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Will The Bolton News Force Republicans To Call Witnesses In The Impeachment Trial

A FiveThirtyEight Chat

    Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s weekly politics chat. The transcript below has been lightly edited.

    sarahf : On Sunday, The New York Times reported a bombshell from former national security adviser John Bolton’s unpublished manuscript about his time in the White House: President Trump had, in fact, wanted to withhold $391 million in assistance to Ukraine until investigations into Democrats — including Joe Biden and his son Hunter — were agreed to.

    Bolton’s version of events undermined the president’s claim, which has been an important part of his defense during the impeachment process, that the decision to freeze aid to Ukraine was independent from requests that Ukraine investigate the Bidens. The reported contents of the manuscript also gave a snapshot of the kind of testimony Bolton might give if the Senate allows witnesses to be called in the trial.

    The White House legal team is back in the Senate today presenting the president’s side of the case, but what should we make of Bolton’s manuscript? Does it change the calculus of the trial moving forward?

    ameliatd : Well, it certainly amps up the pressure on GOP senators to call witnesses. Bolton has been the white whale of the impeachment inquiry since last fall, since he seems to have been privy to a lot of key conversations around the Ukraine aid and the investigations. The NYT reporting just underscores how important his testimony could be.

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    Pursuing witnesses would also have a collateral benefit: It would allow Congress to strengthen its investigative authority. Last summer, for example, the House was denied access to Trump’s financial records in the Mazars case because the Supreme Court found Congress had no legitimate legislative purpose in seeking the records. An ongoing impeachment trial would supply the purpose needed for a court to grant enforcement in this case.

    A criminal inquiry into Donald Trump’s conduct relating to the Jan. 6 violence may yet happen. That possibility makes it all the more essential that in this, the most critical political trial of the 21st century, the Senate attempt to discern the motivations, intentions and communications of the president in the run-up to Jan. 6 before they make the fateful decision to acquit. Congress has a solemn duty to do its utmost to defend our democracy against those who threaten its existence. This was our warning. Senators who vote to acquit ignore it at the country’s peril.


    What To Watch For

    The vote now precipitates individual votes on witnesses, though the timing and structure of those votes remains unclear. Jake Sherman, founder of political newsletter Punchbowl News, the development will “elongate this trial likely by weeks,” that resolutions to subpoena witnesses could face the Senate’s normal 60-vote threshold pending a “negotiation between the two sides.”

    Republicans Infuriated By Vote To Call Witnesses In Impeachment Trial

    The Senate voted to allow for calling witnesses in the impeachment trial on Saturday, delaying the proceedings that were expected to conclude this afternoon by an unspecified period of time. Many Republicans lashed out in response to the vote, arguing that Democrats had made a mistake by extending the trial, even though five GOP senators joined all Democrats in voting to call witnesses.

    Senator Ron Johnson appeared to be upset with Senator Mitt Romney, who voted to call witnesses, in the Senate chamber immediately after the vote. Johnson later told reporters that he was not angry with Romney, but with the vote itself.

    Senator Kevin Cramer argued that the House impeachment managers had “unleashed a really, really, really awful situation” by calling for witnesses. He said that Republicans had been “gracious” to Democrats, but would work to block any legislation brought by Democrats if the trial was significantly delayed.

    “I’d say that is over, from now on until such time as this is over. And if they want to make this into a 10 month ordeal or a two year ordeal, it’ll be without a single piece of legislation getting passed,” Cramer said.

    Senator Joni Ernst said calling witnesses was a “tool of revenge.”

    “If they want to drag this out, we’ll drag it out,” she said.

    Raskin Ends Democrats’ Closing Arguments: Godspeed To The Senate Of The United States

    Top Senate Republicans: GOP may forgo calling any ...

    House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin concluded with a personal anecdote, recalling a conversation he had with his daughter, Hannah, who sympathized with the children of the rioters who mounted the assault on the Capitol and also may not have returned home to their families. His daughter, Raskin said, cut through the politics and legality of the situation, and saw “all the way to the humanity of the situation, the morality of the situation.”

