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Parnas says Trump 'knew what was going on': Impeachment update

Jordan Fabian

Senators on Wednesday will begin the first of two days questioning House managers and Donald Trump’s defense lawyers, before the president’s impeachment trial moves to the pivotal question of whether to call witnesses to testify.

Here are the latest developments:

Parnas Says Trump Knew What Was Going On’ (4:15 p.m.)

Rudy Giuliani’s indicted associate Lev Parnas led a group of reporters through a Senate office building to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office.

Parnas told a reporter he hoped “we’re going to get the truth.”

Lev Parnas, left, a Rudy Giuliani associate with ties to Ukraine, walks outside the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

Asked what the truth is, he said, “that the president knew what was going on.” How does Parnas know that? “Because I was directly working for him.”

Parnas said the last time he talked to Giuliani was “the day I got arrested” and that if he could say anything to him he would say, “tell the truth, Rudy.”

Parnas didn’t go into the gallery to watch the trial because he can’t get past security with his GPS ankle bracelet, said his lawyer Joseph Bondy. Parnas was indicted on campaign finance charges.

Mixed Motives Not Corrupt, Dershowitz Says (2:43 p.m.)

In this image from video, Alan Dershowitz, an attorney for President Donald Trump answers a question during the impeachment trial against Trump Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020.

Law professor Alan Dershowitz argued that a president can’t be impeached for taking actions that are partly motivated by a desire to help his own re-election.

“Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest,” Dershowitz said in response to a question from Republican Senator Ted Cruz. “And if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

Such a standard would allow almost any president to be impeached, he said.

“Everybody has mixed motives,” Dershowitz said. Presidents often check with pollsters and political advisers as well as policy advisers, and then balance the public interest with their own or their political party’s interest, he said. Actions taken with mixed motives can’t be considered corrupt, he said.

White House Moves to Delay Bolton Book (1:21 p.m.)

The White House moved to delay publication of former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s memoir, which the New York Times has reported describes Trump directly tying the release of Ukraine aid money to an announcement of an investigation of the Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden.

U.S. President Donald Trump and John Bolton attend a briefing from Senior Military Leadership in this April 9, 2018, file photo.

A national security official sent a letter to Bolton attorney Charles Cooper saying the manuscript cannot be published in its current form because it contains “significant amounts of classified information.”

Bolton had sent the manuscript to the White House National Security Council in December for a pre-publication review to check for classified information, as required for former officials who had access to secret information.

The letter to Cooper indicates the National Security Council will follow up with “detailed guidance” on what should be removed from the manuscript.

Senators Begin Questioning Lawyers (1:16 p.m.)

The Senate began Wednesday’s session, which will provide eight hours for senators’ questions for Trump’s defense team and the House prosecutors. The questions will continue for up to eight hours on Thursday as well.

Senators will submit their questions in writing to U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, who will read them out loud, alternating between Republican and Democratic questions. Roberts asked the defense and prosecution to limit their answers to five minutes each.

Democrats are likely to use their questions to highlight the need to call witnesses, especially former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Democrat Says Bolton Flagged Envoy Ouster (12:57 p.m.)

Former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton privately urged Democrats to probe the administration’s handling of Ukraine shortly after his departure from the White House, said House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel.

Bolton suggested in a Sept. 23 phone call that Democrats investigate Trump’s ouster of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, Engel said in a statement.

“He strongly implied that something improper had occurred around her removal as our top diplomat in Kyiv,” Engel said.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump questioned on Twitter why Bolton didn’t say anything about allegations of improprieties in the administration’s handling of Ukraine policy when he announced he was leaving the White House on Sept. 10.

“Why didn’t John Bolton complain about this nonsense’ a long time ago, when he was very publicly terminated,” Trump tweeted. “He said, not that it matters, NOTHING!”

Romney Firm in Wanting Bolton to Testify (12:42 p.m.)

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks to reporters as defense arguments by the Republicans resume in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

Senator Mitt Romney said he made clear to fellow Republicans that he is firm in backing former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton as a crucial witness in deciding the impeachment case.

“I have a great deal of confidence in John Bolton,” Romney, a former GOP presidential candidate, told reporters. “He’s a brilliant individual.”

Bolton is likely to be able to answer key questions such as what explanation Trump gave advisers when he decided to delay military aid for Ukraine, Romney said.

Bolton may also be able to tell senators whether “the president himself communicated to Ukraine” that the aid was being held up “in order to encourage them to investigate the Bidens,” Romney said.

“These are questions that relate to important issues I would like to get the answers to,” Romney added.

Parnas at Capitol, Can’t Attend Senate Trial (12:28 p.m.)

Lev Parnas, a Rudy Giuliani associate with ties to Ukraine, looks at his phone as he waits in the office of Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, is planning to give a news conference on the Capitol steps outside the impeachment trial this afternoon, his lawyer Joseph Bondy says.

