The allegations from an upcoming book by former national security adviser John Bolton may have altered the trajectory on the question of whether the Senate will call on additional witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
Two swing-vote Republicans have now indicated that they and some of their colleagues are considering joining the Democrats in calling on Bolton to testify.
As Democrats on Jan. 27 renewed their calls for additional witnesses in the Senate, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) both suggested that the report about Bolton’s book should warrant calling witnesses. The Democrats will need four Republican senators to side with them when the question of calling for additional witnesses comes before the Senate.
“The reports about John Bolton’s book strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues,” Collins said in a statement.
Romney, considered another possible swing-vote who has been an outspoken critic of Trump within the Republican Party, told reporters Jan. 27 that “it is increasingly apparent that it would be important to hear from John Bolton” before adding that it is “increasingly likely” other Republican senators would join in too.
The New York Times reported on details from Bolton’s book on Jan. 26 without quoting any of the book’s content. According to the newspaper, Trump told Bolton during a meeting in August “that he preferred sending no assistance to Ukraine until officials had turned over all materials they had about the Russia investigation that related to Mr. Biden and supporters of Mrs. Clinton in Ukraine.”
Trump disputed Bolton’s reported claims and noted that the House lawmakers never called on Bolton to testify during the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry. Notably, the description of Bolton’s account specifically makes references to materials tied to the Russia investigation rather than the new inquiries Trump brought up during his call with Zelensky.
“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “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.”
In the book, Bolton also reportedly claims that he warned White House lawyers that Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, may have used his work for the president to help his private clients.
Bolton reportedly brought his concerns about Giuliani to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after Trump’s July 26 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Pompeo disputed Bolton’s account through a spokesperson.
Bolton also reportedly claimed that acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was present when Trump spoke with Giuliani about former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Democrats say that Yovanovitch’s firing is linked to an alleged scheme to pressure Ukraine to open investigations into Trump’s political rivals, namely, former Vice President Joe Biden.
A lawyer for Mulvaney pushed back against reports that his client was involved in discussions about holding aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations.
“John Bolton never informed Mick Mulvaney of any concerns surrounding Bolton’s purported August conversation with the president,” Mulvaney lawyer Bob Driscoll said in a statement on Jan. 27.
“Nor did Mr. Mulvaney ever have a conversation with the president or anyone else indicating that Ukrainian military aid was withheld in exchange for a Ukrainian investigation of Burisma, the Bidens, or the 2016 election.” Burisma is a Ukrainian gas company in which Biden’s son Hunter held a paid position from 2014 to 2019.
The statement said that the “latest story from The New York Times, coordinated with a book launch, has more to do with publicity than the truth.”
Shortly after leaked details of the book were published, Amazon.com opened pre-orders for Bolton’s book with a release date set for March 17. The sales page describes the book as a memoir of Bolton’s 519 days serving as Trump’s national security adviser.
“John Bolton served as National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump for 519 days,” the description says. “A seasoned public servant who had previously worked for Presidents Reagan, Bush #41, and Bush #43, Bolton brought to the administration 30 years of experience in international issues and a reputation for tough, blunt talk. In his memoir, he offers a substantive and factual account of his time in the room where it happened.”
A spokesperson for Bolton denied allegations that he collaborated with The New York Times.
“Ambassador John Bolton, Simon & Schuster, and Javelin Literary categorically state that there was absolutely no coordination with The New York Times or anyone else regarding the appearance of information about his book, ‘The Room Where It Happened,’ at online booksellers. Any assertion to the contrary is unfounded speculation,” Bolton aide Sarah Tinsley said in a statement on Jan. 27.
The reported details from Bolton’s book add a twist to the Senate trial, which, until now, has chugged along without any major surprises. The New York Times published its story about the book as Trump’s attorneys prepared to present a second day of defense arguments. During the first day of arguments, the defense team exposed what they described as omissions in the narrative presented by the Democratic impeachment managers.
Bolton reportedly distributed drafts of the book to close associates and sent a copy to the White House for review of classified material. The former national security adviser’s lawyer accused the White House of leaking the details of the book.
Democrats subsequently renewed calls for Bolton to testify in the Senate impeachment trial of Trump.
“Senators should insist that Mr. Bolton be called as a witness, and provide his notes and other relevant documents,” House impeachment managers said in a statement on Jan. 26. “The Senate trial must seek the full truth and Mr. Bolton has vital information to provide.
“There is no defensible reason to wait until his book is published, when the information he has to offer is critical to the most important decision Senators must now make—whether to convict the President of impeachable offenses.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) shared on social media one of the reports about Bolton’s book and said it “suggests multiple top Trump Admin officials knew the facts and deliberately misled Congress and the American people.”
“A massive White House cover-up. All we need is four Republican Senators to get the truth,” Schumer said.
Trump’s attorneys made their case against the president’s removal as Bolton’s reported claims reverberated through Washington.
Top Republican senators on Jan. 27 dismissed the leaked Bolton claims, saying the allegations were “nothing new.”
“There’s nothing new here. It does seem to be an effort to sell books,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican in the Senate.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the No. 4 GOP member in the Senate, said: “The basic dynamic of the obligation of the House to take the time they have to put a case together doesn’t change.
“I don’t think it changes any fundamental information, nor does it change the basic case that the House has to put the case together.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said during an appearance on the “Hugh Hewitt Show” on Jan. 27 that the House could have called Bolton but didn’t, and that the Senate shouldn’t do the House’s work for them.
“They want us to do the investigative work,” Ernst, the vice chairwoman of the Senate Republican Conference, said. “And that’s not the job of the Senate.”