Has former National Security Advisor John Bolton thrown a spanner in the works for President Trump or not?
It’s hard to tell.
On January 27, Newsweek nicely summarised the latest John Bolton news with regard to Trump:
The New York Times this past weekend reported on an extract of an upcoming memoir by former national security adviser John Bolton. In it, Bolton recounted a conversation with Trump in August, during which the president allegedly told him that he wanted to continue withholding $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine until its officials opened an investigation into his Democratic rivals, including the family of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Bolton’s reported account of his exchange with Trump challenges arguments made by the president’s legal defense team. They claim that there is zero evidence to suggest the his withholding of Ukraine’s military aid was related to his pursuit of a probe into the Bidens. It also further highlights the importance of witnesses in the Senate trial as lawmakers gear up to determine this week whether to allow sworn testimony from Bolton, who has already indicated that he will testify if needed.
It is unclear at present whether Bolton will be called as a witness in the Senate impeachment trial:
Democrats need any four Republicans to vote with them on the matter to subpoena witnesses. And although the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have vehemently declared they are against calling additional witnesses, a few moderate Republicans have expressed interest in hearing Bolton out.
However, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina) warned that any Republicans who vote against the president’s interests could face ‘political repercussions’ later:
In an interview with CBS Evening News, which aired Monday evening, Meadows told anchor Norah O’Donnell that members of the GOP who deviate from Trump on impeachment matters could face political backlash.
“I mean listen, I don’t want to speak for my Senate colleagues. But there are always political repercussions for every vote you take,” he said. “There is no vote that is higher profile than this.”
Bolton left the Trump administration in September 2019. On January 28, Newsweek reported that Trump’s behaviour ‘regularly appalled’ him:
Bolton left the administration in September, having clashed with the president on a range of foreign policy issues. Democrats have been pushing for the 71-year-old to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial, demands amplified by fresh reports over the contents of his next book.
The Washington Post reported Monday that Bolton was “regularly appalled” by the behavior of the president, citing people close to the fired national security advisor. A person familiar with the book added that Bolton was unsure if Trump was motivated by U.S. interests or by “nefarious” goals, according to the Post. Neither of the newspaper’s sources were named.
Conveniently, this is providing great publicity for Bolton’s upcoming book, scheduled to appear in mid-March:
Bolton’s manuscript has given a shot in the arm to Democratic efforts to have witnesses testify at Trump’s trial, which the White House and Republican senators have thus far resisted …
According to a New York Times report published Sunday, the manuscript of Bolton’s book—titled “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir” and scheduled for a March 17 release—alleges that the president told Bolton he wanted to withhold military aid from Ukraine until the government in Kiev helped with investigations into Democrats including possible 2020 candidate Joe Biden.
The book also reportedly contains new information about the actions of top administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, all of whom have been accused of involvement in Trump’s Ukraine campaign.
Trump is angry that Bolton never said anything when he was fired:
Why didn’t John Bolton complain about this “nonsense” a long time ago, when he was very publicly terminated. He said, not that it matters, NOTHING!
The president acknowledged that he was told not to hire Bolton but he went ahead and did so anyway:
For a guy who couldn’t get approved for the Ambassador to the U.N. years ago, couldn’t get approved for anything since, “begged” me for a non Senate approved job, which I gave him despite many saying “Don’t do it, sir,” takes the job, mistakenly says “Libyan Model” on T.V., and..
….many more mistakes of judgement, gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book. All Classified National Security. Who would do this?
As I write, this is Trump’s latest tweet about Bolton, which includes a clip of a Fox News interview from August 2019 wherein the latter stated that Trump’s call with Ukraine’s Zelensky was ‘warm and cordial’. Trump wrote:
On Sunday, Trump alleged that Bolton was trying to drum up sales for his book. Newsweek has the story:
The president issued a vociferous denial of Bolton’s claims on Sunday night, denying all wrongdoing. “I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens,” the president wrote on Twitter.
“In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”
On Monday, January 27, Tucker Carlson of Fox News took time on his weeknight show to rip into Bolton. Carlson cited lyrics from The Snake, an old popular song that Trump recites at rallies. Newsweek provided highlights:
“Republicans in Washington tonight seem shocked to discover that John Bolton has turned and betrayed his former boss President Trump. But they shouldn’t be shocked. That’s who John Bolton is. That’s who John Bolton has always been. That’s what John Bolton does,” said Carlson. “And not to brag, we called it long ago.”
Bolton’s upcoming memoir The Room Where It Happened repeats the central Trump impeachment claim, that the president attempted to use foreign aid to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into launching an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a Sunday report in The New York Times ...
“Bolton wanted war with Iran. He’s always wanted war with Iran. He’s obsessed with it,” Carlson said. “Maybe because he never served in the military himself, Bolton genuinely passionately loved war.”
The pundit added that the resignation of Bolton was a “well-deserved humiliation” that was celebrated by “normal people,” but not by what he characterized as a pro-war, anti-Trump media.
