The politics of President Trump’s impeachment trial has taken center stage as the Iowa caucuses approach, and at least one Republican suggested the proceeding could hurt the chances of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading Democratic contender.
Mr. Trump’s legal defense team spent part of Monday arguing that it was entirely proper for the president to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, claiming that the pair might have been involved in corrupt activities.
“I’m really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucusgoers,” Ms. Ernst said. “Will they be supporting former Vice President Joe Biden at this point?”
Just as Republicans have accused Democrats of wielding impeachment as a cudgel to hurt politically vulnerable senators, Ms. Ernst’s comment underscored the other side of the coin: that many Democrats believe the president is using the trial to bloody Mr. Biden as he seeks his party’s presidential nomination.
“Iowa caucusgoers take note. Joni Ernst just spilled the beans,” he wrote on Twitter, along with a video clip of Ms. Ernst’s remarks. “She and Donald Trump are scared to death I’ll be the nominee. On Feb. 3, let’s make their day.”
As senators left town last week, the trial of President Trump appeared to be racing toward a record-fast acquittal, with no bigger supporter of getting it done by the end of this week than Senator Mitch McConnell.
But in the wake of revelations that John R. Bolton has evidence that could prove out, with direct evidence, the House managers’ case, the pace has suddenly eased up. Mr. Trump’s defense team is taking one more day than expected to deliver its oral arguments. Senators’ time for questioning the prosecution and defense is now expected to unfold over two days, rather than in one long marathon session. All that delays a vote on whether to allow witnesses and questions: It is now expected on Friday, rather than Wednesday.
It appears Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, may now be seeing the advantages of a more deliberative approach. Putting as much distance as possible between the Bolton news and a vote on whether to call him to testify might just cool the temperature in the Capitol enough to prevent four Republicans from joining Democrats in a vote to prolong the trial. Slowing down now, in other words, could speed up the final result.
“Take a deep breath,” Mr. McConnell told fellow Republicans in private on Monday after the Bolton news. Let’s take this one step at a time, and remember no one needs to take a position until Friday’s vote.
President Trump believes the chances that witnesses will be called at his impeachment trial in the Senate have grown, even as advisers believed they might be able to allay concerns from senators after reports about assertions made by his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, in an unpublished manuscript.
According to several people who spoke to him, Mr. Trump has sounded resigned to the possibility of witnesses after The New York Times reported Sunday that Mr. Bolton’s manuscript described the president directly tying the release of security aid to Ukraine to the country’s pursuit of investigations he sought into Democrats.
Still, several Trump advisers said that Republican senators seemed reassured after hearing from one of the president’s defense lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, the only member of Mr. Trump’s team to reference the manuscript’s claims during the legal team’s presentation on Monday. Even if what Mr. Bolton wrote was true, Mr. Dershowitz told the senators, it did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.
Mr. Bolton’s book was sent by his lawyer to the White House on Dec. 30 for a standard security review process for books written by former and current officials. The book has been with the National Security Council, officials have said.
The manuscript may have given White House lawyers insight into what Mr. Bolton would testify to if called as a witness, and some Trump advisers’ concerns about Mr. Bolton testifying intensified with the book’s completion.
The White House Counsel’s Office told Republican senators over the course of the last twelve hours that they didn’t know the substance of what was in the book. That has relieved some of them, according to Republican officials. Pat A. Cipollone, the head of the office, is helping lead the president’s defense team.
One loyal Fox News viewer is not thrilled about the network’s impeachment coverage.
“Really pathetic,” President Trump declared on Tuesday, writing on Twitter that Fox News “is trying to be so politically correct” after the network interviewed a Democratic senator, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
Despite pro-Trump programming in the mornings and prime-time, Fox News has irked Mr. Trump when he detects any hint of disloyalty. On Tuesday, he insulted the anchors Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith by name, though Mr. Smith left the network in October. (“How’s Shep Smith doing?” Mr. Trump wrote, perhaps or perhaps not taking credit for the anchor’s departure.)
The president also lobbed a derisive nickname at MSNBC, calling the network “MSDNC.”
It was the second time Mr. Trump has used the term on Twitter, although the Fox host Sean Hannity is a fan of the sobriquet. Despite his fealty to TV, Mr. Trump concluded his missive with a vote of confidence for a rival medium: “Social Media is great!” he wrote.
Tell us how you really feel about Alan Dershowitz, Democrats.
Mr. Dershowitz, an emeritus Harvard Law School professor, was the last of President Trump’s lawyers to present late on Monday. His presentation was panned by Democratic senators — including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a former Harvard law professor herself, who declared it “nonsensical.”
“I truly could not follow it,” she said.
“It was just like word salad,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, said. “It’s an embarrassing day for Harvard Law School.”
Mr. Dershowitz argued that the founders meant for impeachment to be used for explicitly criminal acts such as treason or bribery, not what he called “vague” and “noncriminal” charges like abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. That interpretation is at odds with many constitutional scholars, as well as Mr. Dershowitz’s own comments from 1998 related to the impeachment case against President Bill Clinton.
“In the end, he admitted that he’s a total outlier in the case that he’s making,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, added, “I now understand listening to Professor Dershowitz that he’s smarter than all other professors. He said so himself.”
For the third time in American history, the Senate has convened as a court of impeachment to consider whether to remove a sitting president, and two teams of lawyers are facing off in a confrontation with heavy political and constitutional consequences.
The seven House Democratic impeachment managers, handpicked by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, have argued that President Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to help smear his political rivals and obstructed Congress to conceal his actions. Mr. Trump’s defense team — drawn from the White House counsel’s office and outside lawyers, including a few who frequently appear on television — has argued that the president did nothing wrong and accused Democrats of using impeachment as a tool to remove an opponent they could not defeat at the ballot box.
Here is a look at the opposing legal teams and how they see impeachment, in their own words.
As Republicans face mounting pressure to subpoena new witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial, Democratic senators are again rejecting the idea of a deal that would schedule depositions from John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, in exchange for a witness that Mr. Trump wants, like Hunter Biden, the son of the former vice president.
Revelations from Mr. Bolton’s forthcoming book have rocked the Republicans, and Senator Pat Toomey, Republican from Pennsylvania, has privately suggested a one-for-one deal. But Democratic senators say they will refuse to sign off on witnesses that they believe are irrelevant to the case.
“I’m not making a deal,” Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, said Tuesday after the trial ended. “All they have to do is file a motion, and with 53 Republicans, you’d think they could probably get 51 votes out of it. I don’t need to make a deal. If they want a witness, whoever they want, put it up, have a vote on it.”
Senator Richard J. Durbin picked up the theme on Tuesday morning. “Listen, we’re not trading baseball cards,” Mr. Durbin said on CNN, later adding, “This idea of bargaining — ‘Well, we’ll give you one irrelevant witness for one material witness’ — baloney.”
President Trump’s legal team is expected to sum up his defense, including a strong argument against calling witnesses who would shed more light on Mr. Trump’s actions. His lawyers will seek to drive home the argument that the House made a shoddy case, and the Senate need not reach in and bolster it by hearing new evidence.
Democrats have been calling for witnesses to appear in the Senate before the trial began, and the House impeachment managers have aimed their arguments at a handful of moderate Republican senators in hopes of persuading them to break with their party.
The trial will resume at 1 p.m.