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Impeachment Latest: Examining White House Opening Arguments And Bolton's Ukraine Claims

Jan 29, 2020

The White House continues to make its case in the Senate impeachment trial. The president’s lawyers say he did nothing wrong. We’ll have the latest.

Guests

Jonathan Turley, a constitutional scholar. He teaches Public Interest Law at George Washington University’s School of Law. He testified as a constitutional expert in the Clinton impeachment hearings, in favor of impeachment. He represented four former U.S. Attorneys General during the Clinton impeachment litigation. (@JonathanTurley)

Kate Shaw, law professor at Cardozo School of Law. Supreme Court contributor for ABC News. (@kateashaw1)

From The Reading List

The New York Times: “Will Trump’s Defenders Pass The Test of Legitimacy?” — “The Constitution says that what’s happening in the Senate right now is a trial. But it’s no ordinary trial: As we’re all now well aware, a Senate trial is a hybrid affair, part law and part politics.

“That’s true about the enterprise as a whole, and it’s been especially true about the rhetoric each side has deployed. As the president’s team has moved into the heart of its substantive defense, the rhetorical choices its members make are significant not only for what they say about impeachment (and legal constraint more broadly) in the age of Trump but also for the meaning of the acquittal the president is likely to receive.

“For their part, the House managers prosecuting the case have made their arguments in mostly legal terms — beginning with constitutional language, history and antecedents; drawing on impeachment precedent; marching through the evidence of the president’s conduct, in sometimes excruciating detail. In short, they’ve explained and defended their position that in light of the prevailing understanding of what the Constitution means, requires and prohibits, the president’s actions constituted ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ warranting conviction and removal.”

The Washington Post: “Key GOP senators say reports on Bolton book bolster case for witnesses in impeachment trial” — “Two Republican senators said Monday that new revelations from John Bolton bolstered their case for summoning witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial, as fresh allegations from the former White House official left Senate Republicans scrambling as they faced renewed pressure to seek new evidence.

“In his forthcoming book, former national security adviser Bolton alleges that Trump directly tied the holdup of nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to desired investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

“The disclosure upended the Senate as the second full week of Trump’s impeachment trial began. Democrats insisted that the Senate must call the former White House official as a witness.”

The New York Times: “Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book Says” — “John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, privately told Attorney General William P. Barr last year that he had concerns that President Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to an unpublished manuscript by Mr. Bolton.

“Mr. Barr responded by pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations of companies in those countries and said he was worried that Mr. Trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries, according to the manuscript. Backing up his point, Mr. Barr mentioned conversations Mr. Trump had with the leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Xi Jinping of China.

“Mr. Bolton’s account underscores the fact that the unease about Mr. Trump’s seeming embrace of authoritarian leaders, long expressed by experts and his opponents, also existed among some of the senior cabinet officers entrusted by the president to carry out his foreign policy and national security agendas.”

The New York Times: “Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says” — “President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.

“The president’s statement as described by Mr. Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.

“Mr. Bolton’s explosive account of the matter at the center of Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, the third in American history, was included in drafts of a manuscript he has circulated in recent weeks to close associates. He also sent a draft to the White House for a standard review process for some current and former administration officials who write books.”

Politico: “Trump plots a flashy series finale for impeachment” — “President Donald Trump is already itching to broadcast the series finale of his impeachment.

“In recent days, he and top White House aides have been considering how he should celebrate his presumed acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate and whether he should deliver a rare Oval Office address to mark the occasion, according to three senior administration officials.

“Trump has not settled on a specific plan yet, but the internal machinations show the extent to which the president remains focused on the details and optics of his ongoing impeachment trial — from the TV slot in which his lawyers argued his case to the performance of his legal team to the look and feel of a speech or ceremony marking the end of the months-long saga.”

The New York Times:John Bolton’s Account Upends Trump’s Denials, but Will It Upend Trump?” — “In another time, in another Washington, this might be the moment that changed the trajectory of the presidency. A former national security adviser confirms that the president, despite his denials, conditioned security aid to a war-torn ally on its cooperation against his domestic rivals, the issue at the heart of his ongoing impeachment trial.

“At first glance, at least, John R. Bolton’s account of President Trump’s private remarks sounds like an echo of the so-called smoking gun tape that proved that President Richard M. Nixon really had orchestrated the Watergate cover-up and ultimately forced him from office. But this is Mr. Trump’s era and Mr. Trump’s Washington, and the old rules do not always apply.

“The reality show star who was elected president even after he was captured on an ‘Access Hollywood’ tape boasting about sexual assault has gone on to survive one revelation after another in the three years since, proving more durable than any national politician in modern American history. So will this be the turning point or just one more disclosure that validates his critics without changing other minds? Will it be another smoking gun or another ‘Access Hollywood’?”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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