- The Senate headed into the second day of opening arguments from President Donald Trump’s defence team in his impeachment trial on Monday.
- Monday’s proceedings, which began at 1 p.m. ET, come after The New York Times reported that former national security adviser John Bolton claims Trump personally told him he would withhold military aid to Ukraine until it launched politically motivated investigations targeting his rivals.
- The revelation shatters the defence team’s key argument against impeachment: that there are no firsthand witness accounts about the president directly confirming a quid pro quo.
- Scroll down to watch the trial and follow Insider’s live coverage.
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President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial continued Monday as his defence team delivered more opening arguments. White House counsel Pat Cipollone is spearheading Trump’s team, which also includes the president’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow.
The defence is expected to argue its case for roughly eight hours on Monday and wrap up opening arguments on Tuesday.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Both charges relate to his efforts to coerce Ukraine into launching politically motivated investigations targeting former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic frontrunner, and the Democratic Party as a whole.
While doing so, the president withheld $US391 million in vital military aid to Ukraine, as well as a White House meeting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky desperately sought and still hasn’t gotten.
After the defence rests their case, senators will have 16 hours to submit written questions to the defence team and the seven House impeachment managers who prosecuted the case against Trump.
The Senate will then decide whether to subpoena additional documents or witness testimony, which requires a 51-vote majority.
Monday’s proceedings come after The New York Times reported on an unpublished manuscript of former national security adviser John Bolton’s upcoming book that threw a wrench into the president’s defence.
According to The Times, Bolton claims Trump personally told him he would withhold Ukraine’s military aid until Zelensky agreed to deliver politically motivated investigations targeting the Bidens.
Bolton’s reported revelation directly undercuts the defence’s argument that there are no firsthand witnesses who can say Trump himself confirmed a quid pro quo with Ukraine: military aid in exchange for political favours.
C-SPAN and TV networks are relying on the Senate’s live feed of the trial.
C-SPAN is airing the trial at cspan.org.
You can watch the trial here:
Scroll down for Insider’s live coverage of the hearing:
Alan Dershowitz argues that the founders thought specific crimes — bribery, or treason, for example — were needed for impeachment.
“I’m sorry, House managers, you just picked the wrong criteria,” Dershowitz argued. “You picked the most dangerous possible criteria to serve as a precedent for how we supervise and oversee future presidents.
“The idea of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are so far from what the Framers had in mind that they so clearly violate the Constitution and would place Congress above the law.”
Pam Bondi uses her opening remarks to prosecute a made-up case against Hunter Biden
Pam Bondi, a former attorney general of Florida who is representing Trump in his Senate trial, used part of her time Monday to attack Hunter Biden and Burisma Holdings, claiming the younger Biden was involved in corrupt activities while serving on Burisma’s board.
Fact check: While Hunter Biden’s employment on Burisma’s board raised questions about potential conflicts of interest, there is no evidence that the former vice president’s son was engaged in any corrupt activity while working for the company.
Ukraine’s former prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, investigated Burisma’s founder, Mykola Zlochevsky, earlier over allegations of tax evasion, money laundering, and corruption.
Biden, when he served as vice president, demanded that Ukraine’s government fire Shokin because he faced widespread allegations of corruption. Shokin was ultimately ousted. Trump and his allies have seized on Shokin’s dismissal to suggest that the elder Biden had Shokin fired to protect his son from scrutiny involving Burisma.
However, the investigation into Burisma was dormant when Biden demanded Shokin be removed.
Moreover, Biden was representing the US’s official position when he called for Shokin’s firing, as well as that of the broader western world and the International Monetary Fund.
Yuriy Lutsenko, the prosecutor general who succeeded Shokin, also said he had no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden.
And crucially, multiple witnesses have testified to one key fact that directly undercuts Trump’s claim that he demanded an investigation into Burisma to root out corruption: the president was primarily investigated in a public announcement of the investigation, rather than the probe itself.
White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin contradicts the DOJ’s position that the courts should not get involved in disputes between Congress and the White House
When White House deputy counsel Patrick Philbin took the stage, he argued that the House should have gone to court to force witnesses to testify in its impeachment inquiry.
Specifically, Trump’s defence team has argued that it was the House of Representatives’ responsibility to call witnesses like former White House counsel Don McGahn and former national security adviser John Bolton to testify, and for that reason, the Senate should not subpoena them as witnesses.
Fact check: The White House’s argument contradicted that of the Justice Department, which has argued that the judiciary should not get involved in disputes between Congress and the executive branch because it could politicize the case.
