Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton said on Monday that he is willing to testify in the expected Senate impeachment trial of the US president, a surprise development that could potentially strengthen the case that Trump should be removed from office.
As a top White House aide who witnessed many of the events that prompted the House of Representatives to impeach Trump in December, Bolton could provide new evidence about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
Other witnesses during the House impeachment investigation testified that Bolton strongly objected to an effort by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to pressure Kiev outside of regular diplomatic channels, with one saying he referred to the arrangement as a “drug deal.”
Congressional investigators believe Bolton objected to Trump’s decision to delay US$390 million in military aid to Ukraine and could elaborate on that, a Senate aide told Reuters.
Bolton’s lawyer said in November he could shed new light on White House discussions, but he refused to participate in the House impeachment inquiry while the Trump administration and Congress battled in court for access to witnesses and documentary evidence.
He said he is now willing to cooperate after a judge dismissed the case last week.
“If the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify,” Bolton said in a prepared statement. He declined further comment.
Democrats seized on Bolton’s announcement, saying it bolstered their argument that he and three current administration officials should testify when the Senate begins its impeachment trial.
“If any Senate Republican opposes issuing subpoenas to the four witnesses and documents we have requested they would make absolutely clear they are participating in a cover-up,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said.
Trump’s fellow Republicans have resisted that idea, instead seeking a quick trial based on the evidence collected in the House that could lead to the president’s expected acquittal before the 2020 presidential election campaign heats up.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell repeated his proposal that the chamber postpone a decision on whether to call witnesses until after the trial begins.
That could allow Republicans, who control the chamber by a margin of 53-47, to wrap up the trial without hearing from Bolton or other witnesses.
But Democrats would need only four Republicans to side with them to get the majority required to call witnesses.
Republican senators were divided on whether they should hear from witnesses like Bolton.
Conservatives such as Senator Richard Shelby expressed no interest in hearing from Bolton, while the more moderate Senator Mitt Romney said he would like to hear from the former high-ranking White House official, when asked by CNN. Reuters
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