Lawyer Alan Dershowitz told senators in a prime-time law lecture Monday that John Bolton’s bombshell relations about a quid pro quo – ‘even if true’ – must not be used to remove President Trump from office.
Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and former O.J. Simpson attorney, made the impassioned plea as the headliner at Monday’s impeachment trial, appearing after numerous other Trump lawyers at the end of the second-day of Trump’s defense.
He revisited his controversial argument that ‘Abuse of Power’ does not constitute an impeachable offense, telling senators that the Founders specifically rejected such vague terms when hashing out the Constitution in Philadelphia.
In this image from video, Alan Dershowitz, an attorney for President Donald Trump, speaks during the impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
He counted it among the ‘vague, open-ended, and subjective terms that the framers feared and rejected.’
‘Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense,’ said Dershowitz, who has been a strong defender of the president’s on Fox news and in other venues.
Even as he acknowledged his view that only crime-like offenses could be subject to impeachment was a minority view in academia, Dershowitz placed the blame on the academy for that – and deftly delivered his points in a time slot that was a lead-in to Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Dershowitz addressed the bombshell report about John Bolton’s book manuscript after its disclosure shook up the debate over allowing witnesses in the impeachment – with key senators acknowledging Bolton information had an impact and even batting around proposals of a one-for-one trade for allowing witnesses.
LET IT SLIDE: A quote displayed on a slide during Dershowitz’ remarks quoted James Madison but showed a famous portrait of Alexander Hamilton
Dershowitz kept the attention of lawmakers who during prior presentations have wandered, left the room, or found ways to distract themselves.
Reading from printed notes but gesticulating like the conductor of a law school seminar, he referenced U.S. and British political figures who battled over past impeachments.
He said the Founders rejected the ‘vague subjective and politically malleable phrase abuse of power as a constitutionally permissible criteria for the removal of a president,’ and opted to reject the British-influenced phrase ‘maladministration’ for use in the Constitution itself.
But if the senators were dazzled by the celebrity academic and litigator for his command of precedent history, one of his slides blew a hole in his case.
He showed a slide showing architect of the Constitution James Madison – but the slide displayed to senators and the viewing public showed a famous portrait of Alexander Hamilton.
Donald Trump’s legal legal team opened up an all-out attack on Hunter Biden on the second day of its defense of the president Monday, unleashing White House advisor Pam Bondi to accuse him of cashing in on his powerful father.
Bondi, the former Florida attorney general, took to the well of the Senate following a trial where it has primarily been Democrats bringing up the Bidens – to make the case that Trump held up millions in security aide to Ukraine to get an investigation of his political rival.
And another Trump attorney – one from his long-time New York law firm – suggested that Barack Obama should have been impeached for saying he would have more ‘flexibility’ to deal with Russia after the 2012 election.
After fellow attorneys Ken Starr and Patrick Philbin used their speaking time to stress sometimes arcane legal arguments, Bondi, a Trump loyalist, went for the political jugular.
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. She tore into Hunter Biden for what she cast as ethical lapses during her presentation
‘We would prefer not to be talking about this. We would prefer not to be discussing this. But the House managers have placed this squarely at issue, so we must address it,’ she told the Senate, before opening up an attack on Hunter, whose personal struggles have drawn headlines amid disclosures about his work for the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma.
She described how Hunter Biden joined the firm after warning signs about it, and chose not to relinquish his role even amid cautions by his business partners.
‘Remember, this is just one month after the United Kingdom serious fraud office opened a money laundering case into Burisma, Hunter Biden joins their board,’ said Bondi.
She brought up fellow business partner Chris Heinz, who backed away after disclosures. ‘He thought that working for Burisma was unacceptable,’ she said.
Bondi quoted liberally from ‘public reporting’ – even calling up slides of publications the president regularly derides, including ABC News, which reported on potential conflicts of interest at the time Hunter landed the lucrative gig, and the Washington Post.
‘It said the appointment of the vice president’s son to a Ukrainian oil board looks nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst,’ Bondi said.
‘We would prefer not to be talking about this,’ said Bondi as she brought up Hunter Biden
READ THE ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT AGAINST DONALD TRUMP
In 1,414 words, the articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives lay out two charges against President Donald Trump.
Article I: Abuse of Power
Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election.
He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage.
President Trump also sought to pressure the Government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official United States Government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations.
President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit. In so doing, President Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process.’
Article II: Obstruction of Congress
As part of this impeachment inquiry, the Committees undertaking the investigation served subpoenas seeking documents and testimony deemed vital to the inquiry from various Executive Branch agencies and offices, and current and former officials.
In response, without lawful cause or excuse, President Trump directed Executive Branch agencies, offices, and officials not to comply with those subpoenas. President Trump thus interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, and assumed to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the ‘sole Power of Impeachment’ vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives.
In the history of the Republic, no President has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
This abuse of office served to cover up the President’s own repeated misconduct and to seize and control the power of impeachment — and thus to nullify a vital constitutional safeguard vested solely in the House of Representatives.
