GOP blocks witnesses in Senate impeachment trial, as final vote could drag to next week

Republicans in the Senate secured enough votes Friday evening to reject Democratic efforts to extend the Trump impeachment trial and call new witnesses, as the final vote on whether or not to remove President Trump from office could drag into next week.

After hours of debate during the day, the Senate voted 51 to 49 to block a Democratic motion to call new witnesses. The vote came after vehement demands from Democrats to call former national security adviser John Bolton to testify about the Trump-Ukraine saga.

DEMS WORK TO DRAW OUT IMPEACHMENT FINALE, POTENTIALLY PUSHING FINAL VOTE INTO NEXT WEEK

Two Republicans — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Maine Sen. Susan Collins — voted with Democrats for new witnesses.

It’s unclear exactly what comes next. The final up-and-down vote — amid the widespread expectation that Trump will be acquitted in the end — could continue into next week, as senators must contend with motions and potential debate by senators on the floor or in closed session.

“Senators will now confer among ourselves, with the House managers, and with the president’s counsel to determine next steps as we prepare to conclude the trial in the coming days,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement after the vote on witnesses.

McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer have not yet hammered out a proposal on how to move forward, Schumer said Friday afternoon, but signaled that Democrats may try to force a debate and put senators in a position where they’d have to defend their votes.

“We are going to use whatever power we have… to prevent it from being rushed through, but right now there is no agreement,” Schumer said earlier Friday during a break in the trial.

The timing is especially fluid since the resolution senators passed to open the impeachment trial does not prescribe how to end it. That means the length of motions and timing for procedures are being developed on the fly.

Earlier Friday, it became apparent that Republicans had the votes to shut down any new witnesses from testifying in the trial, with Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, announcing they wouldn’t defect.

While they won’t get the witnesses, Democrats want to ensure senators take the time to debate the issue anyway — and in public.

“Mitch McConnell wants this over as fast as possible with as little attention as possible,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Friday. “That’s why today I’m going to fight to ensure the American people can hear our deliberations.”

Brown has teamed up with Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on two motions to prevent closed-door deliberations and force senators to explain their votes in public.

Unlike typical Senate votes, the rules for impeachment require that any debate among senators take place in secret. Each senator can speak for 10 minutes apiece on a vote on witnesses and 15 minutes each on the final question of whether or not to acquit the president.

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Democratic senators will put forth two motions that will force a debate on the two big looming votes — witnesses and the articles of impeachment — which would automatically extend the time of the trial. They propose that the debate be out in the open, rather than in a closed session.

The motions would need the support of 51 senators to pass.

Blumenthal rejected any criticism that Democrats are trying to extend the trial until past the Iowa caucuses, which would keep four 2020 White House hopefuls away from the campaign trail and past Trump’s planned State of the Union address on Tuesday.

He said the timing of these events “are totally irrelevant.”

“Pardon me for seeming somewhat cavalier about it, but we’re talking about an impeachment trial. Nothing we do as senators will be more important,” Blumenthal said.

Democrats making the case for more witnesses in the trial were dumbfounded that Republicans wouldn’t sign on, especially as new information kept leaking out in real-time.

Shortly before the trial resumed on Friday, The New York Times broke another story on ex-national security adviser John Bolton’s manuscript. In it, Bolton claims Trump directed him to help with his pressure campaign to get damaging information on Democrats from Ukraine.

Trump gave the orders during a May Oval Office meeting that included White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is spearheading Trump’s defense in the impeachment trial, the report said.

“How absolutely outrageous that The New York Times should be doing the investigative work that the Senate is too cowardly to do?” Blumenthal said. “You know we should be thankful we have a free press that is uncovering the truth… They are doing the job that the United States Senate should be doing, but it has abdicated its responsibility.”

Trump has denied Bolton’s claims and dismissed him as a disgruntled ex-employee trying to sell a book.

“I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of N.Y.C., to meet with President [Volodymyr] Zelensky. That meeting never happened,” Trump said in a statement.

