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Trump legal team dismisses Bolton book storm

White House lawyers continued their defense of President Trump during the impeachment trial Monday.

Posted: Jan 28, 2020 8:30 AM
Updated: Jan 28, 2020 8:30 AM

Donald Trump's legal team will wrap up its defense of the President in a short two-hour summing-up on Tuesday after arguing that new revelations by former national security adviser John Bolton are irrelevant to the impeachment trial despite Democratic demands that he be called to testify.

In a manuscript of his forthcoming book first reported by The New York Times, the former national security adviser says Trump ordered him to maintain a hold on US military aid to Ukraine until it agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

At the end of a long day of trial arguments on Monday that largely ignored the new Bolton drama, Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard emeritus professor who joined Trump's defense team, argued that even if Bolton's reported claim was true, it would not amount to an impeachable offense.

He made a case for expansive presidential power, saying that a quid pro quo alone does not amount to an abuse of power -- the basis of the first article of impeachment -- which he said was not sufficient in itself to justify ending a presidency.

"Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense, that is clear from the history. That is clear from the language of the Constitution," Dershowitz said in comments that could arm Republicans -- who are on the spot amid calls for Bolton to testify -- with a new argument.

Trump has repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the Bidens acted improperly in Ukraine. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe Biden or his son Hunter Biden, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm.

The Times report on Bolton complicated life for a handful of Republicans who are under pressure from Democrats to vote for fresh witnesses who did not testify to the House investigation following Trump's vow to avoid cooperating with the impeachment push.

"The reporting on John Bolton strengthens the case for witnesses and has prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues," Maine's Sen. Susan Collins said.

Utah's Sen. Mitt Romney added: "I think with the story that came out yesterday that it is increasingly apparent that it would be important to hear from John Bolton."

But despite the new focus on Bolton, there is no sign yet that four Republican votes will be forthcoming to piece together a 51-vote majority that would be needed to call new witnesses.

Several Republicans seemed pleased by Dershowitz's presentation, according to CNN reporters in the chamber on Monday night.

Tuesday will showcase brief closing arguments from Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone and will take around two hours, according to a person familiar with what we should expect.

Impeachment defense leaves Republican senators little choice

The President and his most fervent fans must have been delighted as they heard arguments that had been rehearsed for months on Fox News opinion shows echo across the Senate floor.

Any vote later this week to depose Bolton or other witnesses could prolong the trial and frustrate Trump's hopes for an acquittal by the time of the State of the Union address next week. It could also expose the minimum of four GOP senators who would be needed to advance such a step to the President's certain wrath.

But most of Trump's lawyers essentially offered Republican senators no choice but to buy the President's case entirely -- despite its many glaring factual deficiencies. For red state senators or those who have concluded their fates lie in sticking closely to Trump, it's an easy political choice.

"The White House counsel has absolutely shredded, shredded, the case brought forward," said Iowa's Sen. Joni Ernst during a dinner break.

Texas' GOP Sen. Ted Cruz added: "I get that the press loves to obsess over the latest bombshell." But, he added, "the legal issue before this Senate is whether a President has the authority to investigate corruption."

The legal approach pursued by Trump's team leaves moderates such as Collins and Colorado's Sen. Cory Gardner exposed to Democratic claims that they will block a fair trial if they don't vote to hear witnesses such as Bolton.

Trump is being tried in the Senate over two articles of impeachment, alleging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, in connection with his pressure on Ukraine for an investigation into political opponents including Biden.

In the evening session, Trump lawyer Robert Ray offered a strongly argued case warning about the gravity of removing a President between elections, saying it would not be in the best interests of the country.

"We have witnessed the endless procession of legal theories to sustain this partisan impeachment, from treason to quid pro quo to bribery to extortion to obstruction of justice to soliciting an illegal foreign campaign contribution to a violation of the Impoundment Control Act to who knows what all is next," Ray told senators.

Defense turns into a searing political play

But for much of the day, other members of Trump's team, such as former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, offered far more political advocacy.

"We would prefer not to be talking about this," Bondi said, before launching into a fearsome attack on Biden -- an ironic moment, since Trump was the one who had brought up unproven claims about his rival that caused the political drama that has held Washington in thrall for months.