Bondy plans to attend the trial in the Senate gallery, with a ticket that Minority Leader Chuck Schumer helped arrange, the lawyer said.

Parnas and Bondy last week released a video recording of Trump calling for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in 2018. The video was made during an April 2018 dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

Bondy said Wednesday that Parnas isn’t allowed to attend the trial because his GPS ankle monitor isn’t allowed in the Senate gallery. He wrote on Twitter Tuesday he and Parnas are supporting “a fair trial, with witnesses & evidence.”

Thune Warns of Drawn-Out’ Witness Process (12:10 p.m.)

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., answers reporters questions outside his office prior to the start of the impeachment trial Wednesday Jan 29, 2020, in Washington.

Second-ranking Senate Republican John Thune said that if senators vote later this week to consider hearing from witnesses, it’s going to be a “long, drawn-out, protracted process, in which both sides are going to want to have their pound of flesh.”

“It’s not like, gee, the Democrats get to call Bolton,” said Thune of South Dakota, referring to former National Security Advisor John Bolton. “We have a lot of members, and the president’s counsel, obviously, who are going to want to call witnesses the Democrats are not going to like.”

If the Senate votes not to consider witness subpoenas, he said, the trial will go into “the free-for-all zone” in which senators will be making various proposals on how to proceed.

“I suspect motions will be offered – one of which obviously could be to go to final arguments,” Thune said.

Trump Jokes About Thanking GOP Senators (11:27 a.m.)

Trump on Wednesday thanked GOP senators by name for their work passing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade pact, joking that he had ulterior motives for acknowledging them.

President Donald Trump speaks during an event at the White House to sign a new North American trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in Washington.

“Maybe I’m being just nice to them because I want their vote,” he said at a White House event to sign the agreement.

Trump made the comment as the Senate is in its second week of Trump’s impeachment trial.

Manchin Backs Having Hunter Biden as Witness (9:08 a.m.)

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin says he believes Hunter Biden is a “relevant witness” in the Senate impeachment trial, a stance that breaks with his party’s.

The West Virginia Democrat told MSNBC on Wednesday he would “absolutely” vote to call former Vice President Joe Biden’s son as a witness, as long as Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, rules him pertinent to the case.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., talks to reporters before attending the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

“I want to hear everything I can,” Manchin said.

The Senate could vote on whether to allow witnesses on Friday. Democrats are pushing for more testimony, particularly from former National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has said he has relevant information to share. Some moderate Republicans have also said they may want to hear from witnesses.

So far, most Democrats have resisted Republican suggestions to call Hunter Biden, saying doing so would be solely for political reasons, and that he doesn’t have relevant information about Trump withholding aide to the Ukraine in an attempt to force that country to announce an investigation into the Bidens.

Bolton Risked World War Six,’ Trump Says (7:55 a.m.)

Former national security adviser John Bolton, left, and President Donald J. Trump

Trump on Wednesday trashed Bolton for writing a “nasty & untrue book” as the Senate debates whether to call Bolton as a witness in the president’s impeachment trial.

In a series of tweets, Trump said he named Bolton as his top security aide even though others told him “don’t do it, sir,“ and fired Bolton because “if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now.“ Trump did not mention Bolton by name in the tweets.

The president said Bolton’s forthcoming book, which reportedly says that Trump told Bolton he was withholding security aid from Ukraine until the country offered help with investigations related to Biden, contains “All Classified National Security” a sign he could try and block Bolton from testifying before the Senate.

Trump urged Republicans in a subsequent tweet not to “let the Dems play you,” by convincing them to support calling witnesses.

Senators are expected to vote on Friday whether to hear testimony from witnesses in the impeachment trial. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pushed for a swift trial with no testimony, but some moderate Republicans have said they want to hear from witnesses – calls that grew louder after the New York Times reported Sunday on the contents of Bolton’s book.

Senators’ Questioning of Lawyers to Begin (6 a.m.)

Senators will submit their questions in writing to Chief Justice John Roberts, who will read them aloud for the lawyers to answer.

There’s no official time limit for each answer by prosecution or defense lawyers, although Roberts suggested that five minutes should be enough. Republicans and Democrats will alternate submitting questions.

On Friday, the Senate is expected to debate and vote on whether to call witnesses including former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Republican leaders are trying to tamp down sentiment for subpoenaing Bolton to discuss his reported claim in an upcoming book that Trump tied aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political rival Joe Biden.

Several Republican senators said Tuesday they were undecided on whether to subpoena witnesses. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said during a private meeting that he didn’t yet have the votes to block witnesses, a Senate GOP aide said.

Many Republicans have said House Democrats lack first-hand evidence that Trump tied Ukraine aid to investigations, while Democrats say Bolton could provide that first-hand information.