Bolton’s bombshell explodes main Trump defense argument in Senate
Former National Security Chief John Bolton has exploded the main element of Trump's defense thus far in the Senate - the president's claim that he did not withold aid to the Ukraine in exchange for investigations of the Bidens. | Alex Brandon/AP

A bombshell news report that emerged last night is game over for President Trump – at least as far as facts are concerned. What Republican senators trying him now for high crimes and misdemeanors do about it, however, is an entirely different matter.

The explosion that has rocked the Senate trial went off when the New York Times reported yesterday that President Trump told John Bolton, his top national security adviser in August 2019, that he planned to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until they agreed to announce investigations into the Bidens.

The president’s statement to Bolton explodes the key element set out thus far by the president’s impeachment lawyers – that the delay in aid was separate from Trump’s insistence that Ukraine launch probes of the Bidens.

Bolton’s story is contained in a manuscript for his coming book scheduled for publication in March – a manuscript he has circulated to friends and business partners. In December he sent the manuscript also to the White House to review. That submission is normal procedure for White House officials who leave their jobs and then go on to write books about their tenure there.

Trump remained silent for more than 12 hours after the news broke yesterday and then this morning finally tweeted out a denial, essentially calling Bolton, whom he said he “terminated,” a liar.

Some GOP senators are reported to have expressed anger at the White House that they had not been told by Trump or his lawyers that this bomb was out there, waiting to go off, and that Trump had the manuscript already in December. Others say it makes no difference to them – that they will vote to acquit Trump anyway. Republican Sen. Mitt Romney has said he wants to hear from witnesses and that he expects other Republican senators also want the same.

Bolton describes in his book definite anti-Ukraine sentiments expressed by the president and how various members of his Cabinet went to great lengths to disassociate themselves from what Trump was doing regarding Ukraine.

Bolton also said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told him there was no basis to Rudy Giuliani’s and the president’s claims that Masha Yovanovitch, the ambassador to Ukraine, was corrupt.

Another liar snagged by Bolton was White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who Bolton said was present for a phone call on which Giuliani and Trump discussed Yovanovitch.  Mulvaney said he was never on such a call.

Bolton also confirmed Trump’s support for the conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that was behind the hacking of a Democratic server.

When asked how the reports about his book got out, Bolton blamed people inside the White House. In any case, he said, he did not believe there were national security secrets in the book that should be classified. The White House, however, has the power to actually prevent publication on grounds that it does.

The Times report has caused Trump backers in the Senate to scramble for a way to block what they fear is increased pressure now for Bolton to testify.

The White House has ordered Bolton and others not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. Bolton now says, however, that he will testify if subpoenaed.

The Times reported also that White House officials are saying  Bolton is a “disgruntled” former employee. They have also said, in an apparent attempt to cover themselves should the truth get out, that Bolton took notes that he was not entitled to take when he was “terminated.”

Trump has told the press that Bolton should not testify because by doing so he would damage national security.

Democrats, of course, say the Bolton bombshell underlines the importance of the Senate hearing from him directly.

There should and could, if the Senate wished, be an immediate vote to call him to testify. Nothing would prevent the Senate from immediately taking a vote on it.

A spokesman for the Senate majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, however, declined to comment.

No one should put it past Trump to do everything he can to block testimony by Bolton, including trying to get the courts to prevent him from doing so.


CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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