McConnell and the Bolton Manuscript

The Majority Leader was reportedly unaware of the manuscript.

Via the Louisville Courier Journal, Mitch McConnell is angry at White House over John Bolton manuscript, report says:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not know that President Donald Trump’s administration had a copy of an explosive manuscript by ex-national security adviser John Bolton, a spokesman said.


A McConnell spokesman told The Courier Journal on Monday that the Senate majority leader “did not have any advance notice” that the National Security Council reportedly had a copy of Bolton’s manuscript for weeks.


Behind closed doors for a luncheon Monday, McConnell told his colleagues to “take a deep breath and let’s take one step at a time,” Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., told reporters.

The aphorism “you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas” comes to mind.

On the one hand, the Republicans as so thoroughly wedded to a defense of Trump that I cannot see this latest round of evidence that points to Trump’s guilt changing any minds.

On the other, some of them have to see, in their private moments, that they have wedded themselves to a shameless and untrustworthy ally.

History will not be kind.

At a minimum, if the Senate majority was at all interested in the truth (yes, I know) they would want to hear from Bolton (and a whole lot of other people for that matter).


FILED UNDER: Uncategorized, , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. steve says:

    If is such a big word sometimes. The Spartans understood that so well. In this case the if is impossible so it won’t happen.


  2. Scott F. says:

    History will not be kind.

    I have to say the thing that mystifies me the most right now is that the Republicans have to know that EVERYTHING currently being kept secret by the Trump administration will ultimately come to light – most of it certainly in their lifetimes. A lot of the dirt will come out quickly, as soon as Trump is no longer protected by the shield of his office. Considering the character of the “best people” he’s surrounded himself with, the tell-all books will be legion. Over time, the server where they’ve hidden the more prurient transcripts will get a once-over.

    At some point, Trump’s enablers are going to have to explain to their children and grandchildren how they came to give their all to this corrupt man. The lack of foresight is hard to grasp. I expect a lot of death bed confessions.

  3. Teve says:

    We Really, REALLY need to agree on some kind of alternate image that signals we are talking about Mitch McConnell. A picture of the nameplate on his door, turtle, something abstract, whatever. Suddenly springing a big picture of his face on someone is rude and should probably be a misdemeanor. There could be dire consequences to pregnant women, possibly.

  4. DrDaveT says:

    History will not be kind.

    Like @Scott F., I can’t figure this out. The vast majority of these (R) senators know that Trump is guilty as hell, and that it was a (political) hanging offense. They know that most Americans already know that, too, and that eventually all Americans (except a lunatic fringe of deniers) will also know it.

    What short term gain is really worth tying your legacy to that rock and chucking it overboard? These are not modest people; they must care how their descendants will view them…

  5. Michael Cain says:

    In the cover letter that went with the manuscript, Bolton’s lawyers cited the statutes that make it illegal for the NSC staff to share the manuscript, or even its existence, with people outside the NSC unless necessary to determine whether something specific is classified. I don’t know which people the NSC staff might risk taking that fall for, but feel sure that Mitch McConnell is not one of them.

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s not as simple as saying these Senators are afraid of the voters. They’re submissive to a man they see as an Alpha. This is what men do – and it’s overwhelmingly men – they submit. They toady. It’s what makes men in mobs so dangerous. It’s where you get Nazis, but it’s also where you get Marines dying to the last man. It’s how men co-operate, they array themselves into hierarchies. This thug was just too much of a bully for them, so they bent over and put their asses in the air. Once having abased themselves what can possibly motivate them to find their dignity? How do you somehow recover from being Lindsay Graham?

    It’s the same problem the Trump voters have. Trump wasn’t just a bad choice, he was a catastrophically reckless, jaw-droppingly stupid choice. It was the worst vote in the modern history of the United States, and yes, I’m including George Wallace. The sheer size of the wrong makes it too big for them to walk back. What do you do after you take a giant shit on the dining room table? Shrug? If they had the integrity to admit error they wouldn’t be Trump voters to begin with, now would they? Nope, they have to go right on shitting on the table.

  7. Kurtz says:

    On the other, some of them have to see, in their private moments, that they have wedded themselves to a shameless and untrustworthy ally.

