Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Bolton goes bold - but will that be enough to shake loose Moscow Mitch and the GOPlins in the Senate

Before I launch into more about Bolton’s bombshell, consider this opinion from a Ukraine insider published in The Daily Beast. In I Trusted Bolton More Than Anyone, Oleksandr Danylyuk says the requests to investigate the Bidens “rattled” Zelensky’s team and the one person in the administration he trusted was Bolton. Here are excerpts forming a short version.

When Volodymyr Zelensky won Ukraine’s presidential election in April 2019, President Donald Trump was one of the first world leaders to call to congratulate him. For officials inside Ukraine and out, Zelensky represented a chance for the country to rebuild its anti-corruption institutions and a chance for Kyiv to develop better, stronger relationships with Western countries, including the United States.

But in the weeks and months that followed, efforts to construct a partnership between the Zelensky and Trump administrations, one focused on fighting corruption, crumbled. It crumbled in part because the Zelensky team was pulled into an American domestic political fight spurred by Trump’s push to have Ukraine investigate his rival Joe Biden, Biden’s son Hunter, and supposed interference in the 2016 election. That’s according to Oleksandr Danylyuk, the former chairman of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, who said the requests “rattled” Zelensky’s team.

"When I designed it, and drafted it, I discussed it with Zelensky,” Danylyuk said of his roadmap for the U.S. and Ukraine to cooperate on a range of issues. “We went through it very thoroughly. He said, ‘Yeah, I fully support this… it should be the basis of the relationship.’” Danylyuk wouldn’t discuss the military component of the plan but said the plan was “very broad” and included proposals for the U.S. to export American natural gas to Ukraine.

“This roadmap… it covered several areas. But at its core it is about national security,” Danylyuk said. “So if anywhere you can talk about this holistically—it’s with the U.S. National Security Council and Bolton. And he was the person to… discuss the vision.”

“I was really surprised and shocked. Because just a couple of days prior to that… I actually had a meeting with John Bolton. Actually, I had several meetings with him. And we had extensive discussions. The last thing I had expected to read was an article about military aid being frozen,” Danylyuk said. “After that… I was trying to get the truth. Was it true or not true?”

So while the Ukraine officials were trying to build a track for a productive U. S./Ukraine relation, Trump and his Trumpkins were busy tearing up track behind them.

Here’s more about Bolton and what might transpire in the Senate this week.

Quid pro whoa is Judd Legum’s (email) summary of the John Bolton revelation about what Trump had to say about linkage between military aid and a Biden investigation by Ukraine. Here’s most