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Several GOP senators grumbled at the prospect of the trial continuing past Friday. Many expressed frustration that Trump got impeached on what they believe is a flimsy case and they want the trial to end as soon as possible.

“Let’s go and get this over with for the sake of the American people,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said.

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said Trump will be able to give a State of the Union address on Tuesday successfully even if he hasn’t been acquitted just yet.

“He would be able to do almost anything most other individuals couldn’t,” Braun said.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s announcement that she’s a ‘no’ vote means the President’s party has the support to bring a swift end to Trump’s trial

There is significant frustration among GOP senators who want to close out the impeachment trial and don’t see the value of pushing this into next week. 

On the other side, there are the senators who want an opportunity to express their views on the floor. 

“There’s a split in the conference and we’re trying to resolve it,” a source familiar with what’s happening says.

Why this matters: Because McConnell basically can’t do anything without 51 votes and if he doesn’t have them, he’s forced into the scenario that has transpired since this morning – trying to figure out a way to bridge the gap (hence the talk of the supplementary resolution to guide the remainder of the trial).

Add on top of that, the White House desire to get this done before the State of the Union, and Democrats unwillingness to agree to any resolution that doesn’t go beyond that date, and well, here we are.

During the break in proceedings, a number of senators also met with McConnell, including Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Lamar Alexander.

Leslie Chance found guilty of first-degree murder

Leslie Jenea Chance, a former elementary school principal, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2013 killing of her husband Todd Chance on Thursday in Kern County Superior Court.

The verdict capped a four-and-a-half-week trial in which the prosecution set out to prove Chance, 53, shot her husband the morning of Aug. 25, 2013 because of a texting tryst he had carried on with a former girlfriend. She planned the murder for weeks beforehand, the prosecution said, using information learned at a CSI exhibit in Las Vegas to cover her tracks and make it look like someone else killed Todd Chance, who was 45 at the time.

She is likely to face 50 years to life in prison when she is sentenced in March, said Deputy District Attorney Art Norris, because the jury also found she used a firearm in the commission of a crime. The jury, however, did not find she killed her husband for financial gain.

“I feel wonderful. I feel extremely relieved,” Norris said after leaving the courtroom. “It’s a long and arduous case. It’s been a long time coming.” Assistant District Attorney Andrea Kohler also argued the case.

The courtroom was crowded with family members and other attorneys who were not part of the case but wanted to watch the verdict. Chance’s oldest daughter from a previous marriage, Jessica Bullman, was in court as she has been through most of the trial, as well as at least one of the two daughters she had with Todd Chance. Todd Chance’s parents, Diana and Travis, were also in the courtroom.

When the verdict was read in court, the daughters wiped their eyes with tissues. Leslie Chance seemed to stare into the space in front of her as jurors were excused and sentencing was scheduled.

Later, outside the courthouse, mother-in-law Diana Chance was also emotional, hugging Norris.

Chance’s conviction was no slam dunk.

Among the evidence was grainy and sometimes distorted surveillance video of a figure walking down the street and into Walmart on a circuitous route prosecutors say Leslie Chance took to get home the morning she murdered her husband. Along the way, she was disguised in a hat and sunglasses, and changed clothes and shoes, prosecutors said.

Leslie Chance’s three daughters testified the person in the video was not their mother. And other friends and relatives interviewed by sheriff’s investigators said they couldn’t be certain it was her. One witness, a colleague of hers from Greenfield Union School District, said Leslie Chance always wore glasses and noted the person in some footage wasn’t wearing glasses.

When she took the stand in her own defense, Leslie Chance testified that she didn’t wear contact lenses at the time. However, prosecutors later presented evidence showing she ordered two boxes of contact lenses on her most recent visit to the eye doctor a month before the murder.

Also complicating matters, it came to light during the trial that a sheriff’s investigator on the case failed to enter some witness interviews into evidence.