“Bolton’s resignation was one of the highlights of the president’s first term. A day of celebration for normal people everywhere but in America’s newsrooms,” said Carlson. “The media were sad to see Bolton go. They love wars. Wars mean they get to move tanks around on a screen and talk about weapons systems. So, suddenly for the first time they loved John Bolton, what a hero he was.”
Carlson disputed the notion that lifelong Republican Bolton was even a conservative, claiming that the foreign policy agenda he pushed in the administrations of both former President George W. Bush and Trump were “just the opposite.”
“The many pointless conflicts he’s been pushing are not conservative, they’re just the opposite of that,” Carlson insisted. “How did a guy who disagrees so completely with everything Donald Trump ran on and won on, how did that guy wind up in a position of power in the White House? Good question, because he’s not the only one.”
As we saw above, Trump admitted he hired Bolton against the advice he received.
One of Carlson’s guests alleged that Bolton had hoped for a Hillary Clinton win in 2016:
… retired Army Colonel Douglas MacGregor, a Fox News contributor and staunch Trump supporter … said that Bolton “magically” got hired to the Trump administration but would have preferred that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election. MacGregor also claimed that Bolton “thought he was the president” and “tried to replace Donald Trump’s policies with his own.”
One can well imagine.
Later on Monday evening, Lou Dobbs of Fox Business had a go at Bolton, exposing interesting facts about the book agency he uses. Newsweek has details:
“John Bolton himself has been reduced to a tool for the radical Dimms and the Deep State with his allegation that the president once told him that the aid to the Ukraine was entirely dependent on whether or not Mr. Zelenskiy carried out investigations of his political opponents,” Dobbs explained.
“Bolton’s book agency, Javelin, has published books by disgruntled current and former government officials such as fired FBI director James Comey, an anonymous Trump administration official who wrote the book A Warning and Cliff Sims, a former White House staffer who the president said broke a non-disclosure agreement to write a book bashing the White House,” he continued.
“Do you see the pattern here with Mr. Bolton?” Dobbs asked.
Newsweek reached out to Javelin for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Leaks from Bolton’s book have fuelled calls for him to be a witness at the Senate impeachment trial. Senate Minority Leader Charles ‘Chuck’ Schumer (D-New York) tweeted:
The @NYTimes report about the Bolton book strengthens the case for witnesses & documents even more.
Every few days something comes out, and Americans are saying they want witnesses & documents.
If President Trump did nothing wrong, why is he so afraid of witnesses & documents?
The more Americans hear about this, the more they want witnesses at the Senate trial. Newsweek posted a bar chart from polling company Statista which shows that everyone, including Republicans (albeit by a far narrower margin), wants witnesses.
This, however, brings us back to Rep. Mark Meadows’s comment above. Some senators who don’t care about Trump, e.g. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Susan Collins (Maine), probably would vote with Democrats to allow witnesses.
Trump had two responses for them on January 29. This one refers to the transcript of his call with Ukraine’s Zelensky:
No matter how many witnesses you give the Democrats, no matter how much information is given, like the quickly produced Transcripts, it will NEVER be enough for them. They will always scream UNFAIR. The Impeachment Hoax is just another political CON JOB!
And this one, referring to the House impeachment inquiry:
Remember Republicans, the Democrats already had 17 witnesses, we were given NONE! Witnesses are up to the House, not up to the Senate. Don’t let the Dems play you!
As for the impeachment proceedings in general, the Democrats have their ‘managers’ as do the Republicans. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-New York) is one of the managers for Trump’s side. He has been tweeting aplenty this week.
The media rarely report what Trump’s legal team have been presenting during their time in front of the microphone during the trial. After a few hours, television coverage on the major networks generally cuts to normal daytime programming, largely omitting what the Republicans have to say.
Lee Zeldin isn’t even allowed to give a full statement about the Republican proceedings. An NBC reporter continually interrupted him the other day, when she was the one who had asked him a question.
About proceedings from January 29, Zeldin tweeted:
POTUS’ Legal Team, especially Patrick Philbin, is doing outstanding today in a whole other league of intellect, prep & facts/law on their side. Meanwhile, Schiff conceded right out of the gate this AM he can’t yet prove his case. Americans are ready for this #SchiffShow to end!
He had more to say about Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), who is in charge of the impeachment:
Schiff & his team have said 1000 times over “no one is above the law”, but the articles of impeachment don’t even allege a violation of any law. There is no impeachable offense & it’s not the job of the Senate to go on a fishing expedition to find one. That’s on him.
Schiff has proven that there was an Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. The problem for him though is that he and his cohorts are the ones guilty of those charges, not the President.
It is unclear how the Senate impeachment trial will end. Some say it will end on Friday. Others say that it could drag on for some time, especially if witnesses are brought forward.
Do the Democrats honestly think they can win the presidency this November? No.
Do they hope to damage Trump’s reputation sufficiently to win both the House and the Senate? Most probably.