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New curveball: An explosive report alleges John Bolton says in his unpublished book that Trump personally tied aid for Ukraine to an investigation of the Bidens.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They also largely avoided an explosive report that alleges former national security adviser John Bolton says in an unpublished book that the president personally tied aid for Ukraine to an investigation into the Bidens — an account that conflicts with the president's.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

Live Blog

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.