Impeachment trial of President Trump

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2:46 p.m. ET, January 27, 2020

Fact check: Trump's lawyers claim Ukraine did not know about the hold on military aid

Senate TV
Senate TV

Both Pat Cipollone and Mike Purpura of the President's legal team claimed today that Ukraine did not know military aid was being withheld at the time of the July 25 phone call, implying that there could effectively be no quid pro quo between the parties. 

They made the same claim on Saturday during their opening arguments.

"President Zelensky and high-ranking Ukrainian officials did not even know the security assistance was paused until the end of August, over a month after the July 25 call," Purpura said Saturday.

Facts First: It's unclear when exactly top Ukrainian government officials knew that nearly $400 million in military and security aid was being withheld. But there is evidence that some of them suspected there was an issue with the funding as early as July 25, the same day as President Trump's phone call with Zelensky.

According to testimony from Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, some members of her staff told her that they had received queries about the aid from Ukrainian officials on July 25.

Cooper did not, however, know if the Ukrainian officials were aware of a hold on the aid or were just checking in.

The New York Times reported that, according to Olena Zerkal, an ex-top official in Kiev, members of the Ukrainian government knew the aid was being held up at some point in late July, but Zerkal could not recall the exact date.

As Purpura noted on Saturday, the withholding of military aid was not brought up in meetings between Ukraine and US officials. It wasn't until Politico reported in late August that Trump was withholding military aid to Ukraine that top Zelensky adviser, Andrey Yermak, texted Kurt Volker, Trump's special envoy for Ukraine, with a link to the article and a message "we need to talk." 

This could be due to the unusual process of how the aid was withheld.

The Office of Management and Budget has declined to turn over documents to investigators related to the withholding of the aid.

3:17 p.m. ET, January 27, 2020

Trump lawyer criticizes Democrats for distributing pens at impeachment articles signing

Senate TV
Senate TV

The President’s defense team showed a video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi passing out pens to impeachment managers after signing the articles of impeachment earlier this month.

Attorney Jay Sekulow lambasted Democrats' “celebratory moment.”

“Pens distributed to the impeachment managers. A celebratory moment. Think about that. Think about this. A poignant moment,” Sekulow said.

Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, have previously railed against the souvenir pens.

“Nancy Pelosi’s souvenir pens served up on silver platters to sign the sham articles of impeachment...She was so somber as she gave them away to people like prizes,” Grisham wrote on Twitter.

Watch the moment:

2:24 p.m. ET, January 27, 2020

Trump attorney calls this "the age of impeachment"

Senate TV
Senate TV

Trump defense team member Ken Starr delivered his argument before the Senate on Monday, asserting that since President Richard Nixon’s impeachment, Congress has turned to impeachment for political motivations.

Starr, who pulled frequently from historical precedent, argued that the US is in the “age of impeachment.”

"Indeed, we are living under what, I think, can aptly be described as the age of impeachment,” Starr said.

He continued: “In the wake of the long national nightmare of Watergate, Congress and President Jimmy Carter collaboratively ushered in a new chapter in America's constitutional history. Together in full agreement, they enacted the Independent Counsels Provisions of The Ethics and Government Act of 1978. But the new chapter was not simply the age of independent counsels. It became, unbeknownst to the American people, the age of impeachment.” 

Starr, who served as independent counsel during the Whitewater investigation, called impeachment “a weapon to be wielded against one’s political opponent,” but not used against early “controversial presidents,” like Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay. 

CNN’s Greg Wallace, Olanma Mang and Mariah Espada contributed to this report.

2:18 p.m. ET, January 27, 2020

Bolton's PAC director: "There was absolutely no coordination with the New York Times"

Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images
Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images

John Bolton has denied that he and his publishers coordinated any "appearance of information about his book," according to his PAC director.

"Any assertion to the contrary is unfounded speculation," Sarah Tinsley, the director of the John Bolton PAC, said in a statement.

Here's the full statement:

"Ambassador John Bolton, Simon & Schuster, and Javelin Literary categorically state that there was absolutely no coordination with the New York Times or anyone else regarding the appearance of information about his book, THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED, at online booksellers. Any assertion to the contrary is unfounded speculation."
2:16 p.m. ET, January 27, 2020

Republican senators describe McConnell's message during lunch today 

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Sens. Kevin Cramer and Mike Braun laid out what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's message was in the conference lunch today

Sen. Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, says that McConnell reminded members that they included a vote on witnesses in the resolution, and members will get that opportunity. But for now, the focus is on listening to the next two steps of the process: Trump’s counsel and the question-and-answer portion.