Trump lawyer Jane Raskin: Giuliani was Trump’s personal lawyer but ‘was not on a political errand’
Here’s what Raskin said: “Mayor Giuliani was President Trump’s personal attorney, but he was not on a political errand, as he has stated repeatedly and publicly.”
Fact check: Raskin is correct in her assertion that Giuliani is Trump’s personal attorney. He specified as much in a May 10, 2019 letter to Zelensky, where he wrote: “Just to be precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States. This is quite common under American law because the duties and privileges of a President and a private citizen are not the same.”
Raskin’s claim that Giuliani was not embarking on a “political errand” for Trump is questionable.
Both investigations the president wants target his political rivals – Biden, who is a frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic nomination, and the Democratic Party as a whole, which is at the heart of conspiracy theories about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump personal attorney Jane Raskin digs herself into a hole while embarking on a bizarre line of reasoning
After the Senate trial resumed after a brief recess, one of Trump’s personal lawyers on his defence team, Jane Raskin, began her remarks and embarked on a bizarre line of reasoning.
First, she noted that Trump’s personal defence attorney Rudy Giuliani started investigating Ukrainian interference in November 2018, adding that it was six months before former Vice President Joe Biden launched his presidential campaign, and four months before then special counsel Robert Mueller released his final report in the Russia investigation.
She went on to quote from a Hill article from September 2019 by the controversial op-ed columnist John Solomon.
Fact check: It’s unclear what Raskin was getting at here. Trump’s interest in purported Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election is separate and apart from his interest in having the Bidens investigated. The former relates to his belief in a Russian conspiracy theory alleging that the Ukrainian government meddled in the 2016 race to help the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.
The latter relates to his apparent belief that Biden corruptly ordered the Ukrainian government to fire its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, in order to stop Shokin’s investigation into Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian natural-gas company whose board employed Hunter Biden until last year.
Those interests made up the basis of Trump’s two demands to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – demands the US president made while withholding military aid to Ukraine and dangling a White House meeting for Zelensky.
Meanwhile, Raskin’s decision to invoke Solomon’s name at the impeachment trial was intriguing, given that he was responsible for publishing false and defamatory stories about former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch at Giuliani’s direction. Giuliani and his Ukrainian associates later used those articles to engineer Yovanovitch’s ouster after she refused to help him force the Ukrainian government to launch the investigations Trump wanted.
Republican senator claims House Democrats launched their impeachment inquiry into Trump before he took office
“The House Democrats’ launched their impeachment* investigation in 2016,” Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee tweeted shortly after Monday’s trial proceedings began.
Fact check: It’s unclear what Blackburn meant, since Trump wasn’t sworn into office until January 2017.
Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow outlines ‘6 key facts’ that are either false of misleading
Sekulow laid out what he said were “six key facts” in the impeachment trial that “will not change”:
The July 25 call transcript shows that the president did not condition either security assistance or a meeting on anything.
- Fact check: The “transcript” Sekulow referred to is a rough summary the White House released. The summary shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky telling Trump Ukraine is ready for more military aid. Trump replied: “I would like you to do us a favour, though,” and immediately asked Zelensky to pursue investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, as well as conspiracy theories about Ukrainian election interference.
Zelensky and other Ukrainians have repeatedly said there was no quid pro quo or pressure on them to launch investigations.
- Fact check: It’s true that Zelensky said he didn’t feel pressured and that there was “no blackmail.” But context matters, especially in a geopolitical relationship like this one, where there’s a clear imbalance of power. As Insider’s John Haltiwanger reported last year, Ukraine is still reliant on US military assistance as it fends off Russian aggression. By acknowledging feeling pressured, Zelensky would risk angering Trump.
- “Whether the hold, the security assistance hold, continued or not, Ukrainians understood that that’s something the president wanted and they still wanted important things from the president,” Holmes testified. “So I think that continues to this day. I think they’re being very careful. They still need us now going forward.”
Zelensky and Ukrainian officials did not even know the security assistance was paused until the end of August, over a month after the July 25 call.
- Fact check: Laura Cooper, a Russia and Ukraine expert at the Pentagon, revealed in public testimony last year that the State Department emailed a member of her staff on July 25 – the day of the Trump-Zelensky phone call – saying Ukrainian embassy officials and the House Foreign Affairs Committee were asking about US military aid. In other words, Ukraine seemed aware of the freeze at the time Trump spoke with Zelensky.
