WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in the US Senate came under fresh pressure on Monday to allow witnesses and new documents in his impeachment trial after a news report that a former top aide, John Bolton, has written a book manuscript that undercuts Trump’s versions of events in the Ukraine affair.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney, a sometime critic of Trump, said there was a growing likelihood that at least four Republican senators would vote to call for Bolton to testify in the trial, which would give Democrats the votes necessary to summon the former national security adviser.
Senate Republicans thus far have refused to allow any witnesses or new evidence in the trial that will determine whether Trump is removed from office. The president’s legal team is set to resume its defence of Trump on Monday afternoon.
The New York Times cited the manuscript of an unpublished book by Bolton as saying that Trump told him he wanted to freeze security aid to Ukraine until Kiev helped with politically beneficial investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
If confirmed, the report would add weight to Democrats’ accusations that Trump used the $391 million in aid — approved by the US Congress to help Ukraine combat Russia-backed separatists — as leverage to get a foreign country to help him dig up dirt on a domestic political rival.
Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the Nov 3 presidential election.
Trump on Monday denied telling Bolton that he sought to use the aid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens on unsubstantiated corruption allegations. Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was US vice president.
Bolton left his post in September. Trump said he fired him. Bolton said he quit.
“I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton,” Romney told reporters. Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, added that “Bolton’s relevance ... is becoming increasingly clear.” Another moderate Republican senator, Susan Collins, said the reports regarding Bolton’s book “strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues.”
The Democratic-led House of Representatives impeached Trump last month on charges of abuse of power in his dealings with Ukraine and obstruction of Congress, setting up the trial in the Republican-led Senate.
Trump is expected to be acquitted in the 100-seat Senate, where Republicans hold 53 seats and a two-thirds vote is required to convict and remove a president from office. No Republican senator has voiced support for his ouster.
Trump denied telling Bolton he was seeking something in return for unfreezing the Ukrainian aid, which eventually was provided in September after the controversy became public.
“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens ... If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” Trump wrote on Twitter. Democrats demanded that the Senate call Bolton as a witness.
“It completely blasts another hole in the president’s defense,” said Representative Adam Schiff, the head of the House Democratic team of “managers” who are presenting the prosecution case against Trump.
“For every senator, Democrat and Republican, I don’t know how you can explain that you wanted a search for the truth in this trial and say you don’t want to hear from a witness who had a direction conversation about the central allegation in the articles of impeachment,” Schiff told CNN.
The issue of whether to call new witnesses — including Bolton — might be resolved in a Senate vote later this week. Many Republicans, however, want a speedy trial of Trump without witnesses or any evidence beyond the material amassed in the House impeachment inquiry. The White House directed current and former administration officials not to provide testimony or documents in the inquiry.
Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2020