Jan 6, 2020

What they're saying: Romney, Collins respond to Bolton's offer to testify

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Responses rolled in Monday from top congressional leaders and key Republican senators on former national security adviser John Bolton's announcement that he would willingly testify in the Senate's impeachment trial if issued a subpoena.

Driving the news: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters he "would like to be able to hear from John Bolton," but added: "What the process is to make that happen, I don’t have an answer for you."

Why it matters: Bolton's testimony could offer key insights to unanswered questions at the heart of the impeachment inquiry — namely, why President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine while seeking to pressure the country to investigate his political rivals.

  • Bolton's lawyer said in November that his client was “part of many relevant meetings and conversations” in the Ukraine scandal.

The big picture: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is standing firm on his position that no witnesses should be called, arguing that it's the responsibility of the House to investigate. Just four Republican senators must vote with Democrats to reach the simple majority necessary to call witnesses.

What they're saying:

  • McConnell: The majority leader did not mention Bolton during a Senate floor speech Monday, but said: "The Senate’s unanimous bipartisan precedent from 1999 left witnesses and other mid-trial questions to the middle of the trial. House Democrats may have scrapped their own precedents to hurt President Trump but they do not call the shots in the Senate."
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “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’ve requested they would make absolutely clear they are participating in a cover up."
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "The President and Sen. McConnell have run out of excuses. They must allow key witnesses to testify, and produce the documents Trump has blocked, so Americans can see the facts for themselves. The Senate cannot be complicit in the President's cover-up. "

Potential swing vote Republicans like Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.) were non-committal about Bolton when asked by reporters, but seemed to side with McConnell in wanting to hear opening arguments before voting.

  • Collins: "I think it's difficult to decide in isolation before we have heard the opening statements. ... There are a number of witnesses that may well be appropriate for Stage 3, of which he would certainly be one."
  • Murkowski: “I want to get to the first step. The first step is trying to get articles of impeachment which we haven’t gotten yet. So, there’s a lot of people that want to hear a lot of things but you got to get to the first step first.”

Flashback: Trump tweeted in November that "the D.C. Wolves and Fake News Media are reading far too much into people being forced by Courts to testify before Congress," and that he "would actually like people to testify," including Bolton.

  • "John Bolton is a patriot and may know that I held back the money from Ukraine because it is considered a corrupt country, & I wanted to know why nearby European countries weren’t putting up money also," Trump tweeted.

Go deeper: Bolton says he will testify in impeachment trial if Senate issues subpoena

Go deeper

Bolton says he will testify in impeachment trial if Senate issues subpoena

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former national security adviser John Bolton said Monday that he would testify in President Trump's impeachment trial should the Senate issue a subpoena.

Why it matters, via Axios' Jonathan Swan: Bolton was the most prolific note-taker at the top level of the White House and probably has more details than any impeachment inquiry witness, so far, about President Trump's machinations on Ukraine.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 6, 2020

Key GOP senators don't want to subpoena Bolton

John Bolton during a meeting with Belarus' president Alexander in September. Photo: Yuri Oreshkin\TASS via Getty Images

Key Senate Republicans are refusing to give a clear answer on whether President Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton should be subpoenaed to testify in an eventual impeachment trial, after he stated Monday that he would comply with a Senate subpoena.

Why it matters: Bolton has firsthand knowledge of Trump's direct conversations about Ukraine aid. The big question heading into this week is whether rebel Republican Senators are even remotely thinking about joining Democrats’ demands for the Senate to call witnesses and request documents from key figures being blocked by the White House.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020

Reality check: Trump claims Bolton would "know nothing" about impeachment charges

President Trump said Tuesday that former national security adviser John Bolton "would know nothing about what we're talking about" if he testified in the Senate impeachment trial, adding that it will be "up to the lawyers" and the Senate to decide whether he appears.

Reality check: A number of witnesses told the House impeachment inquiry that Bolton was present in several meetings and conversations related to President Trump's decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine. Axios also reported in November that current and former administration officials believe Bolton was the most prolific note-taker at the top level of the White House.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020