As White House lawyers prepare for their second day defending President Donald Trump in his Senate impeachment trial Monday, questions raised by a reported draft manuscript of a forthcoming book by former National Security Adviser John Bolton have given Democrats new hope in their call for new witnesses to testify.
According to an unpublished version of Bolton’s book reported by the New York Times on Sunday, President Trump told him he wanted to continue holding nearly $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped investigate Democrats including former Vice President Joe Biden.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, one of four GOP moderates Democrats have targeted in hopes of getting their support for witnesses, said Monday it’s “important” senators hear Bolton’s account to make an “impartial judgment.”
“It’s pretty fair to say that John Bolton has a relevant testimony to provide to those of us who are sitting in impartial justice,” Romney said.
Romney would not say which Republicans he had spoken with about Bolton’s testimony, but added that it’s “increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton.”
He said he can’t speculate on what impact Bolton’s testimony would have on a final decision of whether to acquit the president but said that “it’s relevant and therefore, I’d like to hear it.”
Bolton has not contested the accuracy of the New York Times’ report and had no comment to reporters as he left his house Monday. But President Trump denied it in tweets early Monday morning.
“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. “If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” Trump tweeted.
He also falsely claimed that “The Democrat controlled House never even asked John Bolton to testify. It is up to them, not up to the Senate!” In fact, in October House investigators did ask him to testify but did not subpoena him.
Democrats are renewing calls for Bolton’s testimony before the Senate with the president’s defense team starting their first day of opening arguments Saturday denying Trump ever made a direct link between U.S. financial support to Ukraine and investigations.
“There was simply no evidence anywhere that President Trump ever linked security assistance to any investigations,” White House deputy counsel Mike Purpura argued Saturday. “Most of the Democrats’ witnesses have never spoken to the president at all. Let alone about Ukraine security assistance.”
Lead impeachment manager Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff has maintained evidence brought forth so far by Democrats proves the president linked the aid to security assistance even without Bolton’s testimony although he noted that it’s still necessary because Republicans have yet to be persuaded.
“Now the veneer has been torn off and the American people can see the president is clearly trying to hide the truth here,” Schiff told CNN Monday.
“This the test for the senators. They have taken an oath to be impartial. They have just learned there’s a key witness going to the heart of the allegations. The question they have to answer is do they want to hear the truth?” Schiff said.
A copy of Bolton’s draft manuscript was submitted to the National Security Council Dec. 30, a standard practice for former White House officials in the review of potentially sensitive information.
National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot confirmed in a statement Monday morning that Bolton’s manuscript had been submitted to the NSC for review. No White House personnel outside NSC have reviewed the manuscript,” he said. It was unclear whether any other White House officials were told about the manuscript and what it contained.
“It is clear, regrettably, from The New York Times article published today that the prepublication review process has been corrupted and that information has been disclosed by persons other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript,” Bolton’s attorney Charles Cooper said in a statement to ABC News.
Two-thirds of Americans say new witnesses should be called, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Friday. The public remains evenly divided on whether Trump should be removed from office.