Democrats are stepping up pressure on Republicans to support calling witnesses as part of President Trump’s impeachment trial after a bombshell New York Times report Sunday evening.
The Times, citing sources familiar with former national security adviser John Bolton’s unpublished memoir, reported that Bolton claims President Trump sought to tie $391 million in aid to Ukraine to his requests for the country’s leaders to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. The Hill has not seen or verified the manuscript.
Democrats, including House impeachment managers, immediately seized on the report, arguing it underscores the need for Bolton and other administration officials to testify.
“John Bolton has the evidence,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote in a tweet
. “It’s up to four Senate Republicans to ensure that John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, and the others with direct knowledge of President Trump’s actions testify in the Senate trial.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the Times report gave Republican senators a choice between “our Constitution or a cover-up.”
“Amb. Bolton reportedly heard directly from Trump that aid for Ukraine was tied to political investigations. The refusal of the Senate to call for him, other relevant witnesses, and documents is now even more indefensible,” Pelosi tweeted.
The Seven House impeachment managers, in a joint statement, called the Times piece an “explosive revelation” that underscores that Bolton has to be called to testify.
“Senators should insist that Mr. Bolton be called as a witness, and provide his notes and other relevant documents. The Senate trial must seek the full truth and Mr. Bolton has vital information to provide,” the House managers said.
“There is no defensible reason to wait until his book is published, when the information he has to offer is critical to the most important decision Senators must now make — whether to convict the President of impeachable offenses,” they continued.
The Times report comes as a curveball in the middle of Trump’s impeachment trial, which could wrap as soon as this week.
Trump’s legal team began presenting its defense on Saturday, including arguing that the president’s decision to hold up Ukraine aid was tied to concerns about corruption or a belief that Europe wasn’t doing enough to support Ukraine.
The push for Bolton’s testimony comes as the Senate could vote as soon as midweek on whether to allow new witnesses or documents. In addition to Bolton, Democrats want to hear from acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Mulvaney’s adviser Robert Blair and Michael Duffey, an Office of Management and Budget staffer.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) tweeted that Republicans have “run out of excuses” to oppose calling new witnesses.
“Bolton is screaming ‘call me as a witness.’ Willful blindness to the truth is a gross violation of their constitutional duty, especially when a big part of Trump’s defense is that he didn’t withhold Ukraine aid for personal political favors,” he said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is running for the party’s presidential nomination, added, “As I’ve said all week, the truth will come out. And it just did. Testify.”
Democrats need four Republicans to side with them to call witnesses, an uphill battle given the party’s unity so far on impeachment.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has said that he wants to hear from Bolton. He added on Saturday that he was “very likely” to support calling witnesses.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have both signaled they are keeping an open mind on whether to call witnesses. Spokespeople for the two senators did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — who is retiring but also is a close ally to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — has been tight-lipped about if he will ultimately support witnesses.
“After I hear both sides, and after we have a chance to answer our questions, I think it shouldn’t be difficult to decide if we need additional documents or additional witnesses,” he said on Saturday. “But I don’t think it’s appropriate to decide that before then.”