Bolton Book Confirms Most Serious Allegations in Trump Impeachment on Ukraine Quid Pro Quo

John Bolton’s book may inform a segment of the American public that the House impeachment managers were not able to reach. The book, which has been obtained by Just Security, disparages the Democrats’ handling of the impeachment process, in prose that will likely further burnish Bolton’s credentials as a conservative stalwart. But when it turns to the substance of the matter, President Donald Trump’s former national security advisor is not just in line with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Ca). Bolton’s book confirms the most essential and damning parts of the impeachment case against the president.

Bolton’s account may become even more salient as the country heads toward elections in November, in races both for the White House and for Congress. Details in the book puncture Trump’s narrative — which the president repeatedly hammers on the campaign trail — that the Ukraine allegations were a hoax perpetrated by people out to get him. Bolton’s account also may play havoc with any continuing plans by Attorney General William Barr or Rudy Giuliani to try to connect corruption in Ukraine to falsely implicate Joe Biden.

Bolton’s account might also put some Senate Republicans in a politically awkward position. During the impeachment trial, several of them said there was insufficient evidence to support the House impeachment managers’ allegations while, at the same time, they voted to block any witnesses from appearing. They took those steps despite 75 percent of the American public saying witnesses should be allowed to testify, and John Bolton’s statement that he would testify if only the Chamber would send him a subpoena. He promised not to fight it in the courts.

[Editors’ note: Ryan Goodman, “The Most Serious Obstruction of All: The Vote to Block Witnesses and the Public’s Right to Know”]

Senate Republicans who didn’t want to hear from Bolton, but claimed that the factual record was lacking, include Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). “The House managers had one job: make the case for impeachment, and they’ve failed to do so,” she said. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) expressed the same dissatisfaction, “I think this impeachment case has been wholly deficient on both articles and not just from a process perspective but from a fact perspective.” Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) said, “their case is completely circumstantial.”

“I am willing to stipulate that Mr. Bolton will likely testify that the President paused aid to Ukraine while asking Ukraine to investigate Vice President Biden. … But that doesn’t tell us anything. Why did the President ask for an investigation of Joe Biden?” posed Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) before then answering his own question. “The President was not asking for an investigation of a political rival. He was asking for an investigation of corruption, possible corruption, by the Vice President and his son,” Kennedy said. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) tried to paint the same picture as Kennedy after they too voted down a subpoena to hear from Bolton.

Bolton’s account, across several pages of his book, squarely addresses these parts of the record. A few examples.

1. Only “circumstantial evidence” of what Trump said or did? Bolton provides direct evidence.

“I took Trump’s temperature on the Ukraine security assistance, and he said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over.”

John Bolton, The Room Where It Happened

2. Trump’s actions were to pursue anti-corruption, not to help his campaign? Bolton confirms it was the latter, unequivocally.

“When, in 1992, Bush 41 supporters suggested he ask foreign governments to help out in his failing campaign against Bill Clinton, Bush and Jim Baker completely rejected the idea. Trump did the precise opposite.”

John Bolton, The Room Where It Happened

3. No evidence of a quid pro quo for military assistance? That’s what Bolton’s direct evidence establishes (see #1).

4. The White House suspended aid to Ukraine as part of a general review of foreign economic assistance? Bolton writes that this was a false cover.

“Mulvaney and others later argued that the dispute over Ukraine’s security assistance was related to rescinding the economic assistance, but this was entirely an ex post facto rationalization.”

John Bolton, The Room Where It Happened

As for the infamous phone call with Ukraine’s president, Bolton thought it simply fit into the ongoing scheme. “Nor, at the time, did I think Trump’s comments in the call reflected any major change in direction; the linkage of the military assistance with the Giuliani fantasies was already baked in. The call was not the keystone for me, but simply another brick in the wall,” the former national security advisor writes.

Bolton also corroborates details in congressional testimony by Fiona Hill, Ambassador Bill Taylor, and Tim Morrison.

Bolton’s account is damning of Rudy Giuliani’s role in polluting the president’s mind with conspiracy theories about Ukraine, and paints a largely favorable picture of Vice President Mike Pence. Which brings us full circle to Bolton’s credibility among some audiences.

The Ukraine chapter is the final one in Bolton’s book, and by that point one already anticipates the chapter’s contents because it fits completely with a series of other actions by President Trump that involve serious abuses of office. The chapter’s contents are also likely no surprise to Senate Republicans. The question is whether Bolton’s account will reach and inform more of the American electorate. It will certainly inform how history records what happened to our republic.

 

Photo credit: US National Security Advisor John Bolton listens as US President Donald Trump, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi begin a trilateral during the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

 

About the Author(s)

Ryan Goodman

Co-Editor-in-Chief of Just Security, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, former Special Counsel to the General Counsel of the Department of Defense (2015-2016). Follow him on Twitter (@rgoodlaw).