By James Reinl
NEW YORK (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyers mounted their defense case in his impeachment trial Monday amid growing pressure from damaging revelations by former National Security Advisor John Bolton on the Ukraine scandal.
Jane Raskin, an attorney for Trump, accused Democrats of exaggerating the role played by the president’s private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in the Ukraine affair and told senators they should not fall for this legal maneuvering and clear the president of any wrongdoing.
“In this trial, in this moment, Mr. Giuliani is just a minor player, that shiny object designed to distract you,” said Raskin.
“Senators, I urge you most respectfully, do not be distracted.”
According to Raskin, Democrats were deliberately focusing on Giuliani because they could not prove the president abused his power to hurt a prominent political rival in this year’s presidential election.
Another member of Trump’s defense team, defense lawyer Pam Bondi, went on the attack, saying the president was only trying to help root out corruption in Ukraine that was linked to former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
The younger Biden had managed to land a lucrative post with Ukrainian gas company Burisma despite having “no experience” in the eastern European country or its hydrocarbons sector, said Bondi, an ex-attorney general of Florida.
Trump’s defense team also includes Jay Sekulow and Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel whose investigation helped lead to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s over his tryst with a White House intern.
The lawyers continued mounting a defense of Trump in the wake of bombshell claims reported in The New York Times that a manuscript of Bolton’s unpublished book alleges the president had indeed linked aid to Ukraine with investigations into Democrats.
Pressure has grown for Bolton to testify in Trump’s trial despite opposition from some Republicans.
Should he testify, Bolton would be the most senior former Trump adviser to give evidence in an impeachment trial that, while front-page news, has never appeared to seriously threaten Trump, who maintains strong support among the Senate’s Republican majority.
Trump, a Republican, is on trial in the Republican-led Senate over whether he should be kicked out of office following his impeachment on Dec. 18 by the Democrat-led House of Representatives.
The House launched impeachment proceedings against Trump on Sept. 24 following claims by a whistle-blower that the commander-in-chief had sought to pressure Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.
In a July 25 phone call, Trump allegedly made $391 million in military aid to help Ukraine fight Russian-backed separatists and a coveted White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky contingent on a “quid pro quo” arrangement.
In return, Zelensky was supposed to open corruption probes into Joe Biden, a former U.S. Vice President, and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma, as well as into alleged Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
The elder Biden is a leading candidate in the race to win the Democratic nomination and challenge Trump in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Trump has accused Democrats of time-wasting and says the inquiry amounts to a “witch hunt”.