Jay Sekulow makes the case for Donald Trump, John Bolton as witnesses

Members of President Donald Trump

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Let us pause for a moment of genuine sympathy for Donald Trump and the crew of legal loose cannons with which he has surrounded himself. This impeachment mess seems to have started with Rudy Giuliani pursuing half-baked conspiracy theories. And it is finishing with Jay Sekulow accidentally blowing up President Trump’s entire impeachment trial strategy in the final minutes of three days of opening statements. Impeachment trials require Daniel Webster and Trump brought My Cousin Vinnie.

What did Sekulow do? Over the last few days, serious allegations about the president’s conduct taken from John Bolton’s new book have rocked Republican senators seeking to shut down the impeachment trial as quickly as possible. Responding to the increasing pressure to have Bolton testify, Republican senators have pitched a variety of ideas from the absurd to the desperate. One senator proposed that the White House make Bolton’s book available so that senators could read it. Lindsey Graham begged Bolton, “Hold a news conference and we’ll consider what you’ve got to say if you think it’s that important.”

The rush to dismiss Bolton

In an effort to put out this growing firestorm, Sekulow, the last speaker making President Trump’s opening statement in the Senate trial, argued that the Senate should ignore Bolton’s allegations, “I don’t know what you call that. I call it inadmissible but that’s what it is.”

Members of President Donald Trump's legal defense team arrive at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 25, 2020.

Sekulow is, of course, absolutely correct. In a court, Bolton’s out-of-court statements wouldn’t be admissible. But then again, neither would President Trump’s denials of the allegations in the impeachment charges. And, while the statements in the manuscript itself wouldn’t be admissible, those statements, repeated by the author under oath and subjected to cross examination, most certainly would be.

In just two ad libbed sentences, Jay Sekulow managed to blow up the very basis of President Trump’s no-witness strategy, that senators have heard enough and that no further evidence is necessary. Worse, he made the case that Trump himself has to be brought in as a witness because none of the various statements he has made to the press or on Twitter are admissible either. (By contrast, all the testimony taken under oath by the House is.)

USA TODAY’s Editorial Board:Impeach President Trump

Following Sekulow’s logic, unless the defense produces its own evidence, the Senate is duty-bound to find all the charges against Trump to be true because there is no admissible evidence to rebut them.

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