Senate rules in the Trump impeachment trial call for 16 hours of written questions from senators, to be read by the Chief Justice. Republican and Democratic senators alternate questions.
I have none for Republican senators to ask the House managers, but here are 20 for Democratic senators to ask the Trump defense team:
For White House Counsel Pat Cipollone:
1). If you do not favor hearing critical fact witnesses, why should we believe that you and your client have any interest in learning the truth?
2). You argued that NATO Ambassador Gordon Sondland only “presumed” there was a quid pro quo and that wasn’t good enough. Why should we not summon John Bolton to testify so we can get to the bottom of the question you raised?
3). The White House says that the manuscript of John Bolton’s book went only to the National Security Council lawyer, not to you, the White House Counsel. Wouldn’t you agree that, in retrospect, you should have reviewed it instead of blindsiding the Senate, as the majority leader put it?
4). Bolton is prepared to testify that President Donald Trump told him that aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations of Democrats. Mr. Trump adamantly denies this. In any normal trial, we would hear from both men. Why not in this case?
5). When you learned on Sunday night of Bolton’s first-hand knowledge of the central issue in this case, why did you nonetheless persist in presenting an argument that no one had direct knowledge of the president holding up military aid to pressure Ukraine?
6). On the first day of the trial, you asserted that "Not even Mr. Schiff's Republican colleagues were allowed into the SCIF.” This reference to the way the House Intelligence Committee handled the depositions in this case is factually untrue. Assuming you made a mistake rather than intentionally mislead the Senate, would you please admit to your error now?
For Deputy White House Counsel Michael Purpura:
7). You argued on Monday that if witnesses were not called in the House investigation, they could not be called in the Senate. But given that witnesses in many prior impeachment trials testified for the first time in the Senate, would you not agree that there is ample precedent for calling Bolton and other new witnesses to testify?
For Alan Dershowitz:
8). On Monday, you argued that “Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power.” Are you seriously arguing that withholding aid to get political dirt on your opponents to influence the next presidential election does not constitute abuse of power?
9). You have argued that only “crime-like” abuses are impeachable. Suppose a president put a bust of Hitler in the Oval Office and started saying Jews should be rounded up. Should he, too, not be removed?
10). You argued for a “shoe-on-the-other-foot” test. In that spirit, let’s say Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was worried about opposition from Donald Trump in the 2016 election so she told the president of Turkey that she will authorize the release of U.S. aid to Turkey only if the Turkish president announces an investigation into the Trump family’s suspicious financing of Trump Towers Istanbul. Would that be abuse of power?
11). You said on Monday that you favored Nixon’s impeachment. Article Two in 1974 was abuse of power. Are you now saying you have changed your mind about that case?
For Jay Sekulow:
12). You have argued the president held up the military aid because of concerns about burden-sharing. But isn’t it true that our European allies in this case were giving much more military aid to Ukraine than the United States, suggesting that burden-sharing—while a legitimate complaint in other contexts—was irrelevant to this particular decision to withhold assistance?
For Pam Bondi:
13). Is there any evidence of any kind that Vice President Joe Biden took any improper action of any kind because his son was on the board of Burisma?
14). Why did you not mention that the European Union, the IMF, and other relevant bodies agreed with official U.S. foreign policy that Viktor Shokin was a corrupt prosecutor and had to go? Or that Burisma was not being investigated by Shokin during the period when Biden was calling for Shokin’s ouster?
15). For the three years of Hunter Biden’s tenure on the Burisma board, the Republican Party controlled both houses of Congress. If this reflected so badly on Joe Biden, why was there not a single hearing held or single critical public statement from a Republican member of Congress?
16). Can you cite any precedent for an American president asking a foreign government to investigate an American citizen?
17). If Joe Biden did something wrong, why was there no Department of Justice investigation or request by President Trump for one?
18). Why should any American be held accountable for the behavior of adult children if there is no evidence the parent has done anything wrong?
For Kenneth Starr:
19). In a 2009 law review article, Brett Kavanaugh said the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton was “a mistake.” Given your decrying of what you call “the age of impeachment,” why won’t you admit the same thing?
For Jane Raskin:
20). You argued that “Mr. Giuliani is just a minor character—that shiny object meant to distract you.” But given his many contacts with the president on the matters at issue in this trial, how can Giuliani’s testimony and documents not be relevant?
The Q and A session is the Democrats' best opportunity to cement the case for witnesses and to shred the argument that abuse of power is not grounds for removal from office. The Democrats need to think not like loquacious senators but tough journalists and cross-examining lawyers.