Bondi also included video of Hunter Biden acknowledging that he ‘probably’ wouldn’t have gotten the gig if he weren’t Biden’s son.
Bondi has herself been the subject of ethics criticism for her decision while Florida AG to decide not to join a multi-state class action lawsuit against Trump University by students alleging they got scammed. The case ultimately resulted in a settlement and a $25 million payment by the Trump Organization.
Hunter Biden has not been accused of any criminal behavior connected to the deal, although company head Mykola Zlochevsky had accounts frozen during Ukrainian investigation that later got halted.
‘Did Hunter Biden stop working for Burisma? No Did Vice President Biden stop leading the Obama administration’s foreign policy efforts in Ukraine? No,’ said Bondi.
Biden’s role raised concerns by State Department official George Kent, who brought the potential of a conflict of interest to higher-ups.
Following Bondi’s presentation, fellow Trump lawyer Eric Herschmann took up the cause, also going over Hunter Biden’s Ukraine connections.
He also pivoted to President Obama, recalling his hot-mic conversation with then Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, who promised to transmit information to ‘Vladimir’ during a conversation about a missile defense treaty.
Obama told Medvedev in South Korea in 2012 – who despite his title was actually junior partner to Putin – that ‘this is my last election,’ and said: ‘After my election I have more flexibility.’
Medvedev replied: ‘I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.’
The hot mic moment was to become a favorite Republican talking point against Obama.
Herschmann suggested that it could have been used to impeach Obama then read his version of the first article of impeachment – abuse of power – changing Trump’s name for Obama’s and the Ukraine aid allegations for what Obama said.
Inside the Senate chamber, majority of Senators from both sides of the aisle sat stony faced, listening in silence as required. Democratic Sen. Cory Booker stood leaning on his desk chair, face grim, during part of Bondi’s presentation.
Trump’s team resumed its efforts to blast the case against him and defend the president’s interactions with Ukraine – with Independent Counsel Ken Starr taking making the case that impeachment is invoked ‘all too frequently.’
Starr, who led the impeachment case in the same chamber in 1999, bemoaned the arrival of an ‘age of impeachment’ without sufficient justification.
‘Like war, impeachment is hell. Or at least, presidential impeachment is hell,’ said Starr.
Starr began his remarks hours after bombshell revelations in a new book manuscript claimed the president personally tied millions in military aide to Biden investigations.
He took to the well of the Senate to attack ‘a series of deficiencies’ in the impeachment articles that passed the House, according to fellow Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow.
‘Judge Starr is very familiar with this process,’ said Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow, alluding to Starr’s role leading the charge to remove President Bill Clinton from office during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Starr began his remarks not by pointing to fights over Trump’s July 25 call with the president of Ukraine or the murky way a whistleblower came to light – but with a history lesson that referenced the Nixon impeachment, Iran Contra, and other partisan clashes – then went back to the British parliament of the 19th Century.
‘Like war, impeachment is hell,’ former Independent Counsel Ken Starr told senators as a member of President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense
‘Instead of a once in a century phenomenon, which it had been, presidential impeachment has become a weapon,’ he said.
As other Trump lawyers had noted, the trial occurs with an election around the corner. Adam Schiff countered this in his own arguments by arguing Trump was trying to invite interference in the election – which could call it’s fairness into doubt.
‘There is a huge prudential factor that this trial is occurring in an election year when we the people in a matter of months will go to the polls,’ Starr said.
Rather than the impeachment remedy, Starr invoked the ‘tradition of oversight,’ which he called ‘an enormous check on presidential power.’
If there is a dispute over documents and witnesses, ‘Then go to court. It really is as simple as that,’ said Starr.
Democrats included an ‘Obstruction of Congress’ article after the administration refused to provide documents or make witnesses available for the impeachment inquiry in the House.
When Starr was done, New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was unimpressed.
‘I’m not sure who he was talking to but his arguments were exceedingly thin and did not bear out,’ she told DailyMail.com. On Starr’s remark that impeachment is hell, she said: ‘I thought that it was an absurd argument and quite rich coming from him.’
Trump’s high-powered legal team took to the well of the Senate Monday to resume a defense they began on Saturday, when the president complained many Americans wouldn’t be tuning in due to the timing.
Before the lawyers made their case, Senate Chaplain Barry Black made note of tragic news, referencing the helicopter crash that killed L.A. Lakers great Kobe Bryant.
‘We think about life’s brevity, uncertainty and legacy,’ said Black.
Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow sketched out how the day’s arguments would go – after Trump once again pressed his own case with Twitter attacks over the weekend.
‘We do not deal with speculation, allegations that are not based on evidentiary standards at all,’ said Sekulow.
‘The president was all times acting under his constitutional authority, under his legal authority, in our national interest pursuant to his oath of office,’ Sekulow argued.
Republicans senators are saying it’s increasingly likely there will be witnesses called in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the wake of revelations from John Bolton’s forth coming book.
Senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins – two crucial votes in the Democrats’ quest to bring more witnesses in the trial – said it’s important to hear from the former national security adviser.