    “We must recognize and exercise these crimes against our nation and then we must take care of our people and our children, their hearts and their minds,” he said.

    Raskin implored senators to vote according to the truth and questioned whether members would do more to defend the law enforcement officers who protected them January 6 and endured violence and racist slurs, beyond giving them medals.

    “Is this America? Is this what we want to bequeath to our children and our grandchildren?” he said.

    Raskin said that regardless of whether senators came to Washington to work on defense or agriculture, for example, their vote on impeachment is how they will be remembered.

    “That might not be fair, it really might not be fair, but none of us can escape the demands of history and destiny right now,” he said.

    Raskin concluded the Democrats’ closing arguments by citing Thomas Paine, for whom his late son, Thomas Raskin, was named after. 

    Senate Republicans Block Witnesses In Trumps Impeachment Trial

    Paul Blumenthal

    The trial of President Donald Trump will be the first such trial in U.S. history to feature no witness testimony after Senate voted on Friday against hearing from any of the firsthand witnesses to the president’s conduct.

    Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on Dec. 18 for withholding congressionally approved military aid from Ukraine in order to pressure the country into investigating a domestic political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and for refusing to cooperate with the House’s investigation into that action.

    Senate Republicans blocked efforts to subpoena new witnesses. The 51-49 vote came despite a on Jan. 26 that former national security adviser John Bolton would write in a forthcoming book that Trump specifically told him that he withheld military aid from Ukraine in order to obtain an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter. Bolton had said he would appear before the Senate to testify if subpoenaed.

    But Senate Republicans had already planned to acquit Trump no matter the evidence before them. They refused to hear testimony from Trump’s closest aides. Before the trial even began, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not be an “impartial” juror.

    The Senate is now set to acquit Trump in a Wednesday vote.

    This revelation led Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins to call for Bolton’s testimony. 

    Sen Whitehouse: Congress Examining Role Of Some Gop Officials In Capitol Riot

    If these shocking allegations are true, then taken together, prosecutors may be able to link rioters to GOP senators and link GOP senators to the president, a pattern that would place them all in the same, massive conspiracy. Such a plot to overthrow the U.S. government by American citizens would suggest that our democracy is facing a peril graver than any we have seen since the Civil War.

    Impeachment, of course, does not require “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” For most senators watching, more proof that Trump incited a violent riot is not needed. For others, notably the 44 GOP senators who have indicated they will vote to acquit, the question of causation — phrased as whether there was indeed incitement — still offers an off-ramp.

    As one of us urged with the last impeachment, given the critical importance to the country of the outcome of the trial, the Senate should not be in a hurry. Calling witnesses would likely require issuing subpoenas and then having the patience to enforce them. But given that the Democrats hold the bare majority needed to make that call, the choice is theirs.

    Concerns That Calling Witnesses Would Backfire

    House Democrats ultimately decided to cut a deal over witnesses because of the unpredictability of how that would turn out and fears that doing so could backfire and undermine their case, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the discussions.

    Democrats didn’t make a decision to call Herrera Beutler to testify until shortly before the proceedings began Saturday morning, sources said. The managers debated until nearly 3 a.m. ET Saturday morning about whether to call witnesses following news of the McCarthy call, including consulting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

    Managers had their eyes set on at least two possible witnesses — Herrera Beutler and Rep. John Katko of New York — who also voted to impeach, according to a source with direct knowledge of the deliberations. A spokesman for Herrera Beutler said she would have been willing to testify.

    Among the variety of reasons they did not go forward, they were warned bluntly by Senate Democrats that moving forward on witnesses could stall the Senate since the Trump team could move forward with any number of motions for witnesses. Each motion would require two hours of debate. That warning was delivered Saturday to the Democratic impeachment managers by Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, who said he was conveying what Republicans had told him, according to the source along with a Coons aide.

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    It shouldn’t matter what they ‘want’, a fair and FULL trial is what should be done…you dont hide witnesses in a trial…unless you are a coward crook like Trump of course… But even the majority of Republicans have SOME sanity left senatemajldr find an ounce of your integrity and do what’s right. Quit hiding information, stop being afraid, and fucking represent the American people.

