Bolton Revelations Add Uncertainty To Senate Impeachment Trial

Senators must decide whether the former national security advisor’s claims of a Ukraine quid pro quo mean he should testify.

By Rhonda Fanning & Jill AmentJanuary 28, 2020 12:38 pm

Anticipation about what former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s forthcoming book has to say about President Donald Trump’s motivation for withholding military aid from Ukraine has shaken up the Senate impeachment trial. Trump’s defense is scheduled to conclude on Tuesday, as Republican senators weigh whether to move toward a vote on impeachment without further information about the contents of Bolton’s book, or to call him as a witness.

Lynne Rambo is a constitutional law scholar at Texas A&M University School of Law. She says if Bolton’s allegation that Trump insisted on a quid pro quo with Ukraine is proven true, Republican senators worry that “they will look poorly in the light of history.”

Rambo says it’s difficult to predict whether moderate Republicans will push for Bolton to testify in the impeachment trial, and whether that would open the door to testimony from Hunter Biden, whose business interests are the subject of the corruption investigation Trump had hoped Ukraine would take on. Staunch Trump supporters in the Senate might push for a deal that would result in Bolton and Biden being called as witnesses.

“There’s the possibility of sort of a game of chicken,” Rambo says. In other words, “We will grant you the right to have Bolton as long as you agree to permit Biden to testify.”

Rambo says the constitutional argument made Monday by Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz is different than his past position on what constitutes an impeachable offense. It’s also at odds with other legal experts.

“He’s cutting against the majority of constitutional law scholars with respect to whether or not a criminal offense, per se, is required by the Constitution,” Rambo says.

Dershowitz argues that the articles of impeachment passed by the House against Trump do not refer to “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” and are therefore not grounds for removing Trump from office.

Rambo says that argument isn’t supported by what the founders said and wrote when they were drafting the Constitution rules for impeaching a president.


Written by Shelly Brisbin.