Senate Republicans may not want him to be a witness in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, but John Bolton has plenty of information to share.
Trump’s former national security adviser alleges in his forthcoming book that the president explicitly told him “he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens.”
The revelations present a dramatic 11th hour turn in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.
They directly contradict Trump’s claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to his demands for investigations into his political opponent Joe Biden.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has already seized on the New York Times story, tweeting: “John Bolton has the evidence. It’s up to four Senate Republicans to ensure that John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, and the others with direct knowledge of President Trump’s actions testify in the Senate trial.”
Bolton’s explosive account of the matter at the center of Trump’s impeachment trial, the third in American history, was included in drafts of a manuscript he has circulated in recent weeks to close associates.
He also sent a draft to the White House for a standard review process for some current and former administration officials who write books.
Multiple people described Bolton’s account of the Ukraine affair.
The book presents an outline of what Bolton might testify to if he is called as a witness in the Senate impeachment trial, the people said.
The White House could use the pre-publication review process, which has no set time frame, to delay or even kill the book’s publication or omit key passages.
Over dozens of pages, Bolton described how the Ukraine affair unfolded over several months until he departed the White House in September.
He described not only the president’s private disparagement of Ukraine but also new details about senior cabinet officials who have publicly tried to sidestep involvement.
For example, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged privately that there was no basis to claims by the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani that the ambassador to Ukraine was corrupt and believed Giuliani may have been acting on behalf of other clients, Mr. Bolton wrote.
Bolton also said that after the president’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine, he raised with Attorney General William Barr his concerns about Giuliani, who was pursuing a shadow Ukraine policy encouraged by the president, and told Barr that the president had mentioned him on the call.
A spokeswoman for Barr denied that he learned of the call from Bolton; the Justice Department has said he learned about it only in mid-August.
And the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, was present for at least one phone call where the president and Giuliani discussed the ambassador, Bolton wrote.
Mulvaney has told associates he would always step away when the president spoke with his lawyer to protect their attorney-client privilege.
Bolton’s submission of the book to the White House may have given the White House lawyers direct insight into what Bolton would say if he were called to testify at Trump’s impeachment trial.
It also intensified concerns among some of his advisers that they needed to block Bolton from testifying, according to two people familiar with their concerns.
The White House has ordered Bolton and other key officials with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s dealings not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
Bolton said in a statement this month that he would testify if subpoenaed.
Bolton would like to testify for several reasons, according to associates.
He believes he has relevant information, and he has also expressed concern that if his account of the Ukraine affair emerges only after the trial, he will be accused of holding back to increase his book sales.
Bolton, 71, a fixture in conservative national security circles since his days in the Reagan administration, joined the White House in 2018 after several people recommended him to the president, including the Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson.