Donald Trump’s legal defense 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.
‘Like war, impeachment is hell,’ former Independent Counsel Ken Starr told senators as a member of President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense
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 backed to the British parliament of the 19th Century.
‘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.’
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.
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.
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.’
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.’