Bolton Willing to Testify; GOP Doesn’t Care, Continues with Trump Non-Defense

The U.S. presidential election is only 276 days away. Americans have no way of knowing how secure the ballot boxes will be. This is because as of Friday morning, January 31, it looks as if the Senate, during its impeachment trial, will acquit Donald J. Trump, who is accused of behavior that threatens the integrity of U.S. presidential elections.

The articles of impeachment against Trump are based on charges that Trump put pressure on Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open an investigation into Trump’s political rival, former vice president Joe Biden, and Biden’s son, Hunter, by withholding $391 million in already approved military aid.

The week started with revelations from the manuscript of former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton’s upcoming book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir. According to The New York Times, the manuscript contains details of President Trump’s phone call with Zelenskiy. Bolton has said that Trump told him directly that he was placing a hold on the aid until Zelenskiy announced the investigation Trump requested.

During the earlier impeachment hearings that took place in the House, Bolton had not shown up for a requested deposition before the House Intelligence Committee. If the House issued him a subpoena, Bolton said, he would take the matter to court. In early January, however, Bolton said that he’d be willing to give testimony in the Senate impeachment trial, if requested.

The question and answer phase of the impeachment trial has taken place this week, with Senators submitting questions for either side (in lieu of questioning actual witnesses and without benefit of relevant documents), to be read aloud by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. The questions seemed largely aimed at restating the positions of those asking them, rather than discovering information.

Avoiding, or unable, to produce a substantial defense for the president, Trump’s defense team has turned instead to using distraction techniques, including focusing on such topics as Joe and Hunter Biden’s activities; the debunked myth that it was Ukraine, not Russia, who interfered with the 2016 election; and the “great economy under Trump.” Finally, they settled on the position that even if Trump did do what he’s accused of, he did nothing wrong, because he’s the president. Or, at the very least, he shouldn’t be impeached because it would be “too disruptive.”

Alan Dershowitz, a member of the Trump defense team, put forth an argument that many interpreted as saying that the law gives the president nearly unchallenged presidential power.

“If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” Dershowitz said.

But what politician doesn’t think that being elected is in the public interest? One can draw one’s own conclusions about how far a politician could go to get elected if he or she could do anything without being kept in check.

On Friday, the Senate will vote on whether to call witnesses. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pointed out that the Trump defense team was making the case for calling witnesses with its argument that there was not sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to remove the president from office. And as of Thursday, it appeared that the defense had enough votes to block witnesses.

Republicans are united in their efforts to support Trump by blocking witnesses and documents pertinent to the trial, ostensibly to “wrap it up” quickly (“for the sake of the American people”).

Meanwhile, the White House has reviewed Bolton’s manuscript and issued a formal threat to Bolton in an effort to prevent him from publishing his book, saying that some of the information was classified at “top secret” level, could cause grave harm to national security, and “may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information.”

One has to wonder why the White House is scrambling to protect this information as a “security threat,” when the president, through his public actions, words, disclosures, and tweets, regularly threatens national security.

As expected, Trump has begun his Twitter attacks on Bolton’s credibility, integrity, and reputation. Among his most notable was this:

“For a guy who couldn’t get approved for the Ambassador to the U.N. years ago, couldn’t get approved for anything since, “begged” me for a non Senate approved job, which I gave him despite many saying “Don’t do it, sir,” takes the job, mistakenly says “Libyan Model” on T.V., and…

” ….many more mistakes of judgement, gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book. All Classified National Security. Who would do this?”

Trump’s attacks are reminiscent of other attacks and threats he has made toward those he sees as having crossed him. These include former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, both of whom gave testimony during the House impeachment hearings; the whistleblower who first reported the troubling content of Trump’s call to Ukraine; former FBI director James Comey; and others.

If the Senate votes on Friday to hear witnesses, Trump has said he may try to invoke executive privilege to block Bolton from testifying. Legal experts, however, are saying that Trump may have undermined executive privilege with his tweets describing his conversations with Bolton regarding Ukraine.

Despite the fact that 75 percent of voters want the Senate to call witnesses, Republicans appear eager to eschew any new evidence that could change someone’s mind, and keep repeating, “Let the American people decide at the voting booths.” And this, we must be sure to do.

President Trump’s Impeachment Trial Has 16-Hour Q&A |
Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon [2020-01-30]

EXCLUSIVE: House Impeachment managers make their case on HillTV |
The Hill [2020-01-30]

Impeachment Trial Begins, Lev Parnas Surfaces with New Damning Evidence

With 290 days until the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the impeachment of President Donald Trump dominates the news. On Wednesday, January 15, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed the two articles of impeachment against Trump, who is charged with abuse of presidential power, and obstruction of Congress.

