Former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal and Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe agreed that the recent revelations from John Bolton, puts Republicans in a difficult position. Bolton’s manuscript confirmed that President Donald Trump’s bribery scheme puts senators in the difficult position of being faced with firsthand witnesses they’ve tried to block.
Republicans were given multiple opportunities to agree that they would like to hear witnesses and new evidence as part of the impeachment trial in the Senate, but each time, they voted against it. But with the news Bolton released Sunday night, it forces senators to acknowledge they deny even firsthand evidence of Trump’s guilt.
“It’s hugely devastating for the president,” said Katyal. “So, Article I of the impeachment against President Trump is an abuse of power, and the allegation is that he tried to cheat in the 2020 election and pressure the Ukrainian government to get dirt on Joe Biden. And the Bolton revelations today, if true, and of course we haven’t seen the book, but if true, corroborates all of that story and say that Trump did pressure the Ukrainians and held the aid in order to get dirt on Biden.”
He said that in the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress could also be proved by Bolton’s book. He gave firsthand accounts of conversations he had with people like Mick Mulvaney, Bill Barr, and Mike Pompeo, all of whom knew about this scheme and helped cover it up.
“It looks like people in the White House knew these were Bolton’s views. Yet, they went on television as recently as yesterday, denying that there was anyone with any firsthand knowledge that corroborated this Ukrainian pressure account,” Katyal continued. “And coming on top of the Lev Parnas revelations, this wasn’t even the latest one in the last three days. Altogether, I think it is the trajectory of this is incredibly bad for the president. His story has fallen apart.”
Professor Tribe agreed that it has become clear that the president’s case collapsed, but predicted that there was likely even more to come.
“And when Adam Schiff made the point that ‘America deserves a fair trial, she’s worth it,’ now we know exactly what that means,” he continued. “A fair trial requires that all of this new evidence be vetted at the Senate itself, not simply in books that will come out after the trial is over.”
He explained that these facts also put more pressure “on the bizarro argument” he anticipates the president’s lawyers will make Monday.
“Even if everything that is charged in these articles of impeachment is true, that is even if it is true that the president solicited help from a foreign power, pressured that power, withheld $400 million of federally-appropriated money, to leverage that power in order to give him dirt on his opponents, even if all of that is true, it isn’t impeachable,” Tribe reiterated the president’s case. “You have to listen hard to that crazy argument, but it may take the form that it says, ‘abuse of power isn’t impeachable because it’s such a vague, open-ended phrase.’ But what you have to do is look under the book cover and see what abuse of power is really being charged here.”
He argued that what is being charged isn’t merely an abuse of power or of obstruction but a series of concrete actions.
“And if these lawyers tell us that even if the president did all of that, it’s just fine, he can’t be impeached for it, then that sends a terrible signal to every future president,” Tribe said. “It says every future president can use the power of his office.”
Watch the full panel discussion below: