President Donald Trump’s team on Tuesday addressed a claim from former national security John Bolton’s upcoming book that the president told him U.S. aid to Ukraine should be withheld until that country agreed to help with investigations into his political opponents.
The revelation, first reported by The New York Times, threatens to undermine one of the Trump legal team’s key defenses–that there was no link between the aid and an investigation into former vice president and 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said the claim should be considered “inadmissible” and warned senators Tuesday against considering Bolton’s claim during the impeachment trial, saying impeachment “is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts.” The New York Times report was based on multiple anonymous sources who described the contents of Bolton’s unpublished manuscript that was also sent to the White House as part of a standard review process.
Some Republicans senators have indicated the news means they will be more likely to vote to call the former national security adviser as a witness in the trial.
During arguments Monday, Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz said even if Bolton’s claims are true, they would not constitute an impeachable offense.
Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin followed up on those arguments Tuesday, saying that the Democrats’ definition of “abuse of power” is too vague to be considered an impeachable offense because it is “infinitely malleable.”
The House of Representatives impeached the president in December based on two articles — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate must now decide whether to acquit Trump or convict and remove him from office.
In an interview with PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the abuse of power charge is “very serious.”
“If a president can, at will as President Trump would want to, get foreign powers to interfere in our elections and Americans no longer believe it’s the American people solely who decide who wins American elections, our democracy is eroded in a very dramatic way,” he said.
Tuesday marked the final day of opening arguments from the defense team. U.S. senators will then have 16 hours over two days, starting on Wednesday, to ask questions of the defense and House managers, who are acting as prosecutors in the case. After questions, senators will vote whether to call witnesses.