Former National Security Advisor John Bolton reportedly undercuts President Donald Trump’s primary legal defense against impeachment in his forthcoming book–a manuscript that is said to confirm that the hold on aid to Ukraine was ordered directly by the president and that the release of that aid was entirely dependent on investigations of the Bidens. Now lawyers are raising questions about what the president’s lawyers knew about this and if they could be liable for making false statements to the Senate.
The threshold question is whether the president’s attorneys were aware of the information contained in the manuscript. According to a letter from Bolton’s attorney Charles J. Cooper, the White House was made aware of the book on Dec. 30. The bombshell revelations reportedly therein could not only change tenor of the Senate trial by forcing the chamber to hear from witnesses such as Bolton, they may place the president’s impeachment attorneys in a precarious position.
“At least some members of Trump’s legal team also likely knew of Bolton’s knowledge which, if so, potentially subjects them to criminal perjury charges or legal disciplinary actions for their statements before the Senate,” national security attorney Mark Zaid wrote on Sunday night.
Zaid is part of the legal team representing the whistleblower who filed the initial complaint over Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Some very much disagreed with the idea that criminal liability exists here (read more). (Zaid otherwise mentioned candor before a tribunal, which is something Law&Crime has discussed elsewhere.)
The issue is particulrlary concerning to White House attorneys such as Pat Cipollone, who represents the Office of the President, as opposed to attorney Jay Sekulow, who is Trump’s personal lawyer.
As CNN legal analyst, attorney and impeachment expert Ross Garber pointed out, lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office are government lawyers should be “zealously protecting presidential rights, immunities, privileges,” but cannot engage in “distorting facts.”
Cooper’s letter to the White House, however, specifically noted that the manuscript review process would restrict the materials to “those career government officials and employees regularly charged with responsibility for such reviews,” and “will not be reviewed by or otherwise disclosed to any persons not regularly involved in that process.”
A National Security Council spokesperson told Politico’s Meridith McGraw on Monday that no one on the president’s legal team has reviewed Bolton’s manuscript.
“Ambassador Bolton’s manuscript was submitted to the NSC for pre-publication review and has been under initial review by the NSC. No White House personnel outside NSC have reviewed the manuscript,” the statement said.
But not reviewing the manuscript itself does not mean the president’s impeachment defense team was unaware of the information and allegations it put forth, which CNN National Security Analyst and former Obama National Security Council advisor Sam Vinograd and anti-Trump attorney George Conway both pointed out.
President Trump also responded to the allegations on Monday, vehemently denying the veracity of Bolton’s claims. He said he “NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens.”
[image via NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP Getty Images]
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