Nov 17, 2019

Official testifies Bolton held 1-on-1 meeting with Trump about Ukraine aid

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former White House national security adviser John Bolton met privately with President Trump in August in an effort to convince him to release nearly $400 million in frozen military aid to Ukraine, former National Security Council official Tim Morrison told impeachment investigators last month.

Why it matters: The episode underscores how important Bolton's testimony could ultimately be to determining why Trump withheld security assistance to Ukraine at a time when he was pushing its government to investigate his political rivals — a question at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

  • Morrison testified that Bolton emerged from the meeting and simply said that Trump was "not yet ready" to release the money.
  • Bolton also warned Morrison not to get involved with EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland — who communicated to Ukrainian officials that the aid would be released if they announced investigations into Joe Biden and the 2016 election — and to "make sure the lawyers are tracking."

The big picture: Bolton failed to appear for his closed-door deposition earlier this month and told the House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry that he would challenge a potential subpoena for his testimony in court.

  • A House Intelligence Committee official responded that Democrats have "no interest in allowing the administration to play a rope-a-dope with us in the courts for months," and that the White House's decision to block Bolton from testifying will be used as further evidence of obstruction for a potential article of impeachment.

What to watch: While Democrats likely believe they have enough evidence from existing testimonies to vote on impeachment, Bolton remains the inquiry's biggest wildcard. Sources told Axios' Jonathan Swan that Bolton was the most prolific note-taker at the top level of the White House and probably has more details than any witness about Trump's machinations on Ukraine.

Go deeper: Trump aides fear Bolton's secret notes

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Esper catches White House off guard with opposition to military use, photo op

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a press briefing Wednesday that he does not currently support invoking the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that permits the president to use active-duty troops on U.S. soil, in order to quell protests against racial injustice.

Why it matters: President Trump threatened this week to deploy military forces if state and local governments aren't able to squash violent protests. Axios reported on Tuesday that Trump is backing off the idea for now, but that he hasn't ruled it out.

Updates: George Floyd protests continue for 9th day

Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue on June 3. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Largely peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued Wednesday, marking nine straight days of demonstrations.

The latest: As several major cities moved to lift curfews, NYPD officers "aggressively" dispersed large crowds in Brooklyn and Manhattan beyond New York City's 8 p.m. curfew, per the New York Times. The National Guard was stationed outside many protests Wednesday night, including in Hollywood and Atlanta.

Trump hits back at Mattis: "I gave him a new life"

President Trump speaks at the White House. Photo: Doug Mills - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump unloaded on his former defense secretary via Twitter on Wednesday, hours after James Mattis condemned him for making a "mockery of our Constitution" in his response to mass protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

What he's saying: "Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General. I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was 'Chaos', which I didn’t like, & changed it to 'Mad Dog'"