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They also largely avoided an explosive report that alleges former national security adviser John Bolton says in an unpublished book that the president personally tied aid for Ukraine to an investigation into the Bidens — an account that conflicts with the president's.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
- Trump impeachment defense team turns attention to Bidens, Burisma.
- Dershowitz says 'nothing' impeachable about Bolton allegations.
- Trump lawyer suggests Ukraine call wasn't quite perfect.
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.
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.
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.
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.