WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats stepped up their calls for the Republican-controlled Senate to subpoena additional witnesses in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial Sunday evening, citing a New York Times report detailing disclosures made by former White House National Security Adviser John Bolton that undercut one of Trump's key lines of defense.
Bolton, in his forthcoming book, claims that Trump tied nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine to his demand that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, according to an unpublished manuscript obtained by the Times. Trump and other White House officials have repeatedly maintained that the investigations were not a condition for the money's release.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on Senate Republicans to support Democrats in voting for additional witnesses to testify, tweeting: "John Bolton has the evidence."
"It’s up to four Senate Republicans to ensure that John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, and the others with direct knowledge of President Trump’s actions testify in the Senate trial," Schumer tweeted, noting the number of Republicans Senate Democrats need to garner the necessary majority to call additional witnesses.
The House impeachment managers prosecuting the case against Trump, said in a statement, "Senators should insist that Mr. Bolton be called as a witness, and provide his notes and other relevant documents."
"The Senate trial must seek the full truth and Mr. Bolton has vital information to provide," wrote the seven House Democrats serving as managers. "There is no defensible reason to wait until his book is published, when the information he has to offer is critical to the most important decision Senators must now make — whether to convict the President of impeachable offenses."
The fight over whether witnesses should be allowed to testify in Trump's impeachment trial also played out earlier in the day on the Sunday political talk show circuit.
As Trump spent Sunday morning firing off tweets denouncing the ongoing trial, the House impeachment managers made their appeal to Senate Republicans.
So far, only three Senate Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah — have indicated a willingness to vote for additional White House officials to testify. Bolton has said he is willing to speak if subpoenaed by the Senate.
Asked if Democrats have identified a fourth Republican vote, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, one of seven House impeachment managers, told CNN’s State of the Union that she was unsure, but hoped other Republicans would support the call for witnesses.
“I think the country wants a complete picture,” Lofgren (D-Calif.) said. “The senators have an opportunity to get it. And I think they would be doing themselves a favor, as well as the country a favor, to get that job done.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said he would vote against additional witnesses because “House Democrats have had lots of witnesses” over the course of the impeachment proceedings.
“They’re not upset that they haven’t had witnesses, they’re upset that their witnesses haven’t said what they want them to say,” Cotton said.
Senate Republicans have argued if the House impeachment managers are allowed to call additional witnesses, Trump’s defense team should also be allowed to call witnesses including Hunter Biden who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while his father was in office. Trump has argued his push for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens was over concerns of possible “corruption,” but Ukrainian officials have said there have never been any allegations of misconduct by the Bidens. House Democrats have argued that the president was seeking a politically motivated investigation to damage Biden as he runs for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Lead impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff, asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether Trump should be allowed to call from his witness list as a compromise, said the president’s legal team “does not have the right to call irrelevant witnesses, or witnesses who are not fact witnesses.”
“Should the trial be used as a vehicle to smear his opponent?” Schiff (D-Calif.) said. “Is that the purpose of a Senate trial? Or is it to get to the truth? Because if it's to get to the truth, Hunter Biden can't tell us anything about the withholding of the military funding.”
Trump took direct aim at Schiff in a Sunday tweet, appearing to deliver a warning to the leader of the impeachment proceedings.
“He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!” Trump tweeted.
Asked about the tweet, Schiff told "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, he believed it was intended to be a threat.
“This is a wrathful and vindictive president; I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” said Schiff. “And if you think there is, look at the president’s tweets about me today, saying that I should ‘pay a price.’ ”
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) criticized House Democrats for not pushing back harder against Trump administration officials who defied subpoenas to testify during the House impeachment proceedings.
Lankford, appearing on ABC’s “This Week” said House Democrats, in moving to drafting articles of impeachment last fall, wanted "to move as fast as possible and now they want to slow down the trial as much as possible in the Senate. It’s just a very odd political strategy for them more than a fact-finding strategy.”
Schumer, speaking to reporters at an unrelated news conference in Manhattan late Sunday morning before the release of the Times report Sunday evening, said it would be an uphill battle to convince four Republicans to vote with Democrats, but said he was “always hopeful.”
“There is no good reason why there should not be witnesses and documents and nobody has given one, not the president’s lawyers, not Republican senators, not [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell,” Schumer said. “But there is a lot of pressure to speed up the trial, do this, do that, but I am always hopeful. I always believe if you seek the truth, and that is all we are seeking here, that usually right prevails.”
With Michael O'Keeffe