Trump’s Impeachment Trial: Debate for Executive Witnesses

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Aadam Schiff and Pat Ciplonne During the Debates

The Republicans have demonstrated some fears to call witnesses from the executive branch in the ongoing Trump’s impeachment trial.

The interrogation period began on Wednesday in which Senators submitted questions in writing to be read aloud by Chief Justice, John Roberts.

The argument from Wednesday to Friday is the power of the Congress to call witnesses from the executive branch and, most of all, the need or not, for the former national security adviser, John Bolton and other witnesses to testify at the trial.

The Senators will decide whether to call witnesses or to move to a vote for Trump’s acquittal on Friday.

If the Senate votes to call witnesses, Trump’s legal team warned, “that changes the nature and scope of the proceeding” and could lead to court challenges that would draw the trial out.

Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment Manager, argued that John Roberts, “a perfectly good Chief Justice”, could make fast rulings that would prevent the testimony of John Bolton or others from creating a lengthy detour in the trial.

“They could no longer contest the facts, so now they have fallen back on, ‘you shouldn’t hear any further evidence on this subject.’ Think about the precedent you would be setting if you don’t allow witnesses in the trial,” Schiff said of Trumps’ defence team.


Trump was impeached for abuse of power for allegedly conditioning military aid for Ukraine on the receipt of personal political favors, and for obstruction of Congress for attempting to cover the scheme up.

Trump’s defense team has argued that the president withheld aid from Ukraine out of a desire to combat internal corruption in the country, although prosecutors in the case have pointed out that nowhere else in his life or presidency has Trump taken up anti-corruption measures as a priority.

The Democrats want to prove the above by allowing John Bolton to testify. Adam Schiff said,  “any senators with lingering questions about Trump’s motives for suspending aid to Ukraine have an easy solution at hand:  Call Bolton to testify.”

John Bolton has the manuscript to be published in March.  In the manuscript,  Bolton reportedly describes a conversation with Trump in August 2019 in which Trump said he did not want to release aid for Ukraine until the country announced investigations, including one into the former vice-president Joe Biden. The publication is set for March 17, 2020.

Patrick Philbin, a Trump lawyer, warned that as a former national security adviser, Bolton’s testimony could be protected by “an absolute privilege of confidentiality”.

“To suggest that the national security adviser, we’ll just subpoena him, he’ll come and it’ll be no problem – that’s not the way it would work because there’s a vital constitutional privilege there,” Philbin said. “There would be grave issues raised attempting to have a national security adviser to come.”

It is likely that John Bolton’s testimony would come to a clash of constitutional principles. But when that happens,  Democrats still seemed to lack the firm support of the three Republican senators they would need to advance the witnesses question. Cory Gardner of Colorado is one moderate Republican that announced on Wednesday he would vote against witnesses.

The three Republicans under the most intense scrutiny on both sides of the aisle are Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska

Republicans control the Senate with a 53-seat majority. A two-thirds majority of voting senators would be required to remove Trump from office.