In any other court, a judge would’ve declared a mistrial solely based on the unlogged evidence, said Tony Lidgett, Leslie Chance’s defense attorney. Lidgett said he was shocked by the verdict and truly believed in his client’s innocence.

Throughout the trial, no one he encountered, except Leslie Chance’s mother-in-law, had anything bad to say about her.

“You just don’t hear that in a case like this,” he said.

“(The jury) did what they thought was right …. But I know I have three girls,” he said referring to Leslie Chance’s daughters, “and all of them know their mother is innocent.”

“I completely felt I’ve disappointed them,” he said of the daughters.

Leslie Chance was first arrested in 2013, days after her husband’s body was found, but was released a few days later when prosecutors requested further inquiry from investigators with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. She was arrested again in December 2016.

She was the principal at Fairview Elementary in the Greenfield Union School District. On Thursday, the district announced that the employment of Chance, who was on unpaid leave since being charged with murder in 2016, will be terminated.

San Diego resident tests negative for coronavirus, clearing list of potential patients

A San Diego resident who developed a respiratory illness after returning home from Wuhan, China, has tested negative for the new coronavirus.

The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency said Thursday evening that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed the results. No one else in the county is currently under observation for signs of the virus.

“We are monitoring this new virus just like we would any infectious disease,” Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County’s public health officer, said in a statement. “We are prepared and conducting surveillance to keep this virus from spreading locally.”

Passengers arriving from Wuhan at Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport are being screened. The goal is to identify people who may have symptoms of being infected with the coronavirus, which the World Health Organization on Thursday declared a global health emergency.

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Health officials continue to say that the risk of infection for the general public is minimal in California, as well as in the rest of the United States. People who have not traveled to an area where the virus has been detected and have not had close contact with a patient who tested positive for coronavirus have a very low risk of infection.

As of Thursday, only two people in California, a patient in Los Angeles County and another in Orange County, had tested positive for the coronavirus, called 2019-nCoV. The respiratory virus, first identified in Wuhan, has has sickened more than 9,770 people on four continents and claimed at least 213 lives.

UC Berkeley removes ‘Boalt Hall’ name from law school after discovery of namesake’s racist speech

The University of California, Berkeley removed the legend “Boalt Hall” from the facade of its main law school building Thursday, severing an association dating back more than 100 years.

The decision to de-name the hall was the culmination of a process that lasted nearly three years and was launched after Charles Reichmann, a lecturer at the school, discovered a racist speech delivered in 1877 by the prominent Bay Area lawyer John Henry Boalt.

In a statement, the university said Boalt was “instrumental in legitimizing anti-Chinese racism and in catalyzing support for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 — the nation’s first immigration ban on a specific group of people solely on the basis of race or nationality.”

“Yet,” they wrote, “until 2017 his views weren’t well known on campus.”

According to the Berkeley Library News website, Reichmann discovered the speech in the university’s Bancroft Library while researching the debate on Chinese immigration. Boalt’s speech included remarks like: “Two non-assimilating races never yet lived together harmoniously on the same soil, unless one of these races was in a state of servitude to the other” and adds that “It would certainly seem that in an extreme case of divergence as between extermination and this kind of reconciliation, the former were the more agreeable alternative.”

“This is a really racist document,” Reichmann told the Berkeley Library News, “and it’s not just a level-handed, prudential, ‘We should limit immigration for the good of the commonwealth.’ It’s way beyond that.”

Boalt himself never attended or taught at the university. His name was attached to the law school after his widow, Elizabeth, allocated two parcels of San Francisco land valued at $100,000 into a trust to be sold for the university to construct a hall in her late husband’s honor. Those properties were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but in 1911 the university named the newly-erected Boalt Memorial Hall of Law in recognition of Elizabeth’s generosity.

In 1951, the school moved to a larger facility and the regents changed the school’s name to the UC Berkeley School of Law from the School of Jurisprudence. The name Boalt Hall was given to the main classroom wing of the law school but for decades many of its students and graduates referred to the entire school as Boalt Hall.

