John Bolton willing to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial

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John Bolton during an event in Washington, D.C. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

‘Since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study,’ the former national security adviser says.

Former national security adviser John Bolton said Monday that he would testify if he is subpoenaed as part of the Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

In a statement posted online, Bolton, who was asked to testify as part of the House’s impeachment inquiry but refused to appear for a deposition, said he wants to meet his “obligations” both as a citizen and as a former top presidential adviser.

“Since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study,” Bolton wrote. “I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify.”

Bolton’s surprise offer comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) remain at an impasse over the parameters for the chamber’s trial. Schumer has been pushing McConnell to allow additional witness testimony and document production as part of the trial, but McConnell has maintained that those issues should be considered after the trial begins.

The statement from Bolton — who has remained relatively quiet since Trump fired him last year — also puts new pressure on the handful of Republican senators who could side with Democrats in their demand for documents and witness testimony. A Senate subpoena requires at least 51 votes, and four Republicans would need to vote with Democrats.

Amid the clashes between McConnell and Schumer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has refused to formally transmit the impeachment articles to the Senate. The House impeached Trump on Dec. 18, but Pelosi has said she wants to wait until the parameters of the Senate trial become clearer. Senators expect Pelosi to send the articles later this week.

Bolton was not subpoenaed as part of the House’s impeachment inquiry, and he did not say in his statement whether he would comply with a subpoena from the lower chamber.

Bolton indicated that he had initially planned to decide whether to testify based on the outcome of a court case brought by his former deputy, Charles Kupperman. Kupperman — who had been subpoenaed to testify in the House’s impeachment inquiry but was ordered by Trump not to appear — sought a federal court ruling to resolve the conflicting demands.

But the House, seeking to disentangle its impeachment push from ongoing litigation, withdrew its subpoena and promised not to punish Kupperman for refusing to testify. The White House, too, urged the court to drop the case, claiming Kupperman was immune from testifying. Last week, Judge Richard Leon agreed, ending the short-lived court battle. Bolton acknowledged that decision, saying Leon issued a “carefully reasoned opinion.”

“It now falls to the Senate to fulfill its constitutional obligation to try impeachments, and it does not appear possible that a final judicial resolution of the still-unanswered constitutional questions can be obtained before the Senate acts,” Bolton said Monday.

Bolton’s testimony would be a major break for impeachment investigators.

Senior State Department and White House officials described Bolton as a central witness to Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. According to former National Security Council aide Fiona Hill, Bolton bristled at Trump’s reliance on his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to conduct back-channel talks with Ukrainians in service of Trump’s efforts. Hill recalled that Bolton referred to the matter as a “drug deal,” adding that Bolton called Giuliani a “hand grenade” who threatened to blow up U.S. foreign policy goals.

Bolton was also involved in efforts to lobby Trump to release hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, which Trump ordered frozen despite unanimous agreement among agency leaders that it should be released to the besieged U.S. ally.

Democrats said the aid was frozen to pressure Ukraine’s new president to launch Trump’s desired investigations. The White House has blocked several central witnesses to the decision on military aid from testifying before impeachment investigators.

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