Jan 27, 2020

National Security Council says no other White House staffers saw Bolton manuscript

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The National Security Council denied Monday that any White House personnel outside of its purview had seen the manuscript of former national security adviser John Bolton's book that was submitted to the White House for review.

"Ambassador Bolton’s manuscript was submitted to the NSC for pre-publication review and has been under initial review by the NSC. No White House personnel outside NSC have reviewed the manuscript."
— National Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot

Why it matters: Given that White House counsel Pat Cipollone is not part of the NSC, this statement appears to double as an on-the-record denial that anyone on President Trump's impeachment defense team reviewed Bolton's manuscript.

Our thought bubble: The word "reviewed" leaves open plenty of room for verbal briefings and other means of communicating the contents of the manuscript.

  • Axios has asked the NSC to clarify whether members of the legal team were briefed on Bolton's manuscript.

Between the lines: This additional statement from the White House underscores what have become increasingly tense conversations inside the administration about who knew what and when.

  • Senior White House officials have told Axios they think it's ridiculous that the New York Times learned about the Bolton manuscript before they did.
  • It's also important — politically — for the White House to put distance between Trump's impeachment defense team and the Bolton manuscript.
  • Trump's lawyers argued there was no evidence that the president linked the hold up of Ukrainian aid with investigations of his political rivals. Bolton directly contradicts that in his book, which makes life tougher for moderate Republican senators who are torn between wanting to put a swift end to the trial versus wanting to be seen as taking it seriously and being open to all available evidence.

Go deeper: Republicans fear "floodgates" if Bolton testifies

Go deeper

Bolton alleges in book that Trump tied Ukraine aid to investigations

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton alleges in his forthcoming book that the president explicitly told him "he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens," the New York Times first reported.

Why this matters: The revelations present a dramatic eleventh-hour turn in Trump's Senate impeachment trial. They directly contradict Trump's claim that he never tied the holdup of Ukrainian aid to his demands for investigations into his political opponent Joe Biden. Trump strongly denied Bolton's claims early Monday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 27, 2020

Trump's defense team shifts from complacency to urgency

White House counsel Pat Cipollone arrives for the Senate impeachment trial. Photo: Olivier Doulery/AFP via Getty Images

Just days ago, Republicans were optimistic President Trump’s defense team could cruise to an acquittal by the end of this week, but many believe his lawyers now face a steep climb to stop a vote to allow new witnesses and drag out the impeachment proceedings.

The bottom line: Allegations in excerpts of former national security advisor John Bolton's forthcoming book — leaked to the New York Times for a story published Sunday night — have shifted the dynamic of the impeachment trial and threaten to upend Republicans' plans.

Go deeperArrowJan 28, 2020

Bolton indicates more Ukraine details if book prevails over WH "censorship"

Former national security adviser John Bolton on stage at Duke University on Monday. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

Former national security adviser John Bolton said during a talk at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, he hopes his new book is "not suppressed" by the White House, according to journalists present in the room.

This is an effort to write history and I did it the best I can. We'll have to see what comes out of the censorship."
— JohnBolton's comments, per Bloomberg and the New York Times