John Bolton is not a #resistance hero. John Bolton is, in fact, a deranged war-thirsty maniac who looks at countries like Iran and Venezuela with the same frenzied bloodlust that a serial killer in Central Park exhibits at the sight of a lonely midnight jogger. It was a big mistake for Trump to bring him into his administration, and an enormous relief for the peace-loving world when he booted him out again. But the fact is, you don’t associate with a vengeful fight-spoiling lunatic like Bolton, screw him over, and expect to get out of the mess unscathed. Trump has the Senate Republicans on a leash, and he commands the party with almost total authority because the rank-and-file voters love him and he can threaten any Senate dissenters with political death. But in Bolton, he’s found someone he can’t control, and who will do anything to spoil the Republican plan to usher this whole impeachment saga offstage in the quietest way possible.
He’s already tried to gum up the works by saying he would testify if called, a flirtation that went directly against orders from Team Trump, but this latest salvo is an act of brilliant sabotage. Apparently, Bolton has a “book manuscript” that he’s circulated among friends, and he event sent a copy to the White House for review. Now, is this book real? Sure, maybe. But smart money says it’s also—and mostly—a device with which Bolton can screw Trump, and the latest gambit by the former adviser to elbow his way into testifying before the Senate by hook or by crook. And in that “book,” as you might guess, there’s a thorough documentation of the Trump/Ukraine affair that contradicts everything the president and his team have tried to claim.
Here’s the short summary from the New York Times, which pretty much makes this an open-and-shut case:
President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.
As the Times explains, that’s a pretty comprehensive refutation of Trump’s contention that…no, he didn’t. The Trump story, which is that demanding the Biden investigation and withholding military aid were two completely different things, was always laughable, but since there was no direct proof, it allowed the tale to cohere by a frayed thread, and gave Senate Republicans just enough (im)plausible deniability to stick their heads in the sand and pretend Trump was innocent.
Now? That just got a lot harder. Bolton really went all in, roping in everyone from Giuliani to Pompeo to Barr to Mulvaney. They all knew, he claims, and he heard the president say the quiet part…out loud and in person:
In his August 2019 discussion with Mr. Bolton, the president appeared focused on the theories Mr. Giuliani had shared with him, replying to Mr. Bolton’s question 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.
He also claims Giuliani wanted Yovanovitch gone because she threatened his business interests in Ukraine, that Pompeo knew it, that Barr knew these conflicts long before he claimed to know, and that Mulvaney was in the room for the discussions about Yovanovitch between Trump and Giuliani…which, again, contradicts his own claims that he always left.
This is a brutal development for the White House, and while Senate Republicans will still likely push the trial to a quick end, perhaps as soon as Friday, this makes them look worse than they already did. Bolton’s new claims won’t give them the courage to step out of line and risk being thumped by Mitch McConnell, but it’s yet another indication that if Trump wants to wriggle his way out of removal, his allies in the Senate have to blithely ignore reality and place both hands over their eyes in plain view of the American people. The White House may even be forced to get an actual restraining order to keep Bolton from speaking.
They may silence him, but they won’t do it effectively, and even if the net effect of Bolton’s “book” is to fully expose the rank corruption of Trump and the Senate Republicans, he’ll have done Democrats an enormous favor come November. Strange bedfellows indeed…