    Sounds bad for the GOP on Election Day. MitchCoverUp GOPTraitors RemoveTrump Midnight Mitch knows better. Lmao yea but not the witnesses Dems want lol Right, I believe that. Not. More FakeNewsMedia propaganda trying to convince POTUS supporters to back Senate doing House’s job. Not going to happen. It will be over right after opening arguments. The left blew it. Wish one of these liberal rags would just admit it.

    I hope he gets a taste of his own medicine. He immobilized the House, and then alleged the Dems were playing games, not allowing Trump attend their ‘secret’ meetings, or calling on his own witnesses. I said it once and I’ll say it again his Tweets will get him imprisoned soon Get a load of that MitchMcConnell

    Wrong again.

    98% of Americans want to stop making up bullshit polls and numbers… What was it 93% chance of Hillary winning, maybe Newsweek staff don’t know how numbers actually work.

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    Trump’s Lawyer Suggests Pelosi Harris Be Deposed In Philadelphia

    Michael van der Veen elicited laughter from senators when he suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris should be among those deposed as part of the impeachment trial, and they should have to appear in-person at his office in Philadelphia.

    “None of these depositions should be done by Zoom,” he said. “We didn’t do this hearing by Zoom.”

    As laughter rang out in the chamber in response to his suggestion Pelosi and Harris have their depositions taken in Pennsylvania, van der Veen grew more incredulous.

     “I don’t know how many civil lawyers are here, but that’s the way it works, folks. When you want somebody’s deposition you send a notice of deposition and they appear at the place where the notice says. That’s civil process,” he said. “I don’t know why you’re laughing.”

    WATCH: Laughter breaks out in the Senate Chamber after Trump attorney Michael van der Veen insists that any impeachment trial depositions should be done in person in his office in Philadelphia

    “I don’t know why you’re laughing,” he says

    — CBS News February 13, 2021

    What You Need To Know: Dems Gop Tussle Over Witnesses

    WASHINGTON — For only the fourth time in U.S. history, the House of Representatives has started a presidential impeachment inquiry. House committees are trying to determine whether President Donald Trump violated his oath of office by asking Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his family and to investigate the country’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

    A quick summary of the latest news and what’s to come:


    Democrats and Republicans are already tussling over which witnesses to call for the public impeachment hearings in the coming week.

    On Saturday, Republicans released a list of people they want to hear from. Among them: Biden’s son, Hunter; one of his former associates at a Ukrainian energy company; and the anonymous whistleblower.

    But Republicans need the committee’s approval to summon their witnesses and Democrats are in the majority. The committee chairman, California Rep. Adam Schiff, quickly cast doubt on whether Republicans will get their way.

    Without getting into specifics, Schiff said he won’t let the hearings serve as a vehicle to conduct “sham investigations” into the Bidens or the 2016 election. Nor will he let the hearings aid Trump’s “effort to threaten, intimate and retaliate against the whistleblower.”


    The two also spoke in April, soon after Zelenskiy won election. Trump said Saturday he has no problem making details of that call public. He says he’ll probably do it Tuesday.




    Schumer Says There Was Only One Correct Verdict In This Trial: Guilty

    Schumer: Trump’s acquittal “a vote of infamy”…12:45

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the Senate floor following the vote to acquit Mr. Trump, contrasting the 45th president with the first person to hold the office, George Washington, and urging the American people to deliver justice, which he said the Senate failed to do.

    “This trial was about the final acts of a president who represents the very antithesis of our first president and sought to place one man before the entire country, himself,” he said. “Let the record show, let the record show before God, history and the solemn oath we swear to the Constitution that there was only one correct verdict in this trial: guilty.”

    Schumer said he prays that while justice was not done in the trial involving Mr. Trump, ” it will be carried forward by the American people who above any of us in this chamber determine the destiny of our great nation.”


    Inside Democrats’ Witness Fiasco

    Calling All Patriots: What Witnesses Do You Want ...

    The impeachment managers in Donald Trump’s trial spent Friday night and Saturday morning wrestling with the question themselves.