They also both said they have spoken with their colleagues about the topic, which could be seen as a warning to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell that support is there for such a move.
LEGAL SHOWDOWN AT THE CAPITOL: Trump impeachment attorney Kenneth Starr arrives at the U.S. Capitol on the sixth day of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, in Washington, DC, Monday, January 27, 2020
Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr stands before a crowd of reporters and photographers outside the Justice Department and answers questions about his investigation into President Clinton and intern Monica Lewinsky, Washington DC, January 22, 1998. Clinton was acquitted in the Senate. Starr on Monday warned against partisan impeachments
Ken Starr, an attorney for President Donald Trump, speaks during the impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020
Mitt Romney and Susan Collins said it’s increasingly likely witnesses will be called in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial
Both senators cited revelations from John Bolton’s forthcoming book as reasons they want to hear from him
JOHN BOLTON’S KEY REVELATIONS
John Bolton makes a series of bombshell claims in his book, according to the part of the manuscript seen by the New York Times.
- Trump told Bolton in August 2019 that he would not release military aid to the Ukraine until they investigated the Bidens and claims of trying to intervene in 2016 in favor of Hillary Clinton
- Mike Pompeo privately admitted that Rudy Giuliani’s claims Marie Yovanovitch were corrupt were baseless – and that he suspected they were being made to help other Giuliani clients
- Bolton warned White House lawyers that he feared Giuliani was using his work with the president to help his private clients
- Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, was present at least once when Trump and Giuliani discussed Yovanovitch. Mulvaney has told ‘associates’ he stepped away from such conversations
- Pompeo told Bill Barr that he was mentioned in the July call with Zelensky. The Justice Department claims Barr did not know until mid-August
- Trump railed about Ukraine trying to ‘damage’ him in May 2019 when he met Ron Johnson, a Republican senator who was going to Zelensky’s inauguration. And Trump also mentioned the conspiracy theory that Ukraine had a hacked Democratic server
Democrats need four Republican senators to cross to their side and vote to subpoena witnesses.
‘It’s increasingly apparent that it would be important to hear from John Bolton,’ Romney told reporters on Capitol Hill Monday.
‘I of course will make a final decision on witnesses after we hear not only from the prosecution but from the defense,’ he said. ‘I think at this stage it’s fair to say John Bolton has a relevant testimony.’
He added that he expected other Republicans to join the call for Bolton to testify.
‘I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton,’ he said. ‘I have spoken with others who have opined upon this.’
A senior Democratic congressional staffer working on impeachment told DailyMail.com Monday that, ‘We had no communication with Mr. Bolton or Mr. Bolton’s lawyers.’
Bolton has said he will testify if subpoenaed by the Senate.
Collins also said she was leaning toward voting for witnesses.
‘From the beginning, I’ve said that in fairness to both parties the decision on whether or not to call witnesses should be made after both the House managers and the president’s attorneys have had the opportunity to present their cases. I’ve always said that I was likely to vote to call witnesses just as I did in the 1999 Clinton trial,’ she said in a statement Monday.
‘The reports about John Bolton’s book strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues,’ she added.
Other Republican senators have weighed in as lawmakers return to Washington for day two of President Trump’s defense team.
‘We don’t know what’s in there other than what’s being leaked. My guess is John Bolton tells the truth,’ said Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Bolton and Johnson had spoken in August – when Bolton still worked in the White House – about aid to Ukraine. Bolton urged Johnson to call President Trump directly on the matter, which the senator did.
Some of the president’s defenders, however, have charged Bolton with trying to sell a book. Bolton was fired from the White House in September of last year
‘Truly there’s nothing new here. It does seem to be an effort to sell books. I think there’s going to be a new revelation every day. Today’s just one more day,’ said Republican Sen. John Barrasso.
‘I don’t think it changes any fundamental information of the basic case, that the House has to put the case together,’ said Sen. Roy Blunt.
McConnell has said the Senate will vote on calling witnesses after opening arguments are made. That would set up a vote sometime this week.
President Trump denied the charges in Bolton’s book
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Monday that Bolton’s book puts increased pressure on the Senate to call witnesses.
‘The eyes of America are on Republicans in the Senate,’ he said.
The impeachment trial was upended Sunday night when The New York Times reported on a leaked copy of an unpublished manuscript for the new book Bolton is writing.
‘The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,’ is scheduled to be published March 17.
In it, Bolton wrote that the president told him he wanted to freeze military aid to Ukraine until the Eastern European nation helped with political investigations into his political rivals.
Trump has denied the charge.
‘I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. 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,’ he tweeted in response.
The president also told reporters at the White House on Monday that he has not seen Bolton’s manuscript.
Bolton had sent it to the White House for pre-publishing clear, which is required by federal law when former government employees with security clearances are writing about their time in government service in order to assure classified information is not compromised.
Sarah Tinsley, an advisor to Bolton, said in a statement: ‘The ambassador’s manuscript was transmitted to the White House in hard copy several weeks ago for pre-publication review by the NSC. The ambassador has not passed the draft manuscript to anyone else. Period.’