These next couple of days were supposed to be President Donald Trump’s chance to change the narrative. Instead, all focus is being put upon whether or not additional witness testimony — particularly from a prominent former member of his own administration — should be heard after his legal team concludes its case.
House impeachment managers had wrapped up their case last week, demonstrating a compelling case in favor of indicting the president and removing him from office. In one noteworthy example, Rep. Adam Schiff choked up delivering a speech in which he explained that doing the right thing still mattered in America:
“If right doesn’t matter — if right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the Constitution is. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the Framers were. Doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. Doesn’t matter how well written the oath of impartiality is. If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”
For three days last week, Democrats from the House, in favor of indicting Trump, gave noteworthy statements and provided evidence of the president’s malfeasance. Then, it became Trump’s legal team’s turn — and on day one, they decided to shorten their rebuttal substantially, opting to give just a few hours of statements on Saturday because it was deemed a day that no one would be watching on TV.
But news did break about the impeachment over the weekend that captivated a large audience — not on anything Trump’s impeachment lawyers had to say, but rather what his former National Security Advisor John Bolton had written in a yet-to-be-published book coming out this spring.
In the book, entitled “The Room Where It Happened,” Bolton alleges that Trump told him that the freeze of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine was done precisely to force that nation to announce an investigation into one of Trump’s domestic political rivals, the New York Times reported — giving strong evidence in favor of House managers’ previous arguments, if it’s found to be true.
The only way to verify the authenticity of Bolton’s allegations is, of course, to hear from him himself — something that several Republican leaders have argued against allowing during the Senate trial, but which many wayward GOP senators may be leaning toward in the wake of the new details that have come about over the weekend.
It’s hard to imagine how, in any other trial, this new information could be dismissed; and thus, calls for dismissing it here seem transparently political. Indeed, courtroom dramas are inundated with examples of last-minute evidence coming in, being introduced to the judge and allowed to be used in order to exonerate or adjudicate the defendant. To not allow Bolton to testify now would go against what a vast majority of Americans wanted anyway — and demonstrate that Senate Republicans are only trying to help Trump politically in this whole thing, not engage in a fair trial by any stretch of the imagination.
Regardless of what happens, the Bolton reveal has put a damper on Trump’s legal defense, if not in the Senate then definitely in the court of public opinion. Anything they say now will be overshadowed by Bolton’s allegations, and the demand that they’re fighting so hard against — for the Senate to hear from him and other potential witnesses — will only grow from here on out, in spite of what they might say in their next two days of arguments.
The momentum change Trump was hoping for this week won’t come. It’s unclear how that may hurt Trump, and to what extent, but it’s definitely not something he was counting on happening, and it won’t help him to convince the American people (a slim majority of which supports his removal from office) that he deserves to keep his job.