    02/13/2021 06:26 PM EST

    • Link Copied

    When Senate Democrats stepped onto the floor on Saturday morning, they had no idea the House impeachment managers were about to drop a political grenade in their laps.

    But after a brief schism that threatened to throw Donald Trump’s trial into chaos, House and Senate Democrats quickly agreed to put the pin back in. House Democratic managers and the former president’s lawyers ducked the issue of witnesses nearly as soon as it was raised, and Senate Democrats approved the turnaround.

    Instead of a weeks-long drama over trial witnesses that risked upending the Senate schedule, a widely known statement from one House Republican was entered into the record. Trump’s team declined to dispute it. And amazingly, both sides decided to move on. The Senate later voted 57-43 to acquit Trump, with seven Republicans joining all Democrats in favor of conviction.

    But that speedy resolution came after several hours of utter uncertainty.

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    Yet it remains unlikely that as matters now stand, House managers will convince 67 Senators to vote in favor of conviction. Fealty to Donald Trump is no doubt mostly to blame, despite Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call this week for senators to vote their conscience. Any remaining hope for conviction lies in one final move: insisting that the Senate call witnesses like Jessica Watkins or Edward Caldwell, another , as well as witnesses higher up in the chain who may have had contact with Trump on the day of the riot, or before.

    Burr Explains Surprise Guilty Vote

    Senator Richard Burr voted to convict Mr. Trump on the article of impeachment, a surprise vote from the Republican from North Carolina. Burr, who is retiring in 2022, said in a statement that “the facts are clear” that the former president incited the riot on January 6.

    “I do not make this decision lightly, but I believe it is necessary. By what he did and what he did not do, President Trump violated his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Burr said. “My hope is that with today’s vote, America can begin to move forward and focus on the critical issues facing our country today.”

    Senators Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, and Patrick Toomey also voted to convict.

    Pence’s Former Chief Of Staff Has Been Contacted About Providing Information Source Says

    From CNN’s Jim Acosta and Alex Marquardt

    A source familiar with the work of the House managers says former Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short has been contacted about providing information about threats to Pence. 

    Short has not responded, the source said. 

    House managers are also seeking information from Chris Hodgson, Pence’s former head of legislative affairs. House managers believe he was also with Pence that day. 

    This comes as House Managers have asked the Senate to allow them to bring forward witnesses in the impeachment trial of dormer President Trump. 

    A former Pence staffer tells CNN that on Jan. 6, then National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien was traveling so President Trump was being staffed by his deputy Matt Pottinger and Gen. Keith Kellogg, Pence’s national security adviser.

    Pottinger and Kellogg were at the White House on the day of the rally and riot. Kellogg was in the Oval Office with Trump and his kids as the riots were raging, including when Pence was forced to flee the Senate Chamber.

    After Pence fled, Kellogg was in communication with the Vice President through the Vice President’s staff who were with him at the Capitol. Those staff were communicating back to the White House and getting that information to Kellogg, who was with the President.

    “Kellogg was Pence’s national security adviser so of course they knew exactly what the circumstance was,” said a Pence staffer.

    Pence has stayed quiet throughout the Senate impeachment trial.

    Senate Votes To Acquit Trump In Historic Second Impeachment Trial

    Senate acquits Trump in impeachment trial03:19

    The Senate voted to acquit former President Donald Trump of inciting the January 6 riot at the Capitol in his second impeachment trial. Seven Republicans joined all Democrats in voting “guilty” for a majority of 57 votes — but Democrats failed to get the two-thirds majority needed to convict.

    The Republicans who joined with the Democrats were: Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. 

    Although he voted to acquit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a blistering statement calling Mr. Trump “practically and morally responsible” for the riot, but he felt it was unconstitutional to convict a former office holder. “The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” McConnell said.

    Mr. Trump issued a statement Saturday afternoon thanking his legal team, as well as the Republicans in the Senate who found him not guilty and GOP House members who voted against the article of impeachment last month. He did not acknowledge the riot in his statement. 

    Did Republican Witnesses Help Democrats More

    Later on Tuesday, the lawmakers heard from former National Security Council official Tim Morrison and US ex-special to Ukraine Kurt Volker. They had been listed as two men Republicans wanted to talk to during the public impeachment hearings.

