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Bolton's claims scramble impeachment trial as Trump lawyers resume their defense

Chris Megerian, Anna M. Phillips and Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's attorneys ignored explosive claims by former national security adviser John Bolton when they resumed their defense Monday in the Senate impeachment trial, arguing instead that Democrats had mischaracterized the president's actions in Ukraine.

"We do not deal with speculation, allegations," said Jay Sekulow, one of the president's lawyers, insisting that Trump was justified in asking Ukraine to launch investigations that would benefit him politically, a request at the heart of the impeachment charges.

"Asking for a leader to get to the bottom of allegations of corruption is not a violation of oath," Sekulow said in brief comments before handing off to Kenneth W. Starr, another lawyer for Trump and the former independent counsel who spearheaded the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment in 1998.

"Instead of a once-in-a-century phenomenon," he lamented, "presidential impeachment has become a weapon to be wielded against one's political opponent."

Bolton reportedly wrote in a draft of a memoir of his time in the White House that Trump told him in August that he had blocked U.S. military aid to Ukraine in an effort to get the newly elected president there to investigate Trump's political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

The report sent tremors through Capitol Hill as the nation's third presidential impeachment trial began its second week.

 

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters that "it's increasingly likely" that there will be enough votes to subpoena Bolton as a witness, as Democrats have demanded.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, another key moderate, said the report "strengthens the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues."

Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a firm Trump ally who has opposed having any witnesses, suggested he would be open to some kind of agreement to bring in witnesses.

"If there is a desire and decision by the Senate to call Democratic witnesses, then at a minimum the Senate should allow President @realDonaldTrump to call all relevant witnesses he has requested," Graham tweeted.

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