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New curveball: An explosive report alleges John Bolton says in his unpublished book that Trump personally tied aid for Ukraine to an investigation of the Bidens.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They also largely avoided an explosive report that alleges former national security adviser John Bolton says in an unpublished book that the president personally tied aid for Ukraine to an investigation into the Bidens — an account that conflicts with the president's.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

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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.