Impeachment trial of President Trump
President Trump's lawyer Pam Bondi played a video clip of former vice president Joe Biden recounting, at a 2018 event, how he had pressured Ukraine to fire its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin.
Bondi claimed that Shokin was, at the time of the pressure in late 2015 and early 2016, “investigating Burisma,” the company where Biden’s son Hunter Biden sat on the board of directors.
Here are four key facts Bondi omitted:
1. Shokin’s former deputy, Vitaliy Kasko, said the investigation into Burisma and company owner Mykola Zlochevsky was inactive at the time of Joe Biden’s pressure in late 2015 and early 2016. A leading Ukrainian anti-corruption activist said the same.
"Shokin was not investigating. He didn't want to investigate Burisma," Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of Ukraine's Anti-Corruption Action Center, told the Washington Post for a July article. "And Shokin was fired not because he wanted to do that investigation, but quite to the contrary, because he failed that investigation."
2. Shokin was widely seen — by Ukrainian activists, US diplomats, European governments and the International Monetary Fund — as ineffective or corrupt. In a speech in 2015, Geoffrey Pyatt, then the US ambassador to Ukraine, castigated Shokin’s office for impeding the investigation of Burisma’s owner Zlochevsky. Pyatt called for people in Shokin’s office to be fired, “at minimum.”
“Rather than supporting Ukraine’s reforms and working to root out corruption, corrupt actors within the prosecutor general’s office are making things worse by openly and aggressively undermining reform,” Pyatt said.
3. Biden was acting in accordance with official US policy. Because of Shokin’s reputation, the US and its allies believed that removing him would increase, not decrease, the chances of people like Zlochevsky being pursued.
"What former Vice President Biden requested of former president of Ukraine, (Petro) Poroshenko, was the removal of a corrupt prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin,” George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, testified in the impeachment inquiry. Kent went on to say Shokin had “undermined” a US-funded program to try to investigate corrupt Ukrainian prosecutors.
4. Some Republican senators had also demanded changes to the prosecutor general’s office Shokin led.
In a bipartisan 2016 letter, Republican senators Rob Portman, Mark Kirk and Ron Johnson joined Democratic colleagues in calling on then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to "press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General's office and judiciary."
Andrew Bates, campaign director for former vice president Joe Biden's campaign, has issued a statement slamming President Trump’s attorney Pam Bondi's presentation this afternoon.
Bondi outlined the issue of Hunter Biden’s involvement on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company, during her 30-minute presentation.
"We didn't realize that Breitbart was expanding into Ted Talk knockoffs. Here on Planet Earth, the conspiracy theory that Bondi repeated has been conclusively refuted," Bates said in the statement.
He continued: "The New York Times calls it 'debunked,' The Wall Street Journal calls it 'discredited,' the AP calls it 'incorrect,' and The Washington Post Fact Checker calls it 'a fountain of falsehoods.' The diplomat that Trump himself appointed to lead his Ukraine policy has blasted it as 'self serving' and 'not credible.' Joe Biden was instrumental to a bipartisan and international anti-corruption victory. It's no surprise that such a thing is anathema to President Trump."
The Senate impeachment trial just took a 45-minute break for dinner.
After senators return from the break, President Trump's defense team will resume their opening arguments.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the reported contents of John Bolton’s book came to her as “no surprise.”
“I’ve been for witnesses and documentation all along. It’ll be interesting to see what the senators have to say. But I’m the last person to ask about it,” she said as she arrived for a meeting with her leadership team.
She didn’t answer follow up questions.
Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, raised the "one for one" witness deal that would allow for one witness each to be called by both the Republican and Democratic sides in the Senate impeachment trial at the GOP conference lunch today, a source familiar told CNN.
This has been a topic of conversation among Senate GOP for sometime.
The Washington Post first reported the Toomey idea this afternoon.
Both the White House and GOP leadership want this trial to end as soon as possible and not go down this route.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has no appetite for this, and this tactic will only be employed if they’re about to lose the witness vote. So this is the last resort.
Toomey’s office is declining to comment at the moment.
GOP Sen. Mike Braun confirmed a discussion about the one-for-one trade on witnesses occurred at lunch today. Braun said that at the lunch, Republican senators indicated that if they do move forward on witnesses, Democrats need to be prepared for witnesses sought by the GOP.
"If we get to the questions of witnesses, and people think they need them, there would be a back-and-forth: a Democratic witness, a Republican witness,” Braun said
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.