Jun 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Top Democrats express outrage at Bolton allegations, will consult on "next steps"

Bolton sits in a suit and tie
Bolton at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina on February 17. Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said on Wednesday he plans to discuss "next steps" with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats in light of new allegations in former national security adviser John Bolton's book about President Trump's misconduct in his dealings with foreign leaders.

Driving the news: Bolton writes in his upcoming memoir that House Democrats committed "impeachment malpractice" by not expanding their investigation beyond the Ukraine scandal to include other actions Trump allegedly took to solicit election help from foreign leaders.

  • For example, Bolton alleges that Trump asked President Xi Jinping to increase Chinese agricultural purchases in order to improve his electoral prospects in farm states, the New York Times and Washington Post report, citing advance copies of the book.
  • “I am hard pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” Bolton writes, according to the Post.

What they're saying:

  • Joe Biden: "Donald Trump’s behavior disgraces the American presidency. We knew that long before today’s revelations. And my message to China’s leaders, or anyone else who President Trump might invite to interfere: stay out of our democracy. Stay out of our elections. The American people alone will decide the future of this country, and I am confident in the choice they will make."
  • House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.): "Bolton’s staff were asked to testify before the House to Trump’s abuses, and did. They had a lot to lose and showed real courage. When Bolton was asked, he refused, and said he’d sue if subpoenaed. Instead, he saved it for a book. Bolton may be an author, but he’s no patriot."
  • House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.): "What we've just learned makes it even more difficult to understand why Ambassador Bolton did not testify during the House's impeachment inquiry. If President Trump urged the Chinese leader to help with his reelection, just as he pressed the Ukrainian leader to do, the American people deserved to know that information. The House will continue to look for answers wherever we may find them about the President's abuses and corruption. I will be consulting with the Speaker and my fellow chairs on next steps in this matter."
  • Senate Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.): "I have been investigating potential political interference by Donald Trump as it relates to Turkey and sanctions enforcement, and this damning evidence corroborates what my investigation has uncovered to date. If John Bolton has an interest in serving his country, as opposed to selling books, he will respond promptly to my forthcoming request for more information about Donald Trump's relationship with Turkey.
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “The revelations in Mr. Bolton’s book make Senate Republicans’ craven actions on impeachment look even worse—and history will judge them for it," said in a statement.

The other side: “I haven’t read John Bolton’s book, but I don’t need to rethink my decision,” Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday on his decision to block Bolton from testifying at Trump's Senate impeachment trial, per the Washington Post.

  • “The question was, in the trial, did I need any more evidence to be convinced that President Trump did what he was accused of doing? I said he did it. I was convinced. I didn’t need any more evidence."

Between the lines: House Democrats floated the idea of subpoenaing Bolton during investigations into Trump's hold on military aid to Ukraine, but did ultimately decided not to in order to avoid the extended court battle.

  • Bolton writes in his book: "Had Democratic impeachment advocates not been so obsessed with their Ukraine blitzkrieg in 2019, had they taken the time to inquire more systematically about Trump’s behavior across his entire foreign policy, the impeachment outcome might well have been different."

Go deeper: Highlights from the excerpts of John Bolton's book

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