Other than a shortened impeachment session in the Senate on Saturday, President Donald Trump had a break from the proceedings over the weekend. But that didn’t mean the president was able to keep himself out of headlines. Instead, it was a big weekend for the guy. Not too long after the workday ended on Friday, some explosive news dropped. And somehow, it didn’t stop. If you missed it, here’s what happened over Trump’s very bad weekend.
ABC News published a 2018 recording of Trump telling Rudy Giuliani’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, among others, that he wanted former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch fired. This recording contradicted Trump’s assertions that he did not know Parnas and supported Parnas’ earlier account of the dinner where the conversation occurred.
In the recording, Parnas is heard telling Trump that Yovanovitch was disloyal to the president. Trump responds: “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”
According to Parnas, who cooperated with the House impeachment inquiry, John DeStefano, who was then Trump’s deputy chief of staff, told Trump that they could not fire Yovanovitch. Yovanovitch was removed from her position a year later, after a lengthy effort from Parnas and Giuliani to have her ousted. Parnas and Fruman have both been indicted on federal charges involving false statements and campaign finance violations.
Trump’s lawyers launched their defense in the impeachment trial in a short session Saturday. They accused Democrats of undermining democracy by using impeachment to “undo” the 2016 presidential election and undermine the integrity of the next. But the lawyers also asserted that there was no evidence Trump demanded that Ukraine investigate the Bidens in order to release American military aid to the country—an already weak assertion that crumbled under the next day’s news.
Trump tweeted: “Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man.” He added: “He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!”
Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview later that Trump was “wrathful and vindictive” and pointed to the tweet as evidence. When asked if he took the tweet as a threat, Schiff replied: “I think it’s intended to be.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham went on to describe Schiff’s interpretation as “ridiculous” and suggested the congressman was “having a little bit of a mental issue.”
In a bombshell story that left Republicans scrambling to respond, the New York Times reported that John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, had made some extremely damaging accusations about the president in an unpublished manuscript of an upcoming book. The biggest news: Bolton wrote that he heard Trump say explicitly that he would continue to withhold millions in military aid to Ukraine until the country announced an investigation into the Bidens.
His other allegations:
• Bolton’s manuscript also says that Pompeo had told him that claims about Yovanovitch’s supposed corruption were baseless. This would mean that Pompeo knew that claims from Trump advisers about the ambassador amounted to a smear campaign.
• Bolton also alleged that he had warned Attorney General William Barr about Giuliani’s role in Ukraine affairs shortly after Trump’s July call with President Volodymyr Zelensky, contradicting Barr’s claim that he had only learned about the call weeks later.
• Bolton wrote that Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, listened in on one of Trump’s calls to Giuliani when discussing Yovanovitch. Mulvaney has said he was not a part of the conversations and that he was protecting the attorney-client privilege of those calls.
The book, titled The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, will be released in March.
Soon after the call, House Democrats called on senators to demand Bolton be called as a witness in the impeachment trial. Bolton, who was fired in September, has already signaled his willingness to testify.
The New York Times, digging into the secretly recorded Parnas tape from Friday, published a reminder of the ways in which Trump has cultivated a culture around his fundraisers that smacks of a pay-to-play operation. The Times noted that “deep-pocketed supporters and interest groups willing to write six- and seven-figure checks to his political operation” were able to discuss pet policy issues with him at the 2018 dinner, which honored and courted donors for a Trump super PAC. Some of those policies were later introduced in Congress, the Times notes.
Shortly after midnight, Trump lashed out at Bolton on Twitter, claiming that Bolton had lied about the quid-pro-quo and accusing him of making up material to sell his book.