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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New curveball: An explosive report alleges John Bolton says in his unpublished book that Trump personally tied aid for Ukraine to an investigation of the Bidens.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

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They also largely avoided an explosive report that alleges former national security adviser John Bolton says in an unpublished book that the president personally tied aid for Ukraine to an investigation into the Bidens — an account that conflicts with the president's.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

Live Blog

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.