Trump's efforts to get the Ukrainians to produce anti-Joe Biden campaign fodder for him. Even with administration partisans, including the attorney general, in control of the Justice Department, Trump couldn't figure out how to use the regular levers of government to get what he wanted. He had to resort to his private lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his "associates." That was a potentially disastrous choice — and the disaster has now materialized.Read the full opinion piece.

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GOP senator: Impeachment should encourage Trump to be more 'careful' next time

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said Sunday that he hopes President Donald Trump's impeachment "will be instructive" to the president so that he is more "careful" about his actions going forward.

"Hopefully it will be instructive to where ... I think he'll put two and two together," Braun told NBC's "Meet the Press." "In this case, he was taken to the carpet."

"I think he’ll be instructed by what has occurred here and certainly any individual would want to avoid whatever might need to be modified to go through this again because the threat is already been out there that 'we might find something else to impeach you on," Braun added, pointing to Democrats. "Which I think is a mistake because I think we need to get back to what most Americans are interested in, the agenda."

The Hoosier State senator said the process "ought to be instructive to anyone here that if you're pushing the envelope or doing things that may not feel right, let alone be right, you better be careful."

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As some Americans closely watch Trump's impeachment trial, others say their interest has faded

The Senate’s trial into the charges against Trump began last week, marking it only the third time in American history that a president has been impeached.

While the trial has been live on TV and the internet and made the front pages of newspapers across the country, the public’s interest has waxed and waned. Some people say they believe the outcome of the trial has been predetermined, causing their interest to fade. Others have remained engaged, following every detail, while still others have pulled away completely.

Full story here.

Senators spar over witnesses after first week of Senate impeachment trial

Alan Dershowitz labeled Trump 'destabilizing and unpredictable' in 2016 book

As part of President Donald Trump's impeachment defense team, Alan Dershowitz is expected to argue on behalf of the president this week. But in a 2016 book he authored, the famed defense attorney called Trump a “destabilizing and unpredictable candidate,” warning that the then-presidential candidate “openly embraces fringe conspiracy theories peddled by extremists.”

Dershowitz wrote those statements in his book titled “Electile Dysfunction: A Guide for Unaroused Voters.” As part of Trump’s defense team, Dershowitz will outline the “foundations of what it means to rise to the level of what is impeachable and what is not,” Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s lead impeachment lawyers, said last week on Fox News.

In a phone call with NBC about his comments in the 2016 book, Dershowitz clarified his views about the president. “I was campaigning for Hillary Clinton at the time. I hadn’t really ever met President Trump and it was just typical campaign rhetoric," he said. "I would not repeat that characterization today having met him.”

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Klobuchar: Trump's defense team, Republicans 'afraid to hear from witnesses'

Just catching up? Here's what you missed

House impeachment managers presented their case against the president over three days this week, and Trump's legal team launched its defense in a short session on Saturday. If you're just catching up, here's what you missed:

ANALYSIS: Impeachment managers have trigger man and motive. GOP has the votes.

Democrats believe they have more than a smoking gun in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. They have a trigger man, they have a motive and they have a record of the key moment.

What they would like more of — but do not believe would be necessary in a jury trial — is access to documents they know exist and witnesses close to Trump whom they believe would further support the case for removing him from office.

"This is airtight," said a person familiar with the prosecution, who noted that all of the witness testimony obtained during the House investigation corroborated a long campaign by top Trump lieutenants to effect the president's Ukraine plan. "What [we] don't have is someone saying, 'I helped orchestrate that monthslong effort.'"

The weaknesses of the case can be found in the political strength of a president whose fellow Republicans are expected to vote nearly or fully in lockstep to keep him in office, regardless of what they think of his actions — a handful will say they were imperfect, and others will say they see nothing wrong with what he did — and in his ability to use executive fiat to prevent prosecutors from obtaining evidence from his closest circle of advisers and documents housed at various federal agencies.

Read more here.