Donald Trump’s attorneys continued their defense of the president as his Senate impeachment trial went into the sixth day.
Attorneys Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone led the president’s team presenting his side of the case Monday as Democrats’ ramped up their calls for former Trump national security adviser John Bolton to testify.
A news report Sunday claimed that in an upcoming book, Bolton says Trump directly tied the holdup of $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine to investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Both Bidens were topics of the defense presentations, with former Florida Attorney General and Trump defense attorney Pam Bondi spending 30 minutes on Hunter Biden’s association with a Ukrainian energy company.
Here are the highlights from Monday’s proceedings.
First, some background
The New York Times reported on Sunday that Bolton wrote in a manuscript of a book due out in March that it was Trump who explicitly refused to release $390 million in military aid to Ukraine unless the country’s president agreed to announce investigations into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
The manuscript was submitted to the White House for prepublication review for classified information, the Times reported. The Times did not say how it got a copy of the manuscript, though it quoted Bolton’s attorney, Charles Cooper, as saying it was leaked by the White House.
Sekulow seems to address Bolton’s allegations
Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow began the president’s defense Monday by seemingly taking a swipe at Bolton’s apparent claims in his upcoming book. “We deal with transcript evidence; we deal with publicly available information,” Sekulow said. “We do not deal with speculation — allegations that are not based on evidentiary standards at all.”
Starr laments ‘age of impeachment’
Ken Starr, who was the independent counsel in President Bill Clinton’s impeachment case, made his first appearance Monday as a member of Trump’s legal team. Starr says impeachment is happening “all too frequently”: “We are living in what I think can aptly be described as the age of impeachment.”
Starr said the House articles came before the Senate, “dripping with fundamental process violations.”
Arguing the process
The process violations mentioned by Starr were elaborated on by deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin.
Philbin said there were "fundamental errors" of due process.
“This inquiry began with nearly two dozen invalid subpoenas. The Speaker had the House proceed on nothing more than a press conference in which she purported to authorize committee’s to begin an impeachment inquiry... under the Constitution, she lacked that authority,” Philbin said. Philbin said the Senate should not “try to redo” the House impeachment inquiry.
Trump was justified in withholding aid
Michael Purpura, a deputy White House counsel, laid out the justification of Trump’s concerns over Ukrainian government corruption.
Purpura said Trump’s delay in ordering military aid "was far from unusual or out of character" for the president because he is "skeptical of foreign aid.”
A defense of Rudy Giuliani
Trump attorney Jane Raskin launched a defense of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, by calling him a “shiny object meant to distract.”
Raskin said Giuliani was not conducting a secret scheme to help Trump get reelected.
"Yes, Mayor Giuliani was the president's personal attorney, but he was not on a political errand," Raskin said. "As he as stated repeatedly and publicly, he was doing what good defense attorneys do.”
Bondi focuses on the Bidens
Pam Bondi, Florida’s former attorney general, took on the issue of Hunter Biden, saying the defense team “would prefer not to be talking about this, but the House managers have placed this squarely at issue, so we must address it.”
Bondi spent 30 minutes outlining Hunter Biden’s involvement on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, and Joe Biden’s role in crafting the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy.
She cited multiple new reports that questioned the younger Biden’s role at Burisma.
Bondi quoted a Washington Post article that said, “The appointment of the vice president's son to a Ukrainian oil board looks nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst.”
More on Hunter Biden
Private attorney Eric Herschmann, himself a board member of a natural gas company, says Hunter Biden is far from qualified to sit on an energy company board.
"He did have one qualification: he was the son of the vice president of the United States," he said. "He was the son of the man in charge of the Ukrainian portfolio for the prior administration. And we are to believe there is nothing to see here, that for anyone to investigate or inquire about this would be a sham."
Not the best call, but not impeachable
Former independent counsel Robert Ray said he believes that Trump’s July 25 phone call would have been better handled through “proper channels,” but it does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.
An explanation of what is impeachable
Alan Dershowitz spent 90 minutes presenting a constitutional argument against the Trump impeachment.
Dershowitz argued that it takes a “serious crime” to impeach a president, and that doesn’t exist in Trump’s case.
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