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.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Donald Trump, Impeachment, Politicians, Ukraine, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. drj says:

    We need journalists who are less easily fooled.

    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.

    Right.

    Bolton only changed his tune because Republicans run the Senate. He either won’t be called, or he’ll lie his ass off and any evidence that contradicts his testimony will be surpressed.

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  2. CSK says:

    @drj:
    You may underestimate the degree to which Bolton despises Trump.

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  3. drj says:

    @CSK:

    Then why wouldn’t he testify before the House?

    Maybe, just maybe Bolton thinks he can shield Pence by testifying before the Senate instead of the House. And as long as someone belonging to Team R is bombing Iran, it’s all good as far as he is concerned.

    But this is a pretty convoluted scenario.

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  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Bolton extorted Trump.
    He essentially made it clear that he had something that he was hanging over Trump’s head…and in return he got an act of war against Iran. An act that is more likely, than not, to lead to the escalation that Bolton has been having wet dreams about since last century.
    So now, in return, Bolton will go before the Senate and do his best Sargent Schultz…”I know nuthink, nuthink.”

    @CSK:

    You may underestimate the degree to which Bolton despises Trump.

    Yeah…so did Graham. And Romney. And Rubio. And Cruz. How did that work out?

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  5. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    They’re not as vindictive as Bolton. Plus, Bolton has nothing to lose.

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I know a lot of people are convinced Bolton would perjure himself for trump but I just don’t see him pulling a Micky Flynn so he can end up Manaforted at Club Fed.

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  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @CSK:

    Plus, Bolton has nothing to lose.

    He stands to lose any kind of role in the Republican Party, which now belongs to Trump.
    Is Bolton the single Republican Patriot who will stand up to try and save the Union?
    Color me cynical.

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  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I know a lot of people are convinced Bolton would perjure himself for trump but I just don’t see him pulling a Micky Flynn so he can end up Manaforted at Club Fed.

    He will just plead the Fifth.

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  9. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Bolton is 71. Realistically, where is he going in the party from here? Besides, he has a book coming out. This is a chance to promote it.

    Okay, I admit: I want to see him tear Trump to shreds. That’s coloring my views.

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  10. Kathy says:

    I think it’s an empty gesture: willing to testify where no witnesses will be called.

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  11. JohnMc says:

    Have heard nothing to confirm or even hint at this but Congressman Schiff might test Mr Bolton’s eagerness to get something off his chest, don’t you think?

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  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: And they will counter with qualified immunity. I just don’t see the play.

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  13. gVOR08 says:

    Ruth Marcus, over at WAPO, notes that Bolton heads a couple of Republican PACs. They would seem to be his primary source of income at the moment. WIKI notes three hard right figures as major donors, including Robert Mercer, and that they sent a lot of business to Cambridge Analytica. Bolton needs to preserve his position in the Party. A few months ago there was a lot of speculation Bolton had a book coming out and he didn’t want to give away any of the juicy bits for free. If true, still true.

    Despite being out of the administration, Bolton seems closer than ever to his heart’s desire, war with Iran. And banging the war drum isn’t just a hobby for Bolton, it’s his livelihood.

    Marcus also notes that all that’s really happened here is that Bolton made McConnell an offer that McConnell is sure to refuse. Which is to say he’s gotten his name back in the papers. And maybe reminded Trump that he has something on him.

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  14. Not the IT Dept. says:

    The Dems need to put on their adult diapers and contain themselves. The idea that Bolton is going to do anything that makes them happy is ludicrous. I’m actually wondering – welcome to the new decade! – whether assassinating Soleimani wasn’t Bolton’s price for coming to Trump’s rescue by denying everything to do with Ukraine. It would be completely in character for both of them.

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    I can’t see Bolton being dumb enough to not take into account that the next prez, and Atty Gen’l, may be Dems. I can see him taking the Fifth, or otherwise being evasive, but I can’t see him perjuring himself.

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  16. Jay L Gischer says:

    You know, if he’s willing to testify before the Senate, but not the House, I’m pretty sure that there’s some kind of cow droppings going on.

    I note that yesterday is the first Monday of the new year, and that may be the point. He was always playing a legal stall, believing that he would lose, and if it got to a trial, he figures that he will be compelled, so offer now. Especially when it looks like witnesses won’t be called.

    Other theories are possible, of course, but simple grandstanding seems the most solid explanation to me.

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  17. mattbernius says:

    Add me to the “don’t get your hopes up” camp.

    Even at 71, providing he’s in good health, Bolton has years of work ahead of him. He’s a careerist. He’s not tanking that to get rid of Trump (at least not ahead of an election).

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  18. charon says:

    @CSK:

    Plus, Bolton has nothing to lose.

    Book deal. Obvious lying, or lies later exposed will not help sales.

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  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Trump just said that Bolton would “…know nothing about what we’re talking about…” if he testified before the Senate.
    So there is you preview of what Bolton will say…”I know nothing about all this…I thought you wanted to discuss mustache grooming.”
    Democrats chasing Bolton’s testimony are on a fools errand.

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  20. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Trump just said that Bolton would “…know nothing about what we’re talking about…” if he testified before the Senate.

    To me this means Dennison is scared stiff about what Bolton might say, and he’s preemptively discrediting him. Next we’ll hear Bolton’s a Democrat.

    BTW, now El Cheeto is claiming the assassination of Suleimani was retaliation, and self defense, and preemption against upcoming attacks.

    I won’t mention names, but someone who attacked Poland and France in 1939 and 1940 claimed these were counter-attacks.

    The problem when your base believes all the BS coming out of Trump’s facial anus, is that there’s no effort to even attempt clumsy propaganda to convince the unbelievers.

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  21. al Ameda says:

    I see this Bolton ‘willingness’ as a nothing burger, that is, this is a freebie. Bolton knows that the Republican Senate is very unlikely to vote with a Democratic request to have Bolton appear and testify.

    This is good P.R. for Bolton, and it has the Media excited but … well, I don’t get it. I see it as pretty close to nothing.

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  22. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy:

    I think it’s an empty gesture: willing to testify where no witnesses will be called.

    There’s also the House investigations. Between simple oversight, adding evidence to existing articles of impeachment, and new articles of impeachment, and the fact that there is no double jeopardy provisions with impeachment…. I don’t think Bolton is dumb enough to assume that he can offer to testify without significant risk of having his bluff called.

    I would expect that the House will subpoena him if the Senate doesn’t.

    He may even be questioned by the House Impeachment Managers in the House during the Senate trial, causing Republican Senators to complain about poisoning the jury pool and sequester themselves in a Trump hotel.

    It would be a novel argument to say that he would obey a lawful Senate subpoena, but not a lawful House subpoena. “Your honor, my client cannot be subpoenaed by a body that is alphabetically before his first name… That’s why no one can subpoena Zbignew Brezinski, after all.”

    Now, I have no idea what he will say, but his general temperament does not seem to indicate someone who will quietly stick to a lie under cross examination.

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  23. Jax says:

    @Kathy: You have won the internet today with “Trump’s facial anus”, in my book. All hail Queen Kathy!

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  24. Kathy says:

    @Jax:

    Thanks, but I can’t take credit for it. I took the image, literally, from one scene in one of Niven and Pournelle’s novels based on Dante’s Inferno, I think the sequel “Escape From hell.” They describe a circle of Hell where the people being tortured have a “second anus” connected to their mouths.

    They populated the place largely with advertising executives.

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