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Only one other de-naming is known to have occurred in the 10-campus University of California system. In 2018, UC Irvine removed donor Francisco J. Ayala’s name from its biological sciences school and central science library after sexual harassment claims against him were substantiated.

“I am saddened to see my great university following the herd of other colleges that are selectively editing American history,” UC Berkeley Professor of Law John Yoo told Fox News. “The answer to the sad moment of the past is not to remove people and events from our collective memory, but to remember them and learn from them.”

“Shall we next re-sculpt Mount Rushmore because Washington and Jefferson owned slaves and Roosevelt liked war — closer to home, shall we end the Jefferson lectures at Berkeley for the same reason?” Yoo asked. “Shall we edit out the names of the chancellors and university leaders who worked on the nuclear bomb because the politically sensitive on campuses today reject that WWII ended with Hiroshima and Nagasaki?”

A 2018 report by a law school committee tasked by Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky to assess whether the name should still be used concluded that Boalt’s  “principal public legacy is…one of racism and bigotry.”

“John Boalt’s positive contributions to the university do not appear to outweigh this legacy of harm,” the report read.

A 13-member Building Name Review Committee, assembled by UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, voted to recommend the removal of Boalt’s name from the building. The decision was then approved by Christ and UC system President Janet Napolitano.

In a letter to Napolitano, Christ wrote that “Removing the Boalt name from our campus — as well as acknowledging our historical ties to John Boalt — will help Berkeley recognize a troubled part of our history, while better supporting the diverse membership of today’s academic community.”

For decades, many of the UC Berkeley School of Law's students and graduates referred to the entire school as Boalt Hall.

For decades, many of the UC Berkeley School of Law’s students and graduates referred to the entire school as Boalt Hall.

However, in accordance with the vote to strip the name, the committee recommended that the law school “present the relevant history as part of a commitment to restorative justice.”

“This cannot be about erasing a difficult history or forgetting all of the years that the name Boalt was used and why it was changed,” Chemerinsky agreed.

Boalt Hall will now be known as The Law Building. The law school complex includes three other buildings — Simon Hall, North Addition, and South Addition.

“Campuses across the country are dealing with similar questions,” Chemerinsky said, “and I think that our careful investigation and civil discussion hopefully can be a model for others grappling with these difficult issues.”

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“Institutions dedicated to the search for truth should not find it in their mission to add and delete from that truth for reasons of current political correctness,” Yoo stated.

Instead, he argued that Berkely should have used Boalt’s name as the “starting point” for further “debate and discussion of his attitude toward the Chinese, the late 19th-century treatment of immigrants, and questions of race then and today.”

“It is only by remembering and discussing these events, rather than pretending they never happened, that we will make sure they don’t happen again,” Yoo concluded.

Eric Herschmann pivots away from constitutional arguments and cites Trump’s approval rating to fight the articles of impeachment

Julio Cortez/AP Julio Cortez/AP

The House’s inability to get information out of the executive branch has been at the heart of the impeachment trial.

Federal Judge Randy Moss raised the possibility today that individual members of Congress may have more success getting documents from President Trump’s administration if they sued as private citizens.

Moss raised the issue during a hearing over a House subpoena over the 2020 Census, where agencies have refused to turn over some documents.

“It strikes me as remarkable that the institution [of Congress] lacks the power to enforce a subpoena,” Moss said.

Some context: Judges like Moss in DC’s District Court frequently force government agencies to make their records public.

Yet the Justice Department has bogged down House requests for records during impeachment and related investigations because of questions about the judiciary’s role in disputes between the executive branch and Congress.

So far, private groups have gotten hundreds of pages of documents related to President Trump and other officials’ dealings with Ukraine through FOIA cases

At the same time, the House hasn’t been able to get those documents. Some of the documents released thus far — happening while the House’s Ukraine inquiry and the Senate trial have been ongoing — added new information about the administration’s withholding of military aid to Ukraine and interactions with Trump’s private attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Moss didn’t mention Schiff by name today but his comments indirectly raised the question: Could House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff have gotten the Trump-Ukraine documents by himself if he pursued them under the public records law?

