Bolton Now Says He’d Be Willing To Testify
After months of delays, Trump's former National Security Adviser John Bolton is now saying he'd be willing to testify if he were subpoeanaed.
Former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton, who spent most of the impeachment process in the House being cagey about whether or not he would be willing to testify regarding the Ukraine scandal, is now saying he’d be willing to testify if subpoenaed:
John R. Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, said on Monday that he was willing to testify at President Trump’s impeachment trial, putting new pressure on Republicans to call witnesses and raising the possibility of revelations as the Senate weighs Mr. Trump’s removal.
Mr. Bolton’s surprise declaration, in a statement on his website, was a dramatic turn that could alter the political dynamic of the impeachment process in the Senate and raise the risks for Mr. Trump of Republican defections. The former national security adviser is a potentially vital witness, with direct knowledge of presidential actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill in blanks in the narrative of the impeachment case.
It came as the House continued to withhold the articles of impeachment necessary to start the trial in a bid to increase Democratic leverage in Senate negotiations over calling Mr. Bolton and three other administration witnesses the president blocked from testifying in the House inquiry.
“I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify,” Mr. Bolton said in the statement.
His decision raised immediate questions for Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, around how to proceed with the trial. He has steadfastly refused to commit to calling witnesses, but as majority leader, he must also weigh the wishes of a small group of moderate Republicans who may press to hear from them.
Mr. Bolton announced his intentions minutes after leaving a voice mail message alerting Mr. McConnell of them.
Democrats quickly seized on Mr. Bolton’s public declaration to press their case that the Senate must hear from him and the other senior officials at the outset of any trial, training attention on the few Republicans who have said they are open to calling witnesses.
“Given that Mr. Bolton’s lawyers have stated he has new relevant information to share, if any Senate Republican opposes issuing subpoenas to the four witnesses and documents we have requested, they would make absolutely clear they are participating in a cover-up,” the Democratic leader, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, said in a speech on the Senate floor.
But Mr. McConnell appeared unmoved by the development, and there was no immediate clamor from rank-and-file Republicans for him to change his stance. Instead, the loudest voices in the party on Monday were from a group of Republican senators who spent the day trumpeting a newly introduced resolution that would alter Senate rules to allow the chamber to dismiss the House case without a trial.
While Bolton never did testify before the House, we did hear from several of his top aides on the National Security Council, including people such as Russia and Ukraine specialist Fiona Hill who testified in great detail regarding Bolton’s negative reaction to the hold on military aid and to the involvement of the President’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine policy. This has led many to believe that Bolton could have a great deal to say that would be directly damaging to the President even if his conservations directly with the President himself are covered by Executive Privilege.
This announcement by Bolton comes after months in which he appeared to be playing games over the decision to testify. While his lawyer did say several times over the course of the summer and fall that his client would have quite a story to tell, there were no details of what that might be, and Bolton certainly was not making himself available voluntarily. Eventually, Bolton said he’d be willing to testify before either the House Intelligence Committee or the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment process if ordered by a court to do so. However, House Democrats chose not to pursue that offer since any such court proceedings would have delayed impeachment proceedings far longer than seemed practical at the time even if the courts considered the matter on an expedited basis.
Bolton’s announcement comes at the same time that Senate Republicans and Democrats, as well as the Democratic House, continue their showdown over the procedures that would govern the upcoming Senate trial. When we last left the matter before the holidays, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was withholding sending the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate until there was some agreement that the Senators would be allowed to subpoena and hear from witnesses. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, took the position that the Senate would make any decision about witnesses on its own as it did during the Clinton impeachment. As things stand now, Senate Democrats continue to demand that witnesses be called. Meanwhile, it appears that McConnell has the votes he needs to delay the question of witnesses until after the trial starts, although several Senators, including Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and Mitt Romney have said that they do believe the Senate should hear from witnesses or at least have the opportunity to vote on the issue. Whether this announcement by Bolton will change the situations remains to be seen, but the most likely outcome is that McConnell will able to keep his majority together.