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to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.
The president’s statement as described by Mr. Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.
Mr. Bolton’s explosive account of the matter at the center of Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, the third in American history, was included in drafts of a manuscript he has circulated in recent weeks to close associates. He also sent a draft to the White House for a standard review process for some current and former administration officials who write books
The book presents an outline of what Mr. Bolton might testify to if he is called as a witness in the Senate impeachment trial, the people said. The White House could use the pre-publication review process, which has no set time frame, to delay or even kill the book’s publication or omit key passages.
Over dozens of pages, Mr. Bolton described how the Ukraine affair unfolded over several months until he departed the White House in September. He described not only the president’s private disparagement of Ukraine but also new details about senior cabinet officials who have publicly tried to sidestep involvement.
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.
During a previously reported May 23 meeting where top advisers and Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, briefed him about their trip to Kyiv for the inauguration of President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr. Trump railed about Ukraine trying to damage him and mentioned a conspiracy theory about a hacked Democratic server, according to Mr. Bolton.
The submission to the White House may have given Mr. Trump’s aides and lawyers direct insight into what Mr. Bolton would say if he were called to testify at Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial. It also intensified concerns among some of his advisers that they needed to block Mr. Bolton from testifying, according to two people familiar with their concerns.
The White House has ordered Mr. Bolton and other key officials with firsthand knowledge of Mr. Trump’s dealings not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. Mr. Bolton said in a statement this month that he would testify if subpoenaed.
Mr. Trump told reporters last week that he did not want Mr. Bolton to testify and said that even if he simply spoke out publicly, he could damage national security.
“The problem with John is it’s a national security problem,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference in Davos, Switzerland. “He knows some of my thoughts. He knows what I think about leaders. What happens if he reveals what I think about a certain leader and it’s not very positive?”
But all americans know that this is not about national security, it is about hiding the truth.
Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, said the Bolton manuscript underscored the need for him to testify, and the House impeachment managers demanded after this article was published that the Senate vote to call him. “There can be no doubt now that Mr. Bolton directly contradicts the heart of the president’s defense,” they said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell very likely had advance knowledge that John Bolton’s book manuscript would contradict Trump’s defense lawyers.
But McConnell, as Wallace noted, said in December that he was coordinating closely with White House officials to be sure that his own impeachment trial strategy met Trump’s wishes, according to an earlier New York Times report.
The allegation that Trump tried to force the Ukrainian government into the Biden investigation by holding back a congressionally approved military aid package is at the heart of impeachment proceedings against Trump. On the first full day of Trump’s senate trial, January 21, the senate’s 53 Republicans, led by McConnell, voted to block testimony from all witnesses requested by the Democratic House impeachment managers. Bolton was one of the potential witnesses disallowed by the party-line votes.
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