Jan 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.

  • Former National Security Council official Tim Morrison told impeachment investigators Bolton met privately with the president in August to convince him to release nearly $400 million in frozen military aid to Ukraine.
  • Former White House official Fiona Hill recounted an episode during which Bolton told her, “I am not part of whatever drug deal [EU Ambassador Gordon] Sondland and [acting chief of staff Mick] Mulvaney are cooking up,” and asked her to relay that message to White House lawyers.
  • Bolton's lawyer confirmed in November he was a "part of many relevant meetings and conversations" that would be significant to the impeachment inquiry.

The state of play: Bolton said on Monday that he would testify in Trump's impeachment trial if the Senate subpoenaed him. However, that would require four GOP senators to vote with Democrats to call him as a witness, and it's unclear whether enough moderate Republicans would be willing to break ranks.

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he plans to move forward on approving rules for the trial without negotiating with Democrats.
  • McConnell has expressed no interest in subpoenaing Bolton, but Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will still likely bring votes on witnesses after each side makes its opening arguments.

Of note: Trump tweeted in November about Bolton and his dealings with Ukraine, stating, "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."

Go deeper: Key GOP senators don't want to subpoena John Bolton

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Republicans fear "floodgates" if Bolton testifies

Photo: Yuri Oreshkin/TASS via Getty Images

There may be enough new pressure on Senate Republicans to allow witnesses at President Trump's impeachment trial, after the leak from a forthcoming book by former national security adviser John Bolton that contradicts what the White House has been telling the country.

Why it matters: This is a dramatic, 11th-hour inflection point for the trial, with an eyewitness rebuttal to Trump's claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to investigations into Joe Biden.

Go deeperArrowJan 27, 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

Romney: It's "increasingly likely" Senate Republicans will vote for Bolton testimony

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Monday that it is "increasingly likely" that he and at least three other Senate Republicans will vote to call former national security adviser John Bolton as a witness in President Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: His comments come after the New York Times reported that Bolton alleges in his forthcoming book that Trump told him he needed aid withheld from Ukraine until it helped with investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens.

Go deeperArrowJan 27, 2020