Pelosi’s strategy pays off: Now bring in Bolton
Former national security adviser John Bolton said Monday that he is “prepared to testify” if called as a witness by the Senate.Bolton’s attorney previously said he would be guided by the courts on whether to testify in the impeachment proceedings. But Bolton said in a statement Monday that “a final judicial resolution” appears unlikely before a Senate trial.“Accordingly, since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study,” he said. “I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify.”
Why Bolton would now decide to make himself available will be a matter of speculation. Perhaps he was prompted to give up his ludicrous excuse to avoid testifying by a federal judge’s dismissal on Dec. 30 of a lawsuit brought by Bolton’s former subordinate Charles Kupperman’s claiming “absolute immunity" from cooperating with a House subpoena. Kupperman’s case was handled by the same attorney who represents Bolton.
Maybe the revelation in news reports that Bolton was in an Oval Office gaggle trying to persuade President Trump to unlock aid to Ukraine gave him the impetus to confirm his objections to what he once called a “drug deal” cooked up by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump bag man Rudolph W. Giuliani. (Remaining silent until his book is scheduled to come out next fall, thereby helping an unfit president who violated his oath to remain in office, might have, upon further reflection, have seemed like a career and legacy killer.)
Whatever the reason, Bolton’s announcement on Monday put Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), not to mention other persuadable Republican senators, in a box. Facts subsequent to the House impeachment have become known that directly pertain to Trump’s conduct and, to boot, a critical witness is now suddenly available. Do Senate Republicans try to sweep all that under the rug, risking that Bolton will later tell his story publicly and incriminate a president whose misdeeds the Senate helped cover up? That would seem intensely unwise.
“This means that only McConnell and his GOP caucus stand between what Bolton says he’s ready to testify under oath in a Senate trial and the American people,” tweeted constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe. “Your move, Mitch.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is in the driver’s seat because she wisely held up the articles of impeachment. She can now turn to the Senate and say: Agree upon rules for the trial that guarantee Bolton’s and other key witnesses’ appearance or we will hold on to the articles and subpoena Bolton ourselves.
Former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller tells me, “There is no legal difference between a subpoena issued by the House and one issued by the Senate, and if Bolton is willing to comply with one, the same should be true for the other.” He adds, “As a political matter, however, it probably makes sense for the House to delay any subpoena to keep the pressure squarely where it belongs — on Senate Republicans.” Vowing to call Bolton in the House could actually make the pressure that much more intense.
Matters never should have gotten to this point. The bogus assertion of “absolute immunity," already knocked down in the case of former White House counsel Donald McGahn by a district court judge, does not give current or former administration figures the right to avoid showing up or the administration the right to withhold documents and instruct witnesses not to testify.
It is now time for all of them, including Bolton, Mulvaney, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey (who told the Pentagon to put a hold on Ukraine aid) and White House national security aide Robert Blair, who all have direct knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the effort to extort Ukraine, to do their civic duty and step forward. Moreover, it’s time for senators to do their duty and uphold their oaths as senators and as jurors.