John Bolton willing to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial

Former national security advisor John Bolton said Monday he would testify in President Trump’s impeachment trial if the Senate issues him a subpoena, putting new and potentially intense pressure on Senate Republicans to open the impeachment trial further than they had planned.

Several administration witnesses testified during the House investigation of Trump’s actions toward Ukraine that Bolton told them he was concerned about aspects of the president’s behavior. Former administration official Fiona Hill recounted Bolton caustically comparing Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani’s work in Ukraine to a “drug deal.”

Bolton’s testimony — which Democrats have long sought, believing it would shine additional light on Trump’s actions — could serve as a focal point of a Senate impeachment trial.

“I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify,” Bolton said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has, so far, resisted calls to have live witnesses testify in the Senate trial. The House voted last month to impeach Trump on two counts — one accusing him of abuse of power, the other of obstructing Congress’ investigation — but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has delayed the formal step of sending the impeachment resolution to the Senate in an effort to put pressure on McConnell to relent.

House Democrats did not subpoena Bolton, but they made clear that they wanted to hear from him. During the House proceedings, Bolton said he would wait for the courts to decide whether witnesses had to testify before Congress or whether they could abide by a presidential directive to not testify in the House’s impeachment effort.

Bolton had tied his fate to that of Charles Kupperman, his former deputy, who asked a court to decide whether he had to abide by a congressional subpoena. A federal judge late last month said that case was moot and didn’t decide the issue.

“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 said in his statement.

Democrats immediately called on Senate Republicans to issue the subpoena.

“Bolton refused to testify in the House, following Trump’s orders,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) on Twitter. “Now he is willing to come forward. The Senate must allow testimony from him, [acting White House Chief of Staff Mick] Mulvaney and others. The cover-up must end.”

McConnell has indicated that the Republican-controlled Senate will not convict Trump in an impeachment trial and that he would like to see a trial move rapidly to its foregone conclusion. He wants the Senate to hear opening arguments from both sides and then decide whether witnesses and other testimony is needed to decide the case or whether to merely end it at that point.

He might be able to proceed down that path if he has the support of a majority of the Senate. But with only 53 Senate Republicans, he has little wiggle room.

Bolton’s offer to testify will put pressure on Senate Republicans to reject McConnell’s plan. If four Republicans don’t support the plan — as well as all Democrats — he won’t be able to proceed. All eyes will be on Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, all of whom have occasionally bucked Trump and their party.

Bolton’s announcement could end up validating Pelosi’s strategy of holding on to the articles of impeachment — instead of immediately sending them to the Senate — in order to bolster Democrats’ negotiating power with McConnell.

“It is now up to four Senate Republicans to support bringing in Mr. Bolton, and the other three witnesses, as well as the key documents we have requested to ensure all the evidence is presented at the onset of a Senate trial,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “Given that Mr. Bolton’s lawyers have stated he has new relevant information to share, if any Senate Republican opposes issuing subpoenas to the four witnesses and documents we have requested, they would make absolutely clear they are participating in a cover-up.”

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