Day 6: John Bolton’s bombshell, and the return of Ken Starr

Lesley Becker

Ken Starr — yes, that Ken Starr — appeared on the Senate floor Monday to defend President Trump in the impeachment trial, momentarily overshadowing the reverberations from the John Bolton bombshell that dropped on Sunday. Starr’s appearance astonished veterans of the Clinton impeachment, who were bemused (or horrified) to see the former independent counsel back in the limelight. But there he was, a man who once considered it appropriate to impeach a president for lying about sex, defending one who tried to get a foreign country to meddle in American elections. Still, the most important story of the day was the report from Sunday that Trump’s former national security advisor, John Bolton, is about to punish a damning book about the president’s conduct in the Ukraine affair. The revelation provided fuel for the senators seeking to call Bolton and others as witnesses in the impeachment trial, a debate likely to intensify after the president’s lawyers finish their arguments.

OFF THE HOOK: Far be it from me to defend Susan Collins and Mitt Romney. But supporters of calling witnesses in the impeachment trial have been tweeting out those two senators’ office phone numbers as if they’re the ones who need to be convinced of the need to summon John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, and they’re the ones to blame if the GOP doesn’t. But why start with them? Focusing the pressure on Romney and Collins (and, to a lesser extent, Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander) only punishes those senators for even showing a willingness to call witnesses, and lets the much larger group of silent GOP senators off the hook. It would be a shame if Romney and Collins bear the brunt of the disappointment if the Senate rebuffs witnesses, when it’s the GOP senators who were never even open to the idea who are the bigger culprits here. — ALAN WIRZBICKI