WASHINGTON (CN) — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that the new revelations about what motivated the U.S. freeze on military aid to Ukraine bolsters the case against President Donald Trump.
“It boils down to one thing: we have a witness with firsthand evidence of the president's actions for which he is on trial,” Schumer said of former national security adviser John Bolton this morning at a press conference. “He is ready and willing to testify. How can Senate Republicans not vote to call that witness?”
Schumer spoke out the morning after The New York Times reported that a manuscript of Bolton’s upcoming book quotes Trump as saying in August that he would not release nearly $400 in military aid to Ukraine unless officials there announced an investigation into the Bidens.
The revelation undercuts the White House defense that the aid holdup was not linked to the sought-after investigations, just as his legal team mounts its defense in the Senate trial to remove Trump from office.
In a press conference immediately following Schumer’s, Republican Senators John Barrasso and Mike Braun said the president has already acknowledged that what Bolton writes in his book is unfounded.
“I’ll just cut to the chase,” Braun said, stepping to the lectern. “It really doesn’t change anything.”
Pressed by reporters, the Indiana senator said he would not deny that the Bolton report could make a “dynamic difference” and “move the needle” for GOP colleagues still grappling with the issue of calling witnesses.
Asked if Republicans believe Bolton to be a credible witness, Braun said the former national security adviser would be vetted if called to testify.
If called, witnesses will first give testimony in depositions, then the Senate will decide whether or not the witness will testify publicly from the chamber floor, according to the rules passed on party lines.
But Schumer, who needs four GOP senators to vote to subpoena witnesses, said the Republicans must call Bolton to testify to ensure a fair trial.
“We are all staring a White House coverup in the face,” Schumer said. Republicans who do not vote to subpoena Bolton and other key witnesses join that cover up, he added.
After Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell outlined the rules of the impeachment trial proceedings last week, GOP members unanimously voted down Democrat amendments that would have guaranteed witness testimony from Bolton and other top Trump officials blocked by the White House.
Democrats have continued to call for testimony from Bolton, as well as White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, arguing a trial without witnesses or documents would be a rigged trail to clear the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., echoed Schumer’s cry for a fair trial and challenged the Republicans to hear from top presidential advisers at the center of the Ukraine scandal.
“It’s gut check time for the members of the United States Senate,” Baldwin said.
Schumer said last week that trading testimony from Bolton for Republicans calling Hunter Biden as a witness was “off the table”
At Monday’s press conference, he reiterated that stance more broadly.
"We think witnesses who are not eyewitness to what happened, documents that are not relevant to what happened, shouldn't be part of this plain and simple,” the minority leader said.
Hunter Biden is the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a top contender for the Democratic presidential nomination this year. Trump is thought to have been politically motivated in attempting to highlight Hunter’s former position on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
The Bolton manuscript is under review by the White House — a routine clearance process for current and former West Wing staff publishing a book.
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