A late-breaking allegation from former national security advisor and limitless war pep squad member John Bolton is likely to get Democrats’ hopes up–misguided as that maybe– for the potential calling of witnesses during the final hours of the Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
According to an excerpt from Bolton’s manuscript obtained by The New York Times, Trump personally enlisted Bolton in an effort to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into launching an investigation into Joe Biden and Hunter Biden over unsubstantiated corruption rumors.
Mr. Trump gave the instruction, Mr. Bolton wrote, during an Oval Office conversation in early May that included the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, who is now leading the president’s impeachment defense.
Those fresh details, of course, now implicate three of the president’s top lieutenants in the Ukrainian pressure dirt scheme—which likely means each of Mulvaney, Giuliani and Cipollone will likely now be viewed as viable and necessary fact witnesses by Democrats.
The Bolton book was a late entry into impeachment drama season—and for that reason the president and his defenders (as well as some critics of the GOP in general) have dismissed the war hawk’s musings and performance as mere publicity efforts meant to jumpstart book sales.
It’s unclear if the new allegations are going to move the GOP-gripped needle much, if at all, toward voting to hear from witnesses in the Senate.
Again the Times:
Mr. Trump told Mr. Bolton to call Volodymyr Zelensky, who had recently won election as president of Ukraine, to ensure Mr. Zelensky would meet with Mr. Giuliani, who was planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss the investigations that the president sought, in Mr. Bolton’s account. Mr. Bolton never made the call, he wrote.
Trump himself issued a statement contesting the basic facts as written.
“I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of N.Y.C., to meet with President Zelensky,” the president said in a statement. “That meeting never happened.”
Giuliani also took issue with Bolton’s claim—at least initially.
“It is absolutely, categorically untrue,” he told the Times in their original report.
The outlet’s reporter Kenneth P. Vogel then pressed Giuliani for additional comment and the lawyer’s story substantially changed.
He said: “I think he’s making some of it up. He’s sure making up—I wouldn’t call it making it up, but he’s acting like a real scumbag by never telling me that he objected once, and then saying I was a time bomb, or a firecracker or something.”
Critics immediately urged the Senate stop rolling trial credits toward a final “fin”.
Former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal had some thoughts:
In light of this massive development, [with a very] serious allegations against Trump (and perhaps also against his lawyer at his trial [Pat]Cippillone [sic]) from his former National Security Adviser, the Senate should take a serious pause and evaluate whether they really want to rush to judgment.
“Trump directed John Bolton to help with his pressure campaign to extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials,” said former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele. “This won’t just go away GOP Senators. You will choke on each revelation when you vote ‘no’ on more witnesses.”
Others, like the executive editor of the legal blog Lawfare, were a bit more reality-based:
Senate Republicans know Bolton’s book revelations will be terrible. That is why they can’t afford to hear from him under oath before voting. https://t.co/DERDmhdw3X
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) January 31, 2020
Government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) put a bow on the state of play and those soon-to-be-unheeded complaints:
Bolton: Cipollone, Mulvaney and Giuliani were all in a meeting in the Oval Office where Trump asked Bolton to pressure Ukraine
Giuliani: "I wouldn’t call it making it up"
Trump: "That meeting never happened"
There's an easy way to clear this up. It's called witness testimony.
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) January 31, 2020
[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]