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John Bolton as a witness is Trump impeachment trial X factor

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) speaks Monday about the

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) speaks Monday about the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Credit: EPA / Erik S. Lesser

Is his testimony simply irresistible?

Before he goes on his book tour, should John Bolton come to the Senate to tell his inside story about President Donald Trump's Ukraine scheme? Senators who want to hear from him at the impeachment trial say it's now likelier that the requisite minimum of four Republicans will agree.

Said Utah's GOP Sen. Mitt Romney: "I think John Bolton’s relevance to our decision has been increasingly clear” and it’s “increasingly likely” more of his colleagues will see it that way. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said, "The reports about John Bolton's book strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues."

Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, predicted that five to 10 Republican senators will vote in favor of hearing from witnesses like Bolton. The decision is likely by the end of the week. If Bolton is called, the move could trigger a legal fight by Trump's lawyers to prevent his testimony and blow up Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's determined plan for a fast acquittal.

Trump in a series of early morning tweets denied what Bolton wrote in a still-unpublished manuscript. "I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens," the president wrote. He complained that "if John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book."

Denials came from others implicated by Bolton's book, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Democrats doubled down on demands to bring in Bolton under oath after the revelations from the book were detailed by The New York Times.

“If there was ever even a shred of logic left to not hear witnesses and review the documents, Mr. Bolton's book just erased it,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Another mystery is who leaked it. Bolton's side pointed fingers at the National Security Council, which received the manuscript about four weeks ago to review it for classified information. The NSC pushed back. Republican senators complained they were blindsided by news the White House was sitting on a ticking bombshell. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

A try-anything trial day

Giuliani is not on trial, but he nevertheless got both a ringing defense and a shrinkage of his relevance as Trump's lawyers spent their second day presenting arguments.

Lawyer Jane Raskin played down Giuliani's role, asserting that House Democrats put a spotlight on him as a "shiny object designed to distract you” and saying he did not undertake a "political errand" for Trump.

But she went on: "House managers may not like his style, you may not like his style. But one might argue that he is everything … a defense lawyer must be: outrageous, irreverent, blasphemous, rogue, a renegade."

Most Trump lawyers stuck to an argument that Bolton's book contradicted. "Anyone who spoke with the president said that the president made clear that there was no linkage between security assistance and investigations,” said Michael Purpura. But Alan Dershowitz, making constitutional arguments, said, "Nothing in the Bolton revelations — even if true — would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense.”

Kenneth Starr, famous for the independent counsel investigation that led to Bill Clinton's impeachment, lamented that impeachment is being used "all too frequently" now. He went as far as to call today the “age of impeachment." Trump lawyer Pam Bondi zeroed in on the Bidens as deserving of investigation, buttressing her argument with a skewed reading of news clips, according to The Washington Post.

For more from Monday's session, see five takeaways from Newsday's Tom Brune.

The audience is restless

Trump complained to associates Monday that the presentations from his defense team were boring, The New York Times reported.

Janison: Finding the Lev-ity

The hard news from a dinner-table recording that surfaced last weekend was that it's just about impossible to believe Trump's claim that he didn't know Lev Parnas, one of Giuliani's main fixers in Ukraine.

Newsday's Dan Janison writes that notice should be given, too, to the caught-on-tape absurdity.

Based on nothing but Parnas-cast aspersions, Trump tells an aide to "get rid of" the U.S. ambassador in Ukraine, whoever she was. Parnas' partner Igor Fruman couldn't remember her name when Trump asked. One also is left to guess why a full year elapsed before Marie Yovanovitch got canned.

Trump decides to ask Parnas how long the Ukrainians could hold out against the Russian army. It would seem to be a question better posed to the National Security Council, the CIA or the Pentagon.

A swamp named Trump

The swamp wasn't drained, as Trump pledged it would be. It was catered.

Parnas and other guests at the recorded Trump hotel soiree got access through big donations to push private interests, The New York Times writes.

Parnas and Fruman discussed a natural gas venture they were pursuing in Ukraine and wanted a change in U.S. banking regulations that would favor a legal-marijuana business they hoped to start.

A New York real estate developer pitched his project in South Korea as a possible site for a summit with Kim Jong Un. A Canadian steel magnate who contributed through U.S. subsidiaries wanted changes on import policy. Another guest sought Trump's support for building a 500-mile section of highway for self-driving trucks.

Not the too tired or poor

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Trump administration to put in place new rules that could deny green cards to immigrants who use food stamps, Medicaid and housing vouchers.

Lawsuits challenging the policy remain alive, but the decision means the administration can go ahead with it in the meantime. The aim is to expand significantly what factors would be considered to determine that immigrants applying for permanent residency won't be public charges, or burdens to the country.

Roughly 544,000 people apply for green cards annually. According to the government, 382,000 are in categories that would make them subject to the new review.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration expert at Cornell University’s law school, said the effect of the ruling is that “it makes it harder for working-class people to immigrate to or stay in the United States."

Trump: I can handle rejection

Trump said Monday that while the Palestinians already have rejected his proposed Mideast peace deal, which will be unveiled Tuesday, he expects they ultimately will agree to it.

“It’s something they should want,” Trump said in the Oval Office with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “They probably won’t want it initially. I think in the end they will. I think in the end they’re going to want it. It’s very good for them.”

The proposal is expected to be very favorable to Israel, and Netanyahu has hailed it as a chance to “make history” and define Israel’s final borders. Reports in Israeli media have speculated Trump’s plan could include the possible annexation of large pieces of territory that the Palestinians seek for a future independent state.

Trump also met with Netanyahu's top election rival, Benny Gantz.

What else is happening:

  • Giuliani, in a message to The Washington Post, called Bolton a “backstabber” and said he regretted recommending him to Trump. Will he also come to regret reminding Trump of the recommendation?
  • More from the book, according to The New York Times: Bolton wrote that he privately commiserated with Attorney General William Barr on mutual concerns that Trump effectively was granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China.
  • Trump's highest marks on handling the economy — 56% — are helping to narrow his deficit in matchups versus possible Democratic opponents, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. Against Biden, Trump trails by 4 points. Three months ago, it was 17 points.
  • Trump tweeted confidently that the U.S. can handle the coronavirus threat. "Very few cases reported in USA, but strongly on watch," Trump tweeted. "We have offered China and President Xi any help that is necessary. Our experts are extraordinary!" It's a contrast to private citizen Trump's panicky 2014 tweets denouncing President Barack Obama's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
  • Michael Bloomberg called for statehood for Puerto Rico, if the island territory wants it. "I believe statehood would be good not only for Puerto Rico, but for our whole country," he wrote in an op-ed published by the Orlando Sentinel.
  • Hunter Biden has agreed to pay monthly child support to an Arkansas woman in a paternity case just days before he was due in court to explain why he had not, CNN reported.
  • Bondi described Hunter Biden's role on the board of Ukraine's Burisma gas company as "nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst." The mention of nepotism out loud was a curious one for a defense of Trump, who gave his daughter and son-in-law senior White House posts.

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