Trump's team even rolled out Bill Clinton nemesis Ken Starr to explode Democratic heads by bemoaning the political damage of an "age of impeachment" -- 20 years after the then-independent counsel had pushed for the 42nd President's ouster.

Ernst seemed to let slip the partisan goal of the defense argument in a conversation with reporters.

"Iowa caucuses are next Monday evening. I am really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucus voters, will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?" she said.

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden's presidential campaign, hit back at Bondi.

"We didn't realize that Breitbart was expanding into Ted Talk knockoffs. Here on planet Earth, the conspiracy theory that Bondi repeated has been conclusively refuted," Bates said. "Joe Biden was instrumental to a bipartisan and international anti-corruption victory. It's no surprise that such a thing is anathema to President Trump."

The President's team argued that he had been right to withhold aid to Ukraine because he feared corruption -- and put Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy giant while his father oversaw policy toward Kiev, at the center of the storm.

There is little evidence in the rough transcript of a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Trump was interested in the wider issue of corruption. But he does repeatedly press for probes into Biden.

There are appropriate questions about whether Hunter Biden presented an unacceptable conflict of interest with his employment choices.

But despite Trump's false claims, in fact, Joe Biden's pressure for Ukraine to fire a prosecutor seen in Washington and Europe as corrupt would have made it more likely that Burisma, the company for which Hunter Biden was working, would be investigated.

Still, the President's legal team has the luxury of knowing that its efforts are almost certain to be rewarded given the reality that not enough Republicans will vote to convict their own party's President. That gives them all sorts of leeway to please their boss -- and to advance his political goals.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 96677

Reported Deaths: 2911
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7143160
DeSoto559460
Harrison388374
Jackson350570
Madison331089
Rankin330679
Lee273670
Forrest248973
Jones248779
Washington225977
Lafayette219139
Lauderdale2059125
Bolivar184566
Oktibbeha179952
Lamar171635
Lowndes158058
Neshoba1579104
Panola149930
Sunflower147146
Leflore141081
Warren140750
Pontotoc127816
Pike124051
Monroe123568
Copiah119133
Scott117627
Coahoma116329
Marshall110617
Lincoln110253
Holmes109859
Grenada109036
Yazoo106230
Simpson104646
Tate100437
Union99824
Leake96038
Adams94137
Wayne90421
Pearl River89253
Marion86535
Prentiss86217
Covington82722
Itawamba82621
Alcorn82011
George78013
Tallahatchie77321
Newton77224
Winston74219
Tishomingo69038
Chickasaw68424
Tippah67117
Attala66725
Walthall60126
Clarke60046
Clay59518
Hancock58722
Jasper57515
Noxubee55116
Smith53415
Calhoun52112
Tunica49715
Claiborne46516
Montgomery46420
Yalobusha43514
Lawrence43313
Perry42419
Greene38817
Humphreys37715
Quitman3775
Stone37412
Jefferson Davis34211
Webster33813
Amite33210
Carroll31912
Wilkinson30518
Kemper29015
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2273
Franklin1933
Choctaw1866
Issaquena1053
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19676351
Mobile13373292
Montgomery8834184
Tuscaloosa8621118
Madison788178
Shelby597849
Lee589760
Baldwin547750
Marshall394343
Calhoun351544
Etowah349045
Morgan329228
Houston290321
Elmore266748
DeKalb241621
St. Clair232235
Walker231684
Talladega216629
Limestone210120
Cullman189920
Dallas179026
Franklin177129
Autauga176425
Russell17603
Lauderdale171333
Colbert164626
Blount161115
Escambia160824
Chilton158530
Jackson157511
Covington140127
Dale138644
Coffee13486
Pike119810
Chambers116442
Tallapoosa116085
Clarke109116
Marion96429
Butler91239
Barbour8827
Winston74412
Marengo72020
Pickens66214
Bibb65410
Lowndes65327
Randolph64713
Hale63528
Geneva6254
Lawrence62023
Cherokee60813
Bullock60414
Monroe5898
Clay5858
Washington55713
Perry5416
Crenshaw53732
Conecuh53511
Wilcox53111
Henry5055
Macon48018
Fayette4578
Sumter43819
Cleburne3805
Lamar3672
Choctaw34712
Greene30315
Coosa1713
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