74ºF

The Latest: Capitol fireplaces go cold for impeachment trial

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, arrives at the Senate for a Republican lunch before work resumes in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, in Washington, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, arrives at the Senate for a Republican lunch before work resumes in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, in Washington, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Latest on the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump (all times local):

7:40 p.m.

The impeachment trial has claimed one of the U.S. Capitol's quaintest traditions — the crackling blazes in fireplaces that are the perk of senior lawmakers, senators and staff working in the building's oldest rooms and offices.

The chill has spread to both sides of the U.S. Capitol, where a letter signed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was posted on a dormant fireplace in the lobby off the House chamber. Ordinarily, it would be blazing during evening votes.

Only a select few in the Capitol enjoy fireplaces, like top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer. His press “war room" upstairs often has a blaze going, while Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill. — whose Capitol office has four working fireplaces — is a frequent user. The Capitol office suite of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., dates to the early 1800s and was burned by British troops in 1814. It also has several fireplaces.

The Capitol Police Board declared the shutdown “in an effort to avoid the risk of excessive smoke triggering an audible alarm and to avoid the smell of smoke permeating throughout the impeachment trial."

Both Pelosi and Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., signed the order snuffing out fires during the trial.

___

5:05 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence's office says he was not asked by President Donald Trump to raise the Biden family or Burisma in conversations with the president of Ukraine last year.

Pence's chief of staff Marc Short says in a statement that Trump “expressed concerns about corruption in Ukraine” in a meeting before Pence flew to Poland to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Short says: “At no time did I hear him tie aid to Ukraine to investigations into the Biden family or Burisma.”

Burisma is a Ukrainian gas company, and Joe Biden's son, Hunter, had been on the board of that company.

Short says Pence only discussed corruption in Ukraine and burden-sharing with other nations of aid to Ukraine — "because that’s what the President asked him to raise.”

The statement comes as Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general and a member of Trump's legal team, is speaking on the Senate floor in defense of the president at his impeachment trial in the Senate.

___

2:25 p.m.

The newest member of the U.S. Senate is taking a swipe at Sen. Mitt Romney after he said it is “increasingly likely” that other Republicans will join a call to compel former national security adviser John Bolton to testify in the Senate impeachment trial.

Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler tweeted Monday that Romney wants to “appease the left by calling witnesses who will slander” President Donald Trump.

The Georgia lawmaker was sworn in on Jan. 6 after being appointed by the state’s Republican governor. Her tweet came hours after Romney said Bolton “has relevant testimony” and it is “increasingly apparent it is important to hear” from him.

Bolton wrote in his forthcoming book that Trump told him he wanted to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid from Ukraine until it helped him with investigations into his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Loeffler said: “The circus is over. It’s time to move on!”

___

2:05 p.m.

The publisher of former national security adviser John Bolton’s upcoming book says there was “no coordination” between the timing of a New York Times story that the book would undercut a key defense argument in the Senate impeachment trial, and the book being available for pre-order.

Bolton, the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, and literary agent Javelin released a statement to that effect Monday.

Bolton writes in the forthcoming book that Trump told him he wanted to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid from Ukraine until it helped him with investigations into his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

The book, titled “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” is scheduled to be released on March 17. It appeared for pre-order on sites including Amazon on Sunday night. The New York Times first reported Bolton’s account on Sunday.

The book had reached the 55th slot on Amazon’s best-seller’s list by midday Monday.

__

1:25 p.m.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is disputing former national security adviser John Bolton's claims in his forthcoming book. Among the claims is an allegation that President Donald Trump told Bolton he wanted to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid from Ukraine until it helped investigate a Democratic political rival.

Mulvaney lawyer Bob Driscoll says Bolton never informed Mulvaney of any concerns surrounding Bolton’s alleged conversation with Trump. And he says Mulvaney never had a conversation with Trump or anyone else “indicating that Ukrainian military aid was withheld in exchange for a Ukrainian investigation of Burisma, the Bidens, or the 2016 election.”

He also says Mulvaney has “no recollection of any conversation with” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani “resembling that reportedly described in Mr. Bolton’s manuscript."

He's slamming the allegations as having "more to do with publicity than the truth.”

___

11:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump is dismissing a claim by his former national security adviser that could play a major role in his impeachment trial as patently “false.”

John Bolton writes in his forthcoming book that Trump told him that he wanted to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid from Ukraine until it helped secure investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump and his legal team have repeatedly rejected that claim.

Trump told reporters Monday as he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he has “not seen a manuscript” of Bolton's book, but that the allegations are untrue.

The revelations in the book have dramatically increased pressure on Republican senators to call Bolton to testify at Trump’s impeachment trial.

___

10:50 a.m.

Sen. Mitt Romney says it is “increasingly likely” that other Republicans will join a call to compel former national security adviser John Bolton to testify in the Senate impeachment trial after reports that a draft of his book undercuts a key defense argument.

Romney’s statement Monday comes as Bolton wrote in an upcoming book that President Donald Trump told him he wanted to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid from Ukraine until it helped him with investigations into his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

The account has given Democrats fuel in their pursuit of testimony from Bolton and other witnesses.

Romney says Bolton “has relevant testimony” and it is “increasingly apparent it is important to hear” from him.

GOP Sen. Susan Collins says reports about Bolton's book “strengthen the case for witnesses” and have promoted “a number of conversations among my colleagues.” In a statement she tweeted, Collins said, "“I’ve always said that I was likely to vote to call witnesses, just as I did in the 1999 Clinton trial.

Senators are expected to take a key vote later this week on whether to consider witnesses in the trial.