By Arul Louis
New York, Jan 29 (IANS) Former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s allegations about President Donald Trump freezing aid to Ukraine loomed large in the Senate impeachment trial when Trump’s defence cut short its arguments using up only about half the time allotted for it.
Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulo concluded his arguments on Tuesday saying, “Danger, danger, danger. These articles must be rejected. The Constitution requires it. Justice demands it.”
To buttress his case, the defence team ran videos of leading Democrats like its Senate leader Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez saying at the 1998 trial of Bill Clinton that it was important for the Senate to acquit the president in the interests of the nation.
Trump’s lawyers appeared to shorten their arguments because they want to speed up the trial and also want to avoid turning them into long. repetitive monolgues as it happened with the prosecutors who took up almost all of the allotted 24 hours.
The Senate agreed to hold 16 hours of questioning of the prosecutors and Trump’s legal team over Wednesday and Thursday, and then it was expected to take up the question of calling more witnesses.
Trump has been charged in the Democrat-controlled House of Representative impeachment with abuse of power over asking Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelentsky to probe the actions of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in that country involving a gas company.
A charge of obstruction of Congress was added because Trump did not allow some witnesses to testify during the impeachment process in the House and did not supply documents the investigators wanted.
Democratic prosecutors representing the House have said that Trump withheld vital military aid worth nearly $400 million to US ally Ukraine in order to pressure it to investigate Biden, who is the leading candidate to challenge Trump in the November election.
This, Adam Schiff, the leading prosecutor and the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said that it all amounted to getting foreign interference in US elections while endangering national security.
Bolton has reportedly written in the manuscript for an unpublished book that Trump directly linked the aid to the probe, which would undercut Sekulow’s argument that the president delayed aid because he wanted to be sure that Kyiv was opposed to corruption, and its legislature passed laws to set up a court for it.
Trump is certain to be acquitted because the Democrats cannot muster the two-thirds majority to convict and oust him from power in the 100-member Senate where Republicans hold 53 seats.
However, Democrats are trying to get four Republicans to defect and vote with them to call Bolton and other witnesses.
That could prolong the trial beyond February 4 when Trump is scheduled to deliver the State of the Union Address and also embarrass him further ahead of the November election.
Three Republican senators, including former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, appear open to calling Bolton as a witness and need only one more to join them.
Schiff told reporters after the trial adjourned for the day that it was essential to hear Bolton because he had first-hand knowledge of what transpired.
Referring to the Bolton manuscript, Sekulow said at the trial, “You cannot impeach a president on an unsourced allegation.”
Even if the Senate votes to call Bolton to testify, Trump could apply his executive privilege to stop. It would then depend on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the Senate trial, issuing a binding ruling that is acceptedAby all or if it has to go through the courts.
In concluding their arguments, Trump’s lawyers brought up a second line of defence laid out earlier by constitutional law expert and Harvard University Professor Alan Dershowitz that even Trump had done what he had done it does not amount to the constitutional standards of “high crimes and misdemeanours” for removal from office.
Republicans accuse the Democrats of using the impeachment to undo the 2016 election and to bar him from running for reelection instead of allowing the voters to decide Trump’s future.
Bolton, who is a foreign policy hawk, was dismissed by Trump last year.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)