As soon as Moss pointed out the logic, the DOJ civil division chief Jody Hunt shook his head in the courtroom, While House general counsel Doug Letter and his colleagues around him nodded with broad smiles.

GET Bus to hold food distribution on Friday

Golden Empire Transit District will host its quarterly food distribution on Friday.

The distribution will take place at 9 a.m. behind the Self Help Federal Credit Union at 2100 H St. It will be put on with the help of Community Action Partnership of Kern Food Bank, according to GET. 

Residents will be given nonperishable items, produce and dairy products. GET’s July 2019 distribution produced 350 bags of food to local Kern County residents, according to GET.

“Our goal is to distribute food four times a year to impact the lives of people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said GET Chief Executive Officer Karen King.

A resource fair will also be held during the distribution with the following organizations providing free information and services: 

  • The Kern County Homeless Collaborative
  • Independent Living Center
  • Bike Bakersfield
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Service Inc.
  • Mexican American Opportunity Foundation
  • Self Help Credit Union
  • Brenda Jean’s Sober Living Facility
  • Clinica Sierra Vista, Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance
  • Black Infant Health Project
  • Child Support Services
  • Garden Pathways
  • Kern Family Health Care
  • UFW Foundation Kern County Public Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
  • Southwest Branch of the Kern County Library
  • Volunteer Senior Outreach Program

Oxnard police officer killed when truck collides with his motorcycle

A 45-year-old Oxnard police officer was killed Wednesday afternoon shortly after leaving work when his motorcycle and a semi truck collided.

About 4 p.m., officers responded to a traffic collision on Third Street near Campton Drive and soon found their colleague, Officer Nathan Martin, suffering from life-threatening injuries.

Martin, a 20-year veteran of the Oxnard Police Department, was taken to a hospital where he died as a result of his injuries.

“It is a terrible and dark day for everyone here at the city of Oxnard and the Oxnard Police Department,” Police Chief Scott Whitney said at a news conference. “… Several of the first responders on scene were close personal friends of Officer Martin and are obviously devastated.”

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The California Highway Patrol is investigating the incident.

According to preliminary information, Martin was on his personal motorcycle riding eastbound on Third Street, less than a mile from the station, when the truck turned in front of him, Whitney said. Authorities have not yet determined whether the truck driver violated traffic laws.

“Clearly you don’t have the right to turn in front of oncoming traffic,” Whitney said.

Whitney said he did not believe the driver was in custody.

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Martin held several assignments while an officer on the force, including as a patrol officer, property crimes investigator and traffic officer. He was most recently assigned as a school resource officer at Hueneme High School.

Martin is survived by his wife and three children. His brother, Tom, was also an Oxnard police officer.

“He was a good man, he worked hard for the city,” Police Chief Scott Whitney said at a news conference. “He was committed to his job. … The students at Hueneme High School loved him. The faculty loved him. We know that they’re going to take it hard tomorrow.”

CNN’s Don Lemon blasted for his ‘non-apology’ after panel trashing Trump supporters sparked outcry

CNN anchor Don Lemon’s remarks addressing the panel that mocked Trump supporters was widely panned on social media.

On Tuesday night, Lemon briefly commented on the viral panel discussion that sparked an uproar after Trump supporters were described as illiterate “credulous boomer rubes,” but stressed that he was only laughing at the joke and not at “any group of people.”

“This is personally important for me to address this, OK? Ask anyone who knows me, they’ll tell you — I don’t believe in belittling people, belittling anyone for who they are, what they believe, or where they’re from,” Lemon said towards the top of his show. “During an interview on Saturday night, one of my guests said something that made me laugh. And while in the moment, I found that joke humorous. And I didn’t catch everything that was said. Just to make this perfectly clear, I was laughing at the joke and not at any group of people.”

