Trump instructed Bolton to call Zelenskiy in May, NYT reports, citing manuscript
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump instructed then-national security adviser John Bolton in May to help with his efforts to pressure Ukraine for damaging information on Democrats, according to a New York Times report that cites the manuscript of Bolton's upcoming book.
Bolton wrote in the book that Trump asked him during an Oval Office meeting to call the recently elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to encourage him to meet with the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to discuss investigations into Trump’s Democratic targets, the Times reported.
Bolton wrote that he never made the call, the newspaper said.
Giuliani, as well as acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is now leading the president’s impeachment defense, were also present at the Oval Office meeting, according to the report.
The directive Bolton describes in the book would be the earliest known example of Trump attempting to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate Democratic targets, and paints a picture of an ongoing effort inside the White House to use government power to advance Trump’s pressure campaign, the Times reported.
Trump denied Bolton’s allegations in a statement to the Times on Friday, which the White House confirmed to NBC News.
“I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of N.Y.C., to meet with President Zelensky," Trump said in the statement. "That meeting never happened.”
Giuliani alleged the meeting in the Times report was "a lie" and said Bolton potentially was "a backstabber."
NBC News has not seen a copy of the manuscript or verified the Times' report independently.
Trump trial could last into next week
A key vote on whether to hear testimony from witnesses in the president's impeachment trial is expected to take place Friday, but the trial itself could stretch into next week regardless, multiple sources tell NBC News.
While Republicans expect they'll be able to vote down Democrats' requests to continue the trial with witness testimony, several other moving parts could stretch the proceedings into next week, after the Iowa caucus on Monday and the president gives his State of the Union address on Tuesday, the sources said.
Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas told reporters they did not believe the trial would end Friday after meeting with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“I don’t expect there to be a vote for additional witnesses, but the question is how do you land this plane. I don’t expect this ends today,” Cornyn said. Cruz added, "I think we would see it by next week.”
Both sides have a total of four hours to make their arguments on witnesses, beginning at 1 p.m. ET Friday, and that will be followed by deliberations and then a vote on the issue. But there are many unknowns about what could happen after the witness vote.
The organizing resolution for the trial allows both sides to make motions after that vote. Democrats were meeting to discuss what motions they want to introduce. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio told reporters that he plans to introduce a motion to make deliberations on the articles of impeachment open instead of closed.
Senators also need to decide whether there will be closing arguments after the witness vote, and if so, for how long. They also need to figure out how long deliberations be and when would they start. The closed deliberations in 1999 gave each senator 10 minutes to speak.
Trump's legal team anticipates their closing arguments, if there are any, will be on the shorter side, and it is not currently pushing for a time extension, according to a source familiar with the thinking of the White House defense.
Just catching up with the trial? Here's what you missed.
Friday marks a new phase of the impeachment trial, as senators turn from asking questions of the House managers and Trump's defense team to the vote on whether to call witnesses, such as ex-national security adviser John Bolton.
Here's a brief recap of the trial so far:
'Nonsense,' 'preposterous,' 'absurd': Critics lecture Dershowitz about trial remarks
Alan Dershowitz faced intense backlash Thursday over his eye-opening argument against impeaching his client. Dershowitz, a member of Trump's defense team, argued Wednesday that if presidents engage in quid pro quo arrangements for their own political benefit, it is not impeachable because all politicians believe their elections are in the public interest.
"If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment," he said during the first day of the question-and-answer period of the Senate impeachment trial.
Read what people said about his argument.
OPINION: Trump's impeachment trial is being tuned out by America because no one thinks it matters
American soap operas are not popular these days. And yet, the Senate trial to remove President Donald Trump from office is currently garnering fewer viewers than the soaps. The conservative online magazine The Federalist consulted Nielsen ratings and used them to argue: “More people would rather watch the predictable, fake melodrama offered by soap operas than the predictable, fake melodrama currently being peddled by the Democrats.”
Just over 4 million people, in a country of 320 million-plus, tuned in for the opening arguments on the three big networks last week. That’s well less than the 11 million people who regularly watch the soaps on those channels. Fox News viewership was sent “skyrocketing” when Trump’s defense team got going on Saturday, The Washington Examiner reported, but the audience was still in the low millions.
In other words, Americans are collectively yawning at the Senate impeachment trial.
Read the full THINK piece.
Video appears to show Trump and indicted Giuliani associate at Florida club
A newly public video recording appears to show President Donald Trump with Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, at the president's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, further calling into question Trump's assertion that he doesn't know Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman.
In a 37-minute recording that NBC News obtained from Parnas' attorney, Parnas and Fruman are greeted warmly by Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who appears to recognize Parnas.
"Yeah, we've met before, yeah, how are things?" McDaniel appears to say. "I'm glad you're here."
Read the story.