John Bolton's Claim That Trump Froze Ukraine Aid for Biden Investigation Throws Curveball in Trial
It seemed, for a day or two, that President Donald Trump‘s impeachment trial might be over by the end of the week, with Senate Republicans signaling their intention to move swiftly to Trump’s acquittal.
That is looking far less certain after reporting on Sunday that the president’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton is claiming firsthand knowledge that would further corroborate the allegations against him.
The New York Times was the first to report that Bolton, who was fired by Trump last year, has written in a draft of his forthcoming memoir that the president did, indeed, freeze military aid to Ukraine until the country agreed to say it was investigating his political rivals.
Trump quickly denied this.
Bolton has said he would testify at the Senate trial if he is subpoenaed. But senators have put off deciding whether to call new witnesses at the trial until after both House Democrats and Trump’s defense team make their arguments.
Only a few Republican senators would need to vote with the Democratic minority on allowing witnesses to be called, though that would open a new and complicated phase of the trial as each side debated over specific witnesses and how to have them testify — likely lengthening the impeachment trial by weeks.
“President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript [by Bolton],” the Times reported on Sunday.
In the wake of the Bolton reporting by the Times, some of the key Republican votes on agreeing to witnesses said they were moving closer to their Democratic colleagues.
The bombshell account from one of Trump’s former top officials bolsters the backbone for a months-long investigation in the House of Representatives that found the president withheld the military aide to Ukraine while lobbying the country to look into the family of former Vice President Joe Biden.
In December, Trump was impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
He has adamantly denied wrongdoing, despite the investigation.
Bolton’s account, while disputed by the president, contradicts an argument by Trump’s defense team that he legitimately wanted Ukraine to look into possible corruption and that the aid freeze was not for political gain.
“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”
It’s still uncertain whether the Republican-controlled Senate will allow for Democrats to call Bolton and other top Trump administration officials as witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial, which will decide whether the president will be removed from office on his impeachment charges.
Bolton’s book, The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir, is scheduled for publication on March 17.
The memoir will be “a substantive and factual account of his time in the room where it happened,” according to its description.
The White House refused to cooperate in the months-long investigation in the House.
Sen. Mitt Romney, a Trump critic and former Republican presidential nominee, is among the conservative senators who appear to be leaning toward voting with Democrats to allow witnesses at the trial.
“I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton,” he told reporters in the Capitol building, according to the Times.
In addition to attacking the quality of the evidence gathered by Democrats against the president, his team has said the process used to impeach him was unfair and unconstitutional.
His lawyers are on day two of their arguments to the Senate.