It is unclear what specific joke Lemon was referring to.

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Several critics questioned the logic of Lemon’s remarks, specifically when he claimed he was only laughing at the “joke.”

“Wow. Just watched @donlemon, expecting an apology for the outrageous mockery he & his guests directed toward millions of voters. Instead, he simply said he was laughing at the joke & not at any people? Well, Don, on behalf of the Deplorables, your non-apology is not accepted!” ex-CNN commentator Steve Cortes blasted his former colleague.

“You guys… Don Lemon clarified that he wasn’t laughing at people… he was laughing at the joke… THAT WAS ABOUT THE PEOPLE,” political satirist Tim Young reacted.

“Galaxy brain: I was laughing at the joke, but not at the targets of the joke,” The Daily Caller reporter Chuck Ross tweeted.

Politico reporter Alex Thompson accused Lemon of “blaming” his guests.

Others piled on the CNN anchor for claiming he didn’t hear everything that was said during the discussion.

“Don Lemon repeatedly laughed to the point where his head was on the desk while his two hosts ridiculed Trump voters. He knew EXACTLY what was going on and this is complete garbage, even for CNN,” political strategist Caleb Hull exclaimed.

“Telling a preposterous lie to try to cover over obvious bigotry is quite the look. We all saw the clip Don,” conservative operative Chris Barron wrote.

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The clip was shared by former CNN digital producer Steve Krakauer on Monday after the panel discussion originally aired on Saturday night following impeachment trial coverage.

However, the video that was shared on Twitter has more viewers than CNN had Saturday night.

During the 10 p.m. hour on Saturday, which was when Lemon had his laughing fit, CNN averaged only 713,000 viewers. As of Wednesday, the clip had roughly 13 million views on Twitter and climbing.

The House manager says both parties should bring witnesses as he states the Senate cannot use privilege to hide impeachable character

J. Scott Applewhite/AP J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, a member of President Trump’s legal team, offered a new defense of the President’s actions with Ukraine, while answering senators’ questions.

In a nutshell, Dershowitz argued that a US president is allowed to orchestrate a quid pro quo with a foreign leader to benefit their own re-election campaign, if they also believe that their re-election is in the national interests of the United States. 

Dershowitz said: “Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And mostly you’re right — your election is in the public interest. And if a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

These comments could normalize the type of behavior that landed Trump in the middle of an impeachment scandal, and which Democrats say constitutes an improper solicitation of foreign influence into a US election.

Dershowitz offered this argument in response to a question from Republican Sen. Ted Cruz about the legality of a quid pro quo. Dershowitz said all elected officials make decisions through a political lens, and often hire pollsters to see how their decisions would play out. 

Trump’s legal team does not concede that he attempted a quid pro quo. Dershowitz was speaking hypothetically. In his defense of Trump this week, Dershowitz has relied on controversial theories that are rejected by a wide cross-section of legal scholars.

How Democrats responded: Democrats later criticized Dershowitz, saying his theory would open the door to rampant abuses from future presidents.

They also rebutted Dershowitz’s claims that presidents oversee this-for-that deals with foreign leaders all the time, in furtherance of their personal interests. When Vice President Joe Biden pushed for the dismissal of a top Ukrainian prosecutor, he was acting in accordance with established US policy, and promoting the views of international organizations like the IMF. Trump’s team has argued, without providing credible evidence, that Biden actually did this to protect his son’s “corruption” in Ukraine. 

What sets Trump’s behavior apart is that there is substantial evidence that withholding the Ukraine aid was not in accordance with official US policy toward Ukraine. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, along with then-national security adviser John Bolton, all lobbied Trump to release the aid before he relented in September. Additionally, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office determined Trump’s decision to withhold the appropriate funds violated the law.

Trump’s lawyers argued that only the President sets foreign policy, not his advisers or lower-level diplomats