    I’m pretty sure many of them are already there. Some have been there the whole time. But whatever the individual calculus, it matters not, because the private worries of elected officials are irrelevant.

    As far McConnell being angry about not beinf informed by the White House, I am calling bullshit.

    Let’s look at what we know.

    -We have known that Bolton was writing a book for quite some time. CNN reported on November 9 that he had a book deal and that it would be published before the 2020 election.

    -we also know that any government official with security clearance has to submit any future writings to the agency for which they worked for prepublication review.

    -We know that McConnell is as Machiavellian as they come.

    The prepublication review process is opaque and seemingly arbitrary at times. As far as turnaround time, on the Lawfare blog, I found a description of the NSA review process. The policy states that the review process should take a maximum of 25 business days, “as practicable.”

    I am admittedly ignorant of the publishing timeline for a book like this. But given that the goal would be to maximize interest, it seems the publisher would want to get it on shelves sometime during the height of the Presidential campaign or somewhere near the trial in the Senate. Neither time is favorable to McConnell.

    I am also unsure how the WH process differs from NSA, but I would think the process for a former National Security Advisor would be similar.

    The thing is, McConnell is as savvy a Prince as you will find. Even if he didn’t know the WH had it yet, he has to expect that the manuscript is floating around somewhere.

    Additionally, why would he trust that the WH, if they did have it, would inform him of it? You know who knows a shark better than anyone else? Another shark. (If you prefer snake, fine–me too.)

    The point is, either he did know, or if he didn’t, he should have seen this coming.

    I just can’t see him not preparing for the inevitable here. If he’s angry, he should be angry with himself for trusting a bunch of liars or for not seeing the obvious risk that something damaging would come from Bolton.

    My money would be that he knew and he’s pissed that someone leaked it. Even then, this administration is the leakiest ship to ever set sail.

    He gets to wear the dunce cap here. That’s saying a lot these days.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    If we believe the truth will out, a lot hinges on when. Any GOP voting to convict would face an outraged base next year. But they’re not all running next year. If not, they have two or four years for passions to cool and the truth to emerge.

    Joe Manchin is regarded as the D most likely to defect and acquit. His term isn’t up until 2024. The electorate are often described as remembering nothing past six months. Doug Jones, however, is up next year.

    If my quick run through WIKI is right, 22 Rs are up for reelection in 2020. 31 are not, including Romney and Murkowski. 20 Rs are enough to convict. (Assuming if 20 Rs would convict any leaner Ds would feel safe.)

  9. Pete S says:

    I think the political calculus is easy and has not really changed. The senators view their legacy as protecting a president who was setting up courts to chew through abortion rights, worker protections, consumer protections, environmental protections and voter rights for long enough that those things may not be fixable. A president who helped with a completely unproductive tax cut for the rich. They will portray themselves as having the courage to hold out against the tyranny of public opinion to do so. And McConnell is the leader of that group. He absolutely had to know about the manuscript. He didn’t care. His job and goals are the same and he does not care.

  10. Sleeping Dog says:


    McConnell is throwing shade on the WH in order to deflect the anger in his caucus. They may have expected a Bolton bombshell, but they had a greater expectation that McConnell would have a contingency and he doesn’t. For rethugs, an ugly situation has gotten uglier and they’re unhappy.

    Couldn’t happen to a better group of people.

  11. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Of course McConnell knew.
    This is all theater.
    There will be no additional witnesses.
    Trump will skate.
    Democracy is ending.

  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    My only hope is that Democrats and Independents watch the travesty that is happening in the Senate and get really energized for November.
    I’ve always been an advocate of divided Government, but the only way America survives is if Trump loses and Republicans lose the Senate. This mockery of truth, and our system of Governance, cannot be countenanced.
    Anything less than a cleansing spells the demise of our Nation.

  13. David in KC says:

    @Sleeping Dog: A contingency plan? Like for healthcare?

  14. Andrew says:

    Hmmm, this must be another reason Trump is rolling out a bull$hit Middle East peace plan right now.


  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    @David in KC:

    Yeah, just like healthcare.

