What is Donald Trump’s defense team going to do during their impeachment trial arguments now that former national security adviser John Bolton has blown up one of their key contentions? They’ve insisted again and again that no witnesses had heard directly from Trump that Ukraine aid was held up to get investigations of Trump’s political opponents. But now we learn that Bolton’s book says that he had exactly that conversation with Trump—and Bolton has said he would testify under subpoena.
The impeachment trial will resume at 1 PM ET with Trump’s defense team continuing the opening arguments it briefly launched on Saturday, at the time strongly centering that “there are no eyewitness accounts” claim. The Sunday evening report of Bolton’s claim should pose a problem to any defense team. But does this one care enough?
Pat Cipollone, Jay Sekulow, and the rest of Trump’s lawyers have been content to lie and attack. They’re unlikely to change that basic strategy now, whether they continue on as if there was no new information, or acknowledge the reports in order to attack Bolton. But it will be interesting to see if they appear at least a little flustered. If they seem to have had a late night trying to reformulate their case even the slightest bit. If there’s visible flop sweat.
The other question is how Senate Republicans will respond. They’ve been okay with the whole lie-and-attack defense because they want to cover up what Trump did and move on, Republican political power intact. They’ve swallowed the Trump arguments whole, no matter how ridiculous, while feigning deep outrage every time Democrats have suggested that there’s a problem with covering up a president’s efforts to solicit foreign interference to benefit him in an election. Thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s tight restrictions on cameras, we don’t get to see the senators’ reactions. But it sure is going to be interesting to hear from reporters how the atmosphere in the Senate chamber and the demeanor of key senators compare with previous days.