President Donald Trump repeatedly endangered national security — and committed a series of potentially impeachable offenses — to boost his reelection prospects, former national security adviser John Bolton argues in a forthcoming White House memoir.
Bolton writes that the House should have broadened its impeachment inquiry to other areas of his foreign policy, contending that he can document — and identify witnesses to — “Ukraine-like transgressions … across the full range of his foreign policy,” according to a description by Simon & Schuster released Friday.
Despite his swipe at the House, Bolton famously refused to cooperate with House investigators as they pursued allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his Democratic adversaries.
Per the publisher, Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened,” not only covers “chaos in the White House,” but also “assessments of major players, the president’s inconsistent, scattershot decision-making process, and his dealings with allies and enemies alike.”
The revelations are likely to reverberate on Capitol Hill, where Democrats have warned that Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine was far from isolated and that he presents an existential threat to the country if allowed to remain in office. House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff declined to comment, but others involved in the impeachment inquiry were livid that Bolton delayed revealing potentially pertinent evidence until months after it would have bolstered their case.
“At the time the country needed him most, and history will reflect, he chose to sell books,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “It wasn’t a question in his mind of whether or not he should talk about it. It’s whether or not he should profit from talking about it. Not exactly ‘Profiles in Courage.'”
It’s unclear whether lawmakers will seek Bolton’s sworn testimony on the matters he may identify in his book. The immediate reaction from those involved has been to boycott his memoir.
“John, we begged you to testify in impeachment. We tried everything, right up until the very last minute of the trial,” said Norm Eisen, a top lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment process. “You persistently refused. Now you want us to feel sorry for you & buy your book?”
Quigley, too, said he hoped anyone who cares what Bolton has to say would simply borrow the book rather than buy it. But he added that he hopes the House will revisit enforcing subpoenas it issued during the impeachment process that were never pursued.
The House Intelligence Committee never subpoenaed Bolton but it did initially seek to compel Bolton’s deputy Charles Kupperman to appear. Kupperman was represented by Chuck Cooper, a prominent Washington D.C. defense lawyer who also represents Bolton, and whose involvement with Kupperman positioned the case as a proxy for any potential effort by the House to seek Bolton’s testimony. In fact, Cooper indicated that had the House subpoenaed Bolton, he would have fought them in court.
Bolton was identified as a central witness to Trump’s decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine while asking its leaders to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats. He was in meetings during which other senior administration figures sounded alarms about Trump’s conduct — urging some of them to share their concerns with administration lawyers — and he interacted directly with Trump on the matter. A cascade of senior White House national security and State Department aides told impeachment investigators that Bolton was intimately aware of the circumstances at the heart of their probe.
In early January, less than three weeks after the House voted to impeach Trump for abusing his power and obstructing congressional investigations, Bolton signaled he would be willing to testify during the Senate trial, if called. Leaks from his book manuscript suggested that his concerns about Trump’s conduct extended well beyond Ukraine, and the revelations roiled the Senate on the eve of the trial.
Schiff and other Democratic impeachment managers from the House geared their trial strategy toward the handful of open-minded Senate Republicans who they hoped would be willing to seek Bolton’s testimony. But ultimately nearly all Republicans refused to hear witnesses, scuttling the effort.
After Trump’s acquittal — which came even as several Senate Republicans said the House proved its case against him — Democrats considered whether to call Bolton to testify. But the discussion soon gave way to the oncoming coronavirus crisis and dissipated altogether after much of the country went into lockdown. Bolton’s book, which was due out in March, has been repeatedly delayed amid squabbling between him and the White House, which has alleged it contained classified and privileged information.
Despite his refusal to cooperate, Bolton swiped at Democrats for what he said was conducting an impeachment inquiry that was “focused narrowly on Ukraine,” according to the publisher, rather than across the foreign policy spectrum.
Democrats based their inquiry on a whistleblower complaint that described the rough outlines of the Ukraine allegations against Trump. But as they began to investigate, a slew of State Department and NSC witnesses came forward and testified privately and publicly about the episode, including several who had worked for Bolton who agreed to speak to congressional investigators under the cover of a subpoena.
Despite Bolton’s refusal to testify, Simon & Schuster said he was “astonished” by Trump’s actions, and viewed him as a “president for whom getting reelected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation” — language that mirrors a central claim of the Democratic case.
Bolton plans to write that he was “hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision” during his tenure as national security adviser, from April 2018 through September 2019, “that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations.”
Simon & Schuster’s statement represents the most detailed, official preview yet of the contents of Bolton’s book ahead of its publishing on June 23. The memoir’s release has been delayed twice due to an extensive prepublication review by the National Security Council.
Quigley said that despite his frustration with Bolton’s timing, he’s willing to hear what the former Trump aide has to say.
“I give Bolton one more chance to show some glimmer of standing up for what is right” Quigley said. “He and I don’t agree on much. I’d respect him a lot more if he showed the courage.”
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