The already frenetic energy in the Capitol surrounding the Senate impeachment trial was taken up a notch Monday as senators returned to questions about the John Bolton revelations.
A number of Republican senators and not a few commentators are now putting forward the argument that calling John Bolton to testify is a waste of time because the White House would bog the question down for months in the Courts. This is a bogus line of argument for two crystal clear reasons I want to briefly explain. It’s not a bad argument, it’s a fake one. It doesn’t exist.
While the drama of the impeachment trial continues, we have a surge of new polling data. The Democratic primaries are generating a lot of new data. But I want to focus for the moment on the general election, impeachment and the President’s approval.
Two things are happening, which may seem to be inconsistent, but likely are not. The first is that impeachment and removal from office is getting more popular. Indeed, 538’s average of polls which focus specifically on impeachment and/or removal from office has now moved to just over 50% — 50.8% as of this morning.
As we wrote this morning, new allegations outlined in an unpublished manuscript of former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s new book obtained by the New York Times claim that President Trump explicitly told Bolton the Ukraine military aid was directly tied to Trump’s push for investigations into the Bidens.
The New York Times is reporting that John Bolton recently began circulating the manuscript of this forthcoming book to associates in D.C. Critically, he also sent a copy to the White House for a pre-publication review. (In theory that is to review it for any classified information.) In it Bolton reportedly writes that in August 2019 President Trump told him he wanted to continue holding up military aid to Ukraine until Ukraine relented and helped with investigations into Joe Biden and other Democrats.
I didn’t see any of yesterday’s final closing arguments live. I was at an NYPD precinct filling out police reports with a gaggle of middle schoolers. (Long story; everyone and everything is fine.) So I got home at about 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m. to this flurry of puffed up outrage about heads on pikes. It took me a bit to get a handle on exactly what had happened and what the pretended outrage was even about. You probably knew all those details already, quite possibly before I did.
But let’s step back from the clamor and nonsense to understand this.
President Trump’s defense opened Saturday with a swift 2-hour session that crammed everything but the kitchen sink into an argument that was designed first and foremost to undermine Adam Schiff’s reliability as a narrator. In a stinging irony, the White House lawyers maintained a sustained attack on the House managers for, of all things, hiding evidence.
I made sure to be in the Senate chamber right as President Trump’s legal team began to see how their tactics shifted the dynamics in the room.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) captured it perfectly last night. Republican senators are looking for an “outrage offramp” to help get themselves off the hook. They’ll find it some way some how. Whether it’s taking great umbrage with process or with the tone of House managers or other petty decorum slights.
Sen Whitehouse: Republicans are “desperate to find an outrage off-ramp” pic.twitter.com/m4EfZmQJfh
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) January 25, 2020
It was the end of four long days of impeachment proceedings, and for once, all the senators were still.
For the bulk of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s speech closing the House’s presentation of evidence, every seat was filled (except for that of Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), who was watching from a public balcony with a guest).
President Trump went down in history this month as the third president to be impeached, in part over an abuse of power allegation involving an attempt to extort Ukraine into attacking Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden.
But the story of the pressure campaign actually begins long before this year, with an individual who has gone without much mentioned during the impeachment inquiry: Paul Manafort.