Prior to signing the articles, Pelosi announced the names of the seven impeachment managers she has chosen to present the case for impeachment to the Senate. They are House Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Val Demings (D-Fla.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), and Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas). After the signing of the articles, Pelosi and the impeachment managers walked across the Capitol to the Senate chamber to deliver the articles, per protocol.

The articles charge that Trump abused his power by withholding already-approved military aid to Ukraine, as well as the promise of a White House meeting with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy in order to pressure Zelenskiy to announce an investigation of Democratic primary candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who held a high-paying job as consultant to Burisma, Ukraine’s largest energy provider. The articles further charge that Trump obstructed Congress by blocking key evidence and testimony.

The Senate formally accepted the articles on Thursday. On Thursday afternoon, Chief Justice John Roberts, who will preside over the trial in the Senate, administered the jurors’ oath to all 100 senators, to swear to deliver “impartial justice.” It should be noted, however, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already openly promised not to be impartial.

“This is an example of all of the president’s henchmen,” Pelosi reflected, “and I hope that the senators do not become part of the president’s henchmen.”

The actual trial is expected to begin on Tuesday, January 21.

Meanwhile, The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan agency that reports to Congress, has determined this week that Trump’s hold on the military aid to Ukraine was a violation of federal law governing how the White House may disburse funds approved by Congress.

“Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” the decision states. “OMB withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act.”

Though impeachment does not require violation of a federal law, this development will no doubt be significant as the impeachment trial plays out. Republicans are already trying to point out that the GAO is pointing the finger at the OMB (Office of Management and Budget), not at the president. It was the president, however, who ordered that the military funds be put on hold.

And as impeachment trial preparations were brewing this week, additional evidence was unearthed, appearing to confirm the nature of Trump’s motivation in his plan to have the Bidens investigated.

Trump maintains that he was simply motivated by his concern about corruption in Ukraine for the sake of “the American people.” Strong evidence indicates, however, that Trump was motivated purely by personal gain — uncovering dirt on the Bidens, or, at the very least, stirring up controversy and casting doubt on Joe Biden’s integrity as he runs for president.

Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has provided documents and granted interviews containing information that indicate that Donald Trump was directly involved in the Ukraine pressure campaign, and that his motivation was for personal gain, not for the good of the U.S. Further, Trump’s intent was to investigate the Bidens, not to investigate general corruption in Ukraine.

James Hohmann of the Washington Post writes, “Evidence of the president’s hands-on role bolsters the Democratic case that Trump himself abused his power, not outside advisers who were pursuing personal interests in the president’s name.”

Included in Parnas’ documents was a message thread from March 2019 between Parnas and Robert Hyde, a current Republican candidate for Congress in Connecticut. The subject of the messages was former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled from her post by the Trump administration in May 2019. In his interviews with the media this week, Lev Parnas confirmed that Yovanovitch was seen as an obstacle to Trump’s plan for investigation of the Bidens.
The messages suggest Hyde and others may have been following the diplomat in Kiev. “They are moving her tomorrow,” Hyde wrote to Parnas. “The guys over there asked me what I would like to do and what is in it for them.”

He then noted that Yovanovitch turned off her phone and computer.

“They are willing to help if we/you would like a price,” Hyde said. “Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money … what I was told.”

“Lol,” Parnas responded, indicating “laugh out loud.”.

Several days later, Hyde wrote: “It’s confirmed we have a person inside.”

Though the U.S. State Department continues to remain silent about the exchanges and the possibility of unauthorized surveillance of Yovanovitch by associates of Trump, Ukraine has announced that it will launch an investigation.

“Ukraine’s position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America,” Ukraine’s Interior Ministry stated. “Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on the territory of its own state.”

Parnas has since said that he didn’t take the exchange seriously. Hyde, too, dismissed it as a joke.

Though some of Parnas’ new information still needs to be corroborated, other portions of it support the existing evidence against Trump and his associates. It’s yet to be determined whether, or if, this new evidence will be used in the Senate impeachment trial.

On the other side of the world, Russia’s entire cabinet resigned on Wednesday. Russian president Vladimir Putin had, earlier on Wednesday, announced that he would be pushing through reforms to the constitution. The changes would redistribute power so that parliament and the prime minister would have more power, but Putin’s successor as president would be considerably weakened. Putin, whose term as president ends in 2024, could then take on a new role and continue to be a powerful figure in the Russian government. (Speaking of abuse of power…)

Putin simply thanked his former government and said that “not everything worked out.”

Given what our president has successfully been able to get away with, given his statement, “Then I have an Article 2 (of the U.S. Constitution), where I have the right to do whatever I want as president,” and given that our current GOP largely disregards the checks and balances system of our three-branch government, we can only hope that Election 2020 eliminates the possibility of something similar happening in the U.S.

Impeachment process moves ahead amid new revelations from Lev Parnas | CBS News [2020-01-16]

Trump reacts to photograph of him with Lev Parnas: “I take thousands of pictures” | Global News [2020-01-16]