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The Trump-McConnell Impeachment Dilemma

By Curt Anderson
January 11, 2020 2:17 pm
Category: Law

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Republicans are pressured to protect Trump from damaging testimony and pressured by the voting public who by better than two-to-one want to hear from witnesses at the impeachment trial. While the chances of Trump being convicted and removed from office are slim, public testimony could inflict a crippling wound on the leader of their party. No witness testimony gives the appearance of a sham trial. It's a pickle for the GOP, especially Republicans in swing states.

Politico reported that President Donald Trump on Friday said he planned to invoke executive privilege in the event former national security adviser John Bolton was subpoenaed by lawmakers for the Senate impeachment trial.

In clips of an interview with Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host asks Trump why he wouldn’t block Bolton from testifying if Bolton had information that could bolster Trump’s claims that he’d done nothing wrong.

Trump responded that he would have "no problem" with Bolton testifying, "other than one thing."

"You can’t be in the White House as president, future, I’m talking about future — any future presidents — and have a security adviser, anybody having to do with security, and legal and other things but especially—," he argued, before Ingraham interjected.

"Are you going to invoke executive privilege?" she asked.

"Well I think you have to for the sake of the office," Trump replied. (See YouTube video below)

John Bolton is the then-Trump national security adviser who wanted "no part of the drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney [were] cooking up," namely: pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations of the Bidens and the debunked CrowdStrike conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. Needless to say, this is an issue central to the House’s impeachment case.

Neal Katyal, the self-described "Supreme Court lawyer; law professor; extremist centrist. Former US Acting Solicitor General" noted that a judge's decision removed any excuses for Bolton not to testify.

Neal Katyal ✔ @neal_katyal
See below. Now that Judge Leon has dismissed the Kupperman/Bolton case, Judge Jackson's ruling is the definitive word. Bolton must testify. …
Joshua A. Geltzer
2 takeaways from this obviously correct dismissal of Kupperman case:
- The definitive word on Trump’s absolute immunity claim remains that it’s bogus.
- Given that & now given yesterday’s new Ukraine reporting, Bolton’s refusal to testify is utterly unjustified & unjustifiable.
2:15 PM - Dec 30, 2019

On January sixth, John Bolton said, "I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify".

Trump, as is his wont, will use every legal maneuver to block Bolton's testimony. Despite Trump's claims that he has "no problem" with relevant witnesses testifying, he's actually terrified that John Bolton, former White House counsel Don McGahn, former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman and other White House insiders might testify.

The Trump-McConnell dilemma is this: Should Trump and McConnell allow testimony from witnesses who may incriminate Trump? (Bolton already called the Trump's pressure on Ukraine a "drug deal".) Or should they block that potentially damaging testimony thus appear to be engaged in a cover-up and conducting a sham trial? (By 57% to 24% voters want to see more witnesses at Trump's impeachment trial. See poll image below.)

This is also a dilemma for Republican Senators who may feel pressured to protect Trump from damaging testimony but who don't want to defy public sentiment.

Now if Trump were really innocent he'd probably have no hesitation to allow witnesses to testify and provide exculpatory evidence. As Trump himself has said about using legal reasons to squelch testimony: "If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth?"

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