- Former national security adviser John Bolton demonstrated over the weekend why it is President Donald Trump’s worst nightmare while Trump fights in a Senate impeachment trial.
- Citing an unpublished manuscript of Bolton’s next book, The New York Times reported on Sunday that Bolton claims that Trump personally told him last year that he would retain Ukraine’s military aid until he initiated an investigation for political reasons about former Vice President Joe Biden.
- The revelation destroys Trump’s greatest defense in the political trial investigation: that there are no first-hand witnesses who can directly confirm that he participated in a quid pro quo with respect to Ukraine.
- It also encases Republican senators who have been against calling new witnesses at Trump’s trial to a corner.
- Trump challenged Bolton’s informed claim, tweeting that he never had such a conversation with the former national security adviser. But Bolton is said to be a meticulous note taker, which significantly reinforces his credibility as a first-hand witness.
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
In the months since Congress launched its political trial investigation to President Donald Trump, it was widely speculated that former national security adviser John Bolton could be Trump’s worst nightmare if he decided to testify at political trial hearings or trial in the Senate.
This weekend, Bolton demonstrated why.
In an explosive story, The New York Times reported that in an unpublished manuscript for his next book, Bolton claims that Trump personally told him last year that he would withhold military aid to Ukraine until Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acceded to his demands for investigations. With political objectives. Former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.
Specifically, Trump demanded that Zelensky investigate unfounded allegations of corruption against Biden, which is one of the leading candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination, and his son, Hunter, related to the employment of young Biden in the board of the Ukrainian company of Natural gas Burisma Holdings. The president also wanted Zelensky to investigate a discredited conspiracy theory that would suggest that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 elections.
The president and his allies have repeatedly claimed that his decision to freeze Ukraine’s aid had nothing to do with his demands for investigation. Instead, they said, Trump was concerned about the distribution of the European burden and corruption in Ukraine.
“This is a first-hand account of a conversation with Trump himself, of a highly respected public servant in the conservative foreign policy community,” Jens David Ohlin, deputy dean of the Cornell Law School and an expert in law, told Insider penal. “It’s devastating for Trump’s legal defense.”
Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years in the Department of Justice, echoed that opinion.
Bolton’s revelation “directly contradicts Trump’s absurd defense over the facts,” he said. “The Senate can hear the story as part of their responsibilities or they can hear it on the Bolton book tour.”
So far, the Republican-controlled Senate has refused to vote if it will call new witnesses, such as Bolton, at the president’s impeachment trial. But his revelation about a face-to-face conversation in which the president himself confirmed a quid pro quo (security assistance in exchange for a personal and political favor) makes it almost impossible for the Republican Party to turn a blind eye.
“There is no excuse for not seeking Bolton’s testimony,” Cramer said. He added that Trump could invoke executive privilege to prevent his former national security adviser from appearing before the Senate, in which case he would go to court.
Any president can reasonably expect that he can have sincere conversations with advisors without the substance of those conversations being publicly disclosed. However, Cramer said, the executive privilege does not extend to the possible abuse of power, one of the articles of political judgment against Trump, and when evidence accumulates against the president.
In fact, more than a dozen current and former US officials have testified before Congress, under oath, about Trump’s effort of months to pressure Ukraine to yield to its demands while retaining military aid and hanging a meeting of the White House that Zelensky desperately sought.
The White House also published a summary of the July 25 telephone call at the center of the political trial investigation, in which Trump repeatedly asked his Ukrainian counterpart to conduct the investigations he wanted. He made the demands immediately after Zelensky indicated that Ukraine was ready for more US military aid.
“It would be easier if Trump simply asked for an envelope full of cash,” Cramer said. “I didn’t need the cash. I needed the announcement of an investigation.”
The statement informed by Bolton about his conversation with Trump, which said it took place last August, also destroys the key defense that the president’s lawyers have presented in his trial by political trial: there are no first-hand witnesses who can testify that the Trump himself confirmed a quid pro quo with Ukraine.
“No witness testified that the president himself said there was some connection between the investigations and security assistance, a presidential meeting or anything else,” said White House Vice Advisor Michael Purpura on Saturday.
Bolton’s informed claim also adds a significant data point to what the Democrats say is a set of “overwhelming” evidence against the president.
Trump, on the other hand, denied telling Bolton that he would withhold Ukraine’s help until Zelensky yielded to his demands.
“I NEVER told John Bolton that aid to Ukraine was linked to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens,” the president tweeted. “In fact, he never complained about this at the time of its public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”
But it may not be so easy for Trump to dismiss Bolton.
Not only was he a high profile figure in Trump’s inner circle, but the former national security adviser was also a meticulous note taker. Bolton is known to create detailed documents of significant meetings and interactions, known as contemporary memoranda, and such notes are considered admissible evidence in a court of law.
It is not yet known if enough Republicans will yield to call witnesses at Trump’s trial in light of the Times reports. But it is clear that, at least, this throws Senate procedures into an unknown territory.
“The probabilities of deposition for new witnesses are certainly increasing dramatically,” a senior Republican Party official told The Washington Post after the history of the Times.
“At this point, I think the Democrats will focus on the need for Bolton’s testimony and will not let him go,” said Ohlin. Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah “will likely vote in favor of calling Bolton as a witness, and all eyes will focus on senators. [Susan] Collins [Lisa] Murkowski and [Lamar] Alexander – all of whom will now be under immense pressure to vote to call witnesses. “
George Conway, a conservative high-profile lawyer married to White House counsel Kellyanne Conway, wrote in a Post opinion article that, although it was already clear that Trump participated in a quid pro quo with Ukraine, confirmed in a testimony of Gordon Sondland, from the United States. Ambassador to the EU: Bolton’s testimony on the matter “would make that devastating conclusion inevitable, even for Republican senators who have struggled to blind themselves to the obvious.”
“From Trump on, everyone knows how condemning Bolton’s testimony for Trump’s defense would be,” added Conway, who has frequently publicly criticized the president. “If Bolton testifies to what is in his manuscript, these arguments, weak as they are, will collapse. The words will come out of Trump’s mouth, because Bolton will have put them there. The direct witness whose absence the Trump lawyers announced will have appeared “.