After all the denials and a White House dream team of TV star lawyers who have stated in their opening arguments on Saturday that President Trump’s purpose in withholding aid to Ukraine had not been conditioned on an investigation into former Vice-President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and other Democrats, The New York Times reports (Jan. 26) that the president expressly asked National Security Advisor John Bolton to continue the hold on almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine until Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, announced an investigation into the Bidens.
The report comes after The Times received an unpublished manuscript by Bolton that lays out chapter and verse what Ambassador Gordon Sondland had described before the House Intelligence Committee. “Everyone was in the loop,” meaning the president, White House acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, secretary of state, Mike Pompeo and Vice-President Mike Pence.
“Mr. Sondland,” The Times reported (Dec. 30), “told the committee that he and other advisers to Mr. Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Democrats ‘because the president directed us to do so.’ ”
Sondland told the committee, “We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt. We followed the president’s orders,” The Times reported last December.
After all the denials; all the talk about no first-hand accounts – (what was Gordon Sondland’s account, if not first-hand?) – John Bolton has effectively demolished the smoke and mirrors that Trump, his lawyers and top administration officials have repeatedly stated or avoided.
“Mr. Bolton’s explosive account,” The Times wrote last night, “…was included in drafts of a manuscript he has circulated in recent weeks to close associates.”
- Now we know that Trump conditioned the aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation in the Bidens and other Democrats.
- Now we know that Bolton, Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mike Esper tried to press Trump to release the aid weeks ahead of when it ultimately was released. At the time, Trump refused.
- Now we know, as Bolton writes, “that Pompeo privately acknowledged to him last spring that Giuliani’s claims about Marie L. Yovanovitch, then the American ambassador to Ukraine, had no basis, including allegations that she was bad-mouthing the president,” The Times report states.
- Now we know that “Bolton… had concerns about Giuliani. He said he warned White House lawyers last year that Mr. Giuliani might have been using his work representing the president as leverage to help his private clients.”
All this strengthens a statement Bolton released earlier this month, in which he said, “…he would appear at Mr. Trump’s trial if he is subpoenaed, is prepared to testify before the Senate, according to his associates. He believes that he has relevant insight to present before senators vote on whether to remove Mr. Trump.”
The significance of Bolton’s disclosures underscores the absolute need that the Senate not only hear from witness but in particular, Bolton himself.
Previous reports have said that the Senate trial could wrap up as early as this week. However, The Times adds, “Mr. Bolton’s revelations could unearth support among that group and a handful of other senators who have indicated they might be open to hearing from him. Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee said Friday he planned to wait until after Mr. Trump’s lawyers presented and after senators asked the lawyers questions to decide on whether to support new testimony and evidence.”
Today, the White House legal team is due to continue their defense of the president. The defense team notably includes former independent counsel Ken Starr and constitutional attorney and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.
Notwithstanding the Constitutional and legal arguments that are expected from the Trump team, if Republican Senators do not vote to allow witness testimony and the release of documents that have been withheld by the White House, those Senators will be derelict in their duty to the American public and the Constitution they vowed to uphold.