Not a “single wintess testified that the president himself said that there was any connection between any investigations and security assistance, a presidential meeting or anything.”
- Fact check: Gordon Sondland, the US’s ambassador to the European Union, testified that Trump engaged in a quid pro quo that involved conditioning military aid and a White House meeting on Ukraine launching the investigations he wanted.
- Sondland also told Holmes Trump only cares about “the big stuff” as it relates to Ukraine. When Holmes noted that Ukraine is at war with Russia, Sondland said “the big stuff” is more about the Bidens. And Sondland raised the request for investigations at a July 10 meeting with Ukrainian officials after they asked when Zelensky could expect a White House meeting with Trump.
Security assistance was released on September 11 and a Trump-Zelensky “presidential meeting” happened on September 25, without Ukraine announcing any investigations.
- Fact check: The president released the aid only after Politico publicly reported, on August 28, that he had frozen it, and after Congress and the public learned about a whistleblower’s complaint against Trump. The “presidential meeting” Purpura referred to was a brief meeting on the sidelines of the UN. Zelensky himself said at the pull-aside that he was keen on meeting Trump at the White House. The president has not yet granted that request.
Democrats’ “blind drive” to impeach Trump doesn’t change that he’s been a “better friend” and “stronger supporter” of Ukraine than his predecessor.
- Fact check: Republican lawmakers have repeatedly pointed to Trump’s sale of javelins to Ukraine as a sign of his strong support for the country’s fight against Russian aggression on its eastern border. However,as Haltiwanger wrote, under the rules of the sale, the Javelin missiles have to be stored in western Ukraine, which is far from the frontlines of the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine against pro-Russia separatists.
Former Whitewater independent counsel Ken Starr says ‘there is no national consensus’ for Trump’s impeachment after multiple polls show a majority of Americans support impeachment
Fact check:A recent CNN poll released on the eve of Trump’s Senate trial found that a majority of Americans not only believe the president should be impeached, but that he should be removed from office.
And an Insider poll conducted shortly before Trump’s impeachment last month found a solid majority of Americans – 55% – believed Trump should be impeached and removed from office, with 33% opposed.
Meanwhile, a Pew Research Centre poll conducted before the Republican-controlled House of Representatives impeached Bill Clinton in 1998 found that a majority of Americans opposed his impeachment.
Former Whitewater independent counsel Ken Starr, who catalyzed Bill Clinton’s impeachment, compares impeachment to ‘domestic war’
“Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment, including members of this body, full well understand that a presidential impeachment is tantamount to domestic war, but thankfully protected by our beloved First Amendment, a war of words and a war of ideas,” Starr said. “But it’s filled with acrimony and it divides the country like nothing else. Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment understand that in a deep and personal way.”
Fact check: Starr’s report in the Whitewater investigation singlehandedly catalyzed Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
Former Whitewater counsel Ken Starr argues impeachment has become too common in the modern era
Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater independent counsel and one of the lawyers on Trump’s defence team, opened his remarks by arguing that impeachment has become too common in the modern era.
Fact check: This statement is intriguing coming from Starr, given that his leadership of the Whitewater investigation quickly ballooned into a sprawling probe that included lurid details of President Bill Clinton’s sex life.
Starr’s wide-ranging inquiry led to accusations that he used the Whitewater investigation to poke around every corner of the Clinton administration, resulting in Starr’s push to have Clinton impeached for lying about his sex life.
Trump, meanwhile, is accused of abusing his power by trying to force a foreign power to interfere in an upcoming presidential election, and of subsequently stonewalling any congressional investigation into the matter.
Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow suggests the defence will not address Bolton’s firsthand witness account despite earlier complaints of a lack of firsthand witness accounts
Sekulow began opening arguments on Monday by alluding to The Times’ report on Bolton’s book and suggesting Trump’s defence team will not address it.
“What we’ve done on Saturday is the pattern that we’re going to continue today as far as how we’re going to deal with the case,” Sekulow said. “We deal with transcript evidence, we deal with publicly available information. We do not deal with speculation, allegations that are not based on evidentiary standards at all.”
Fact check: Sekulow’s statements on Monday directly contradicted his and other defence lawyers’ earlier complaints of a lack of firsthand witness testimony in the impeachment inquiry.
Senate chaplain pays tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant in opening prayer
“We all have a limited time on earth to leave it better than we found it,” said Senate Chaplain Barry Black before the Senate opened its proceedings.
Bryant died in a helicopter crash Sunday that also killed eight other people, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
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