US President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton is said to be in talks to testify before an impeachment inquiry focused on the president’s dealings in Ukraine.
According to multiple reports in the US media on Friday, Bolton’s lawyers are speaking to three Democratic-led House committees leading the inquiry about a potential deposition.
“As House members who serve on the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees have been interviewing witnesses in private, some of the committees’ Democrats have said they believe there’s a need for Bolton to testify,” CNN reported on Friday.
Bolton was one of the officials on a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky which sparked the impeachment inquiry following a whistleblower complaint. In the call, Trump is said to have suggested holding back military aid for Ukraine unless the country agreed to investigate Democrats and a company linked to the son of Joe Biden, the former vice president and Trump’s potential 2020 Democratic rival.
Bolton was reportedly so alarmed by the call that he alerted a National Security Council lawyer. Bolton also warned that Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has emerged as the point man in the president’s alleged drive to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden, was “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everyone up,” according to a testimony earlier this month by his former aide Fiona Hill.
Bolton served as Trump’s national security adviser for over a year. In September, Trump said he fired Bolton, who is known for his hardline stances on Washington’s archenemies, particularly Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. But Bolton has said he resigned.
Bolton’s testimony would be a blow to the Trump administration, which has severely criticized the impeachment inquiry.
A number of former officials have already testified – some of them defying White House orders – including Hill, William Taylor, a former charge d’affaires at the embassy in Ukraine, former Ukrainian envoy Kurt Volker, former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union.
Taylor testified this week that what he discovered in Kyiv was the Trump administration’s “irregular” back channel to foreign policy led by Giuliani, and “ultimately alarming circumstances” that threatened to erode the United States’ relationship with a budding Eastern European ally facing Russian aggression.
Trump has repeatedly said there was no quid pro quo for the Ukraine investigations he was seeking, though witness testimony has contradicted that claim.
Volker testified and released text messages to the committee that detailed conversations between him, Sondland and Taylor in which the latter wrote that he thought it was “crazy” to withhold aid from Ukraine for help with a political campaign.
Taylor’s account reached to the highest levels of the administration, drawing in US Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and slices at the core of the Republican defense of the administration and the president’s insistence of no wrongdoing.
It also lays bare the struggle between Bolton and those who a previous State Department witness described as the “three amigos” — Sondland, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Volker — who were involved in the alternative Ukraine policy vis-a-vis Russia.
Taylor told lawmakers that Sondland, a wealthy businessman who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, was aware of the demands and later admitted he made a mistake by telling the Ukrainians that military assistance was not contingent on agreeing to Trump’s requests.
“In fact, Ambassador Sondland said, ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including the security assistance,” Taylor recalled.
Taylor apparently kept detailed records of conversations and documents, including two personal notebooks, lawmakers said.
It’s illegal to seek or receive contributions of value from a foreign entity for a US election.
If the Democratic-led House approves articles of impeachment, the matter would move to the Republican-led Senate for a trial, with senators as jurors. For now, it seems unlikely that the Senate would vote to convict Trump.
While some GOP senators have questioned Trump’s behavior, none has deemed it impeachment-worthy.