    It turns out they hurt Donald Trump’s defence as much as they helped it.

    Morrison did say there was nothing illegal or concerning about Donald Trump’s 25 July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and no ill motive for moving the rough transcript of that call to a more secure government server.

    He also, however, corroborated reports that US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland pressured Ukraine to open investigations that could prove politically helpful to Donald Trump – and that Sondland was in regular contact with the president.

    Volker said he recalled past instances where the US had held up aid to a foreign nation and saw no evidence of bribery in this case, but he also turned out to be a character witness for Joe Biden.

    Not only did he assert that there was nothing untoward about the former vice-president’s dealings with Ukraine, but he expressed dismay to learn that when Trump administration officials were calling for investigations into Ukrainian energy company Burisma, they were really looking to damage the Democratic presidential hopeful.

    Biden: Tonight I Am Thinking About Those Who Bravely Stood Guard That January Day

    In a statement reflecting on the acquittal of former President Trump, President Biden said that he is, “thinking about those who bravely stood guard that January day” and “those who lost their lives, all those whose lives were threatened, and all those who are still today living with terror they lived through that day.”

    “While the final vote did not lead to a conviction, the substance of the charge is not in dispute,” Mr. Biden said. “Even those opposed to the conviction, like Senate Minority Leader McConnell, believe Donald Trump was guilty of a ‘disgraceful dereliction of duty’ and ‘practically and morally responsible for provoking’ the violence unleashed on the Capitol.”

    Republicans Want Hunter Biden Ukraine Whistleblower As Impeachment Inquiry Witnesses

    GOP releases witness list in impeachment probe

    Florida Republican Rep. Ross Spano says he believes Rep. Adam Schiff will reject the GOP subpoena requests.

    EXCLUSIVE:House Republicans plan to call Hunter Biden, the whistleblower and a range of other witnesses to testify in the upcoming public Trump impeachment hearings, according to a witness list obtained exclusively by Fox News.

    It is unclear, at this point, how many of the Republicans’ proposed witnesses will be approved by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and the Democrats, because the newly-approved resolution governing the impeachment inquiry give the approval power to the chairman and the members of the majority.

    “Americans see through this sham impeachment process, despite the Democrats’ efforts to retroactively legitimize it last week,” House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes wrote in a letter to Schiff on Saturday, referencing the impeachment rules.

    “To provide transparency to your otherwise opaque and unfair process, and after consultation with Ranking Member Jim Jordan and Ranking Member Michael McCaul, the American people deserve to hear from the following witnesses in an open setting,” he continued.

    At the top of Republicans’ list is former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, who has emerged as a central figure in the Ukraine controversy due to his business dealings.<br data-cke-eol=”1″>


    Dean Makes Appeal To Senators: I Ask That You Not Look The Other Way

    O VOO DO CORVO: Republican moderates under pressure to ...

    Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania laid out the managers’ case for how Mr. Trump incited the violence at the Capitol with remarks he made in the months, days and hours before the insurrection.

    “Donald Trump invited them. He incited them. Then he directed them,” Dean said. 

    She then played a montage of clips featuring the president speaking at rallies and on television, arguing his rhetoric led to the attack.

    “The violence on January the 6th was demonstrably foreseeable,” Dean said.

    The managers’ arguments were interrupted on two occasions when objections were raised about content included in the presentations by Dean and Cicilline before her. Leahy, who is presiding over the trial, said new evidence is not allowed during closing arguments.

    “Donald Trump was acting as our commander in chief. He was our president. He used his office and the authority it commands to incite an attack. And when Congress and the Constitution were under attack, he abandoned his duties, violated his oath, failing to preserve, protect and defend,” Dean said.

    Drawing on her own experience January 6, Dean conceded she was unaware of the extent of Mr. Trump’s involvement and just how close the rioters came to lawmakers. 

    “We know what Donald Trump did. We know what he failed to do,” she said. “Though it is difficult to bear witness and face the reality of what happened in these halls, what happens if we don’t confront these facts? What happens if there is no accountability?”

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