U.S. President Donald Trump’s legal team is raising a broad-based attack on the impeachment case against him even as it mostly brushes past allegations in a new book that could undercut a key defense argument at his Senate trial.
Former national security adviser John Bolton writes in a manuscript that Trump wanted to withhold military aid from Ukraine until it committed to helping with investigations into Democratic rival Joe Biden. That assertion matters because Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly insisted that he never tied the suspension of security aid to political investigations.
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The revelation clouded White House hopes for a swift end to the impeachment trial, as Democrats demanded witnesses and some Republicans expressed openness to the idea. It also distracted from hours of arguments Monday from Trump’s lawyers, who declared anew that no witness has testified to direct knowledge that Trump’s delivery of aid was contingent on investigations into Democrats. Bolton appeared poised to say exactly that if summoned by the Senate.
“We deal with transcript evidence, we deal with publicly available information,” attorney Jay Sekulow said. “We do not deal with speculation.”
Trump is charged with abusing his presidential power by asking Ukraine’s leader to help investigate Biden at the same time his administration was withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid. A second charge accuses Trump of obstructing Congress in its probe.
Republicans are to conclude their arguments Tuesday.
On Monday, Trump’s attorneys, including high-profile lawyers Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz, launched a historical, legal and political attack on the entire impeachment process. They said there was no basis to remove Trump from office, defended his actions as appropriate and assailed Biden, who is campaigning for the Democratic nomination to oppose Trump in November.
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Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi devoted her presentation to Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukraine gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. The legal team argued that Trump had legitimate reasons to be suspicious of the younger Biden’s business dealings and concerned about corruption in Ukraine and that, in any event, he ultimately released the aid without Ukraine committing to investigations the president wanted.
Trump has sought, without providing evidence, to implicate the Bidens in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Though anti-corruption advocates have raised concerns, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.
Democrats say Trump released the money only after a whistleblower submitted a complaint about the situation.