Impeachment trial of President Trump
Pam Bondi, former Florida attorney general and a member of President Trump’s defense team, outlined the issue of Hunter Biden’s involvement on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company, during her 30-minute presentation.
This was the first direct reference to the Bidens during the defense team’s presentations.
House managers, she said, “repeatedly referenced” Biden and Burisma more than “400 times” during their presentations last week, “but they never gave you the full picture.”
“We would prefer not to be talking about this,” she claimed, “But the House managers have placed this squarely at issue, so we must address it.”
Citing multiple news reports and testimony from State Department official George Kent and other witnesses, Bondi cast the company as corrupt and Biden’s involvement as a conflict of interest. She questioned his qualifications to serve on the board, an opportunity she called “nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst.”
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden.
Bondi noted that then-Vice President Joe Biden sought to remove Ukrainian prosecutor Victor Shokin, who was investigating Burisma. However, she did not note that Shokin was widely accused of corruption and a Shokin deputy has said the Burisma probe was dormant.
“There was a basis to talk about this, to raise this issue, and that is enough,” Bondi said.
Watch part of the defense's exhibit on Biden:
Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff released a statement today during the Senate impeachment trial regarding the Ukraine aid.
"At no time did I hear him tie aid to Ukraine to investigations into the Biden family or Burisma," Pence staffer Marc Short said.
Here's his full statement:
“As matter of policy we don’t typically share or discuss conversations between the President and Vice President, but given the journalistic fury over alleged conversations, the President has given me permission to set the record straight. In every conversation with the President and the Vice President in preparation for our trip to Poland, the President consistently expressed his frustration that the United States was bearing the lion’s share of responsibility for aide to Ukraine and that European nations weren’t doing their part. The President also expressed concerns about corruption in Ukraine. At no time did I hear him tie aid to Ukraine to investigations into the Biden family or Burisma. As White House Counsel presented today, based upon testimony provided by Democrat witnesses in the House hearings, these were the only issues that the Vice President discussed with Ukrainian officials — because that’s what the President asked him to raise.”
There appeared to be a lot of note-taking at the House impeachment manager table today with Reps. Adam Schiff, Zoe Lofgren and Hakeem Jeffries frequently bending their heads over the desk to write things down as the defense gave its presentation.
Schiff, as he has done before, also frequently looked on at the defense as they made their arguments.
When Trump attorney Jane Raskin argued that so far the score is “Mayor Giuliani 4, Mr. Schiff, 0,” Schiff stared right at her unflinchingly.
Rudy Giuliani tweeted his thanks to President Trump's lawyer Jane Raskin for her defense of him in her opening argument.
"Jane Raskin is doing a masterful job defending me in my role as defense counsel," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was not notified in advance about the unpublished manuscript from former national security adviser John Bolton's upcoming book, his spokesperson said.
“The leader did not have any advance notice," the spokesperson said.
About the manuscript: The New York Times reported Trump ordered Bolton to keep military aid to Ukraine frozen in a bid to coerce political favors.
Given yesterday's report from the New York Times that a manuscript of John Bolton’s unpublished book alleges President Trump linked aid to Ukraine with investigations into Democrats, including Joe Biden, the former national security adviser looms large over the impeachment trial of President Trump.
Throughout this morning, senators were pressed by reporters about whether they would vote to call Bolton to testify at Trump’s trial.
But Trump’s defense team did not mention Bolton’s name in its initial arguments.
Trump lawyer Ken Starr spoke for nearly an hour, focusing on the history of presidential impeachment. He mentioned former president Richard Nixon at least 10 times, former president Andrew Johnson at least five, and Bolton not once.
Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow appeared to nod toward Bolton in his own early comments on Monday, saying: “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.”
Sekulow repeated the list of six arguments the President’s defense team introduced in its initial presentation on Saturday. One of the six items was this: “Not a single witness testified that the President himself said that that there was any connection between any investigation and security assistance, a presidential meeting or anything else.”
Sekulow’s claim was not false, since Bolton was not a witness in the House impeachment process — having declined a Democratic request to appear voluntarily. But it is still possible the Senate will vote to subpoena Bolton in the ongoing trial.
President Trump's lawyer Jane Raskin accused Democrats of exaggerating Rudy Giuliani’s role in the Ukraine affair.
“In this trial, in this moment, Mr. Giuliani is just a minor player, that shiny object designed to distract you,” Raskin said. “Senators, I urge you most respectfully, do not be distracted.”
This ignores testimony from several witnesses, who said the President directed them to coordinate with Giuliani on Ukraine policy. It also ignores the fact that Giuliani’s name came up six times during Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Here are all the times Giuliani was mentioned in the call:
- Zelensky: "I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine."
- Trump: "Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy."
- Trump: "I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it."
- Trump: "Good. Well, thank you very much and I appreciate that. I will tell Rudy and Attorney General Barr to call."
Jane Raskin, one of President Trump's lawyers, argued that the House managers are focused on the President's private attorney Rudy Giuliani to "distract from the fact that the evidence does not support their claims."
"If both the law and the facts are against you, present a distraction, emphasize the sensational fact or perhaps a colorful and controversial public figure who appears on the scene, then disport certain facts and ignore others, even when they are the most problem probative, make conclusory statements and insinuate the shining object is far more important than the actual facts allow. In short, divert attention from the holes in your case," she said.
Raskin continued: "Rudy Giuliani is the House managers' colorful distraction. He's a household name."
During the short break, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer refuted the Trump defense team's claim that none of the Democrats' witnesses spoke to the President himself about Ukraine.
"[Jay] Sekulow said when he listed his five points, not a single witness said they heard from POTUS himself. We want Bolton, we want Mulvaney. We can solve Mr. Sekulow’s problem of not hearing from the witnesses themselves," Schumer said.
"It’s a little like Watergate in that every week more evidence comes out further condemning the president. Obviously, the New York Times revelations strengthens the case. The average American is saying why don’t they want witnesses and documents?" Schumer said.
Asked if he thought the House should subpoena the manuscript or Bolton, he said, "That’s going to be up to them. I’m not going to give them advice."