Cramer said he did not get the sense from lunch that the Bolton news was fundamentally shifting things: "The Bolton thing is just a new wrinkle, but not really overly concerning to anyone." 

"For me personally, I don’t confuse book-selling with a trial," he said.

Cramer said he "did not know" if Trump’s counsel would approach the topic of Bolton today.

On whether he detected more of a sentiment among his colleagues to hear from witnesses, Cramer said, "I think it is about the same as it has always been to be honest."

Sen. Braun explained McConnell's message at lunch, saying essentially that GOP members shouldn't lock themselves into a position before the defense team makes its case and senators ask questions.

"His message is what it's been all along: Let's get through the next step. We knew we were going to cross that threshold. There's now more information out there. Other than that, that was it. Take a deep breath, and take it one step at a time."

Asked if he specifically said, "deep breath," Braun said he was paraphrasing McConnell, who made the case to "keep cool" and "we will get there."

Braun also said that at the lunch, Republican senators said 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."

2:11 p.m. ET, January 27, 2020

This is the Trump defense Ken Starr just laid out

Senate TV
Senate TV

Trump impeachment attorney Kenneth Starr walked through the charges in the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton and the impeachment inquiry of Richard Nixon.

He's arguing that no crimes were committed in Trump's case, undermining the validity of impeachment.

"Were crimes alleged in the articles in the common law of presidential impeachment? In Nixon, yes. In Clinton, yes. Here, no," he said.

Remember: Impeachment doesn't need to be based on a statutory crime, according to CNN legal analyst Elie Honig.

Here's how Honig put it:

The Constitution prescribes impeachment for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." But the term "high crimes and misdemeanors" is not defined anywhere in the Constitution or statute law, and appears to be drawn from English parliamentary practice, which provided for impeachment for crimes or for conduct beyond the reach of established criminal law.
Our own precedent supports the notion that a crime is not necessary for impeachment. President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House (and then acquitted by the Senate) for firing a secretary of war — certainly not a criminal act. Drafted articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon included abuse of power and misuse of public office, while one of the proposed articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton (voted down by the full House) related to abuse of power for non-criminal conduct.
1:59 p.m. ET, January 27, 2020

Source suggests that the full information in Bolton manuscript is damning to Trump

A source familiar with the John Bolton's book suggested the full information within the unpublished manuscript was damning to President Trump and would make it much harder for Republican senators to play the “nothing new here” card. 

The source also responded to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s comments on wanting to see it, saying, “I’m not sure he does.” 

More on this: Graham told CNN that he wants to see the Bolton manuscript.

“What we have to do here is evaluate the manuscript and see if it's a reason to add to the record,” he said.

Asked if he would support a subpoena to get the manuscript, the South Carolina Republican said, “I want to know what's in the manuscript, yeah, I think that’s important.” 

He said the manuscript could change his thinking on calling witnesses. 

“It could. I don’t know yet. The White House said there was no direct evidence of communications, maybe this suggests that one person said there might be," Graham said.

1:44 p.m. ET, January 27, 2020

Starr: "Like war, impeachment is hell"

Senate TV
Senate TV

Trump defense attorney Kenneth Starr said in his remarks today, "Like war, impeachment is hell. Or, at least, presidential impeachment is hell." 

He went on to invoke the Clinton impeachment, comparing a presidential impeachment to "domestic war."

"Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment, including members of this body, full well understand that a presidential impeachment is tantamount to domestic war, but thankfully protected by our beloved First Amendment, a war of words and a war of ideas. But it's filled with acrimony and it divides the country like nothing else. Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment understand that in a deep and personal way."

Remember: Starr was the prosecutor best known for his work that led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment in the 1990s. He is presenting for the first time today as a member of President Trump's defense team.

Watch the moment:

1:32 p.m. ET, January 27, 2020

Schiff has not spoken with Bolton or his team, source says

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

House manager Adam Schiff and his staff have not had any conversations with former national security John Bolton or his team since the developments about his book, a Democratic source said.

About his book: The New York Times reported Trump ordered former national security adviser John Bolton to keep military aid to Ukraine frozen in a bid to coerce political favors.