    The Rethug party has moved from being a party who had an ideology that encompassed governance, to an ideology that is simply anti-government. If you’re against something it is difficult to actually manage it. Rethugs once believed that governance best occurred closest to the people, i.e. state or local government, now you hear the rabble calling for no governmental action at any level, unless of course it suits their needs.

  16. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I have recently come to think that Biden should volunteer to appear in the Senate……and once there he should just unload on these stupid fuqs. Release the Kracken. Embarrass Republicans for their partisan hackery. Call them on their nonsense.

    I remind you…no one has ever named one single law that Biden has broken. It’s all innuendo and smear. Just like “but her emails!”

    It’s potentially a huge platform for him.
    If he went really big…it might just ensure his nomination.
    The downside risk with Biden is the inevitable gaffe.
    What do you guys think?

  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: A bigger dog and pony show? Why not? Whatever…

  18. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    A bigger dog and pony show?

    Someone has to step up and call out the Republicans for being the Confederacy of Dunces that they are.
    If not one of the potential leaders of the Democratic Party…then who?
    Or is it your position that this mockery should continue unabated?

  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    A couple breaking items…
    ~ QU Polling is out with new polling that says 75% v 20% are in favor of Witnesses.
    ~ McConnell has announced an agreement with Schumer that questioning will start tomorrow and alternate between parties for up to 8 hours…will continue on Thursday. Witness vote will apparently be held on Friday.

  20. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    A bigger dog and pony show?

    Perhaps Republicans will call Adam Schiff…I would enjoy watching the schooling Schiff would give them.

  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: As I noted (probably more than once as I have a tendency to be redundant) I’m kind of a don’t hunt what you can’t kill guy on impeachment. I don’t see how the actions so far reduce the “this mockery should continue unabated” factor, but if you think the Dems are making progress, that’s fine by me, too. Everybody’s gotta have a gig and a place to row it. This just isn’t mine.

    And as you frequently note, the democracy is already a shambles and doomed. It may be the only thing you and I agree on.

  22. Tyrell says:

    What we see now are the Republicans abandoning Bolton while the Democrats are embracing him. I am calling this out for what it is: crass political hypocrisy on both parties.
    This is full justification for a new party. A party that stays away from corrupting politics. A party that is not controlled or connected to the news networks. A party that is transparent and not owned by anyone.
    Political parties need to have an honor code just as strict as the military academies. This code would prohibit political hucksterism, connections to news networks, hypocrisy, and political schemes.
    It is either an alternative party, or just more of the same as the leaders in Congress fiddle. Jerry Springer’s shows have more integrity than what is shown at these so-called “hearings”.
    The group discussions at the local barbershop have more honesty and meaning.

  23. Jax says:

    Hahahahaha….According to the National Review, McConnell has told his caucus he doesn’t have the votes to block new witnesses.

    (musical emoji) All in all you’re just another brick in the wall (musical emoji)

    Hopefully the wall that is Trump’s eventual prison.

  24. @Tyrell:

    What we see now are the Republicans abandoning Bolton while the Democrats are embracing him. I am calling this out for what it is: crass political hypocrisy on both parties.

    While, without a doubt, politics is going on, let’s be clear: the Democrats want to hear the truth from Bolton. The Republicans want to stop Bolton from telling the truth in any meaningful way.

    This is not some both sides are equivalent situation.

  25. The Lounsbury says:

    @Tyrell: Embracing? Rather pathetic spin. They’re wringing their hands over how they ended up with him as the hook, very far from “embracing” in the ordinary English meaning of the word, although in the desperate political spin meaning….

  26. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    What we see now are the Republicans abandoning Bolton while the Democrats are embracing him.

    This is some both-siderism that our friend Doug can envy.
    Democrats aren’t embracing Bolton. But he has facts in the form of contemporaneous notes and recollections that would be critical in this process. The Republicans are correct in one respect; we have not heard direct witness testimony…BECAUSE TRUMP HAS OBSTRUCTED THE PROCESS.
    Bolton is a direct witness. The fact that Republicans do not want to hear from a direct witness tells you that, either they know Trump is guilty, or they don’t know and don’t want to know.
    Either way Republicans have shown themselves to be more interested in protecting Trump and their jobs, than their country.