Memoirs published by Trump administration alumni vary in importance, but a forthcoming book from former national security adviser John Bolton could have a significant effect on the White House as President Trump’s legal team plays the numbers game in the Senate impeachment trial. According to the New York Times, Bolton’s unpublished manuscript for The Room Where It Happened states that Trump wanted to freeze military assistance to Ukraine until an investigation into the Bidens was announced — a claim that undermines claims by the president’s defense team that the aid was not linked to calls to solicit foreign interference in an election.
In recent weeks, Bolton has reportedly distributed drafts to his associates and to the White House, as is standard procedure in post-administration publishing. According to the Times, Bolton’s account of the Ukraine scandal includes new information on fellow cabinet members’ attempts to stay above the turbulence, or how their presentation of the timeline might not line up with reality:
For example, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged privately that there was no basis to claims by the president’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani that the ambassador to Ukraine was corrupt and believed Mr. Giuliani may have been acting on behalf of other clients, Mr. Bolton wrote.
Mr. Bolton also said that after the president’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine, he raised with Attorney General William P. Barr his concerns about Mr. Giuliani, who was pursuing a shadow Ukraine policy encouraged by the president, and told Mr. Barr that the president had mentioned him on the call. A spokeswoman for Mr. Barr denied that he learned of the call from Mr. Bolton; the Justice Department has said he learned about it only in mid-August.
And the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, was present for at least one phone call where the president and Mr. Giuliani discussed the ambassador, Mr. Bolton wrote. Mr. Mulvaney has told associates he would always step away when the president spoke with his lawyer to protect their attorney-client privilege.
For Democrats, the draft reinforces claims that Bolton’s testimony is necessary to see the full picture of Trump’s impeachable behavior; for Republicans, it further proves the efficacy of limiting testimony, so that a major player in the scandal does not undermine the Trump legal team’s spurious defense. “There can be no doubt now that Mr. Bolton directly contradicts the heart of the President’s defense and therefore must be called as a witness at the impeachment trial of President Trump,” the House impeachment managers said in response to the Times report.
But as the trial crawls into its second week, it’s looking more and more likely that Democrats will not be able to get the 51 votes needed to call for witnesses. Bolton, however, is onboard, believing that he has information that is relevant to the record. According to the Times, he has a more opportunistic reason as well, expressing concern to associates that if his depiction of the Ukraine scandal is made public post-trial, he will be accused of suppressing the information in order to boost his book sales. It’s an anxiety that might not be all that heartfelt, considering that Bolton’s publisher released the book’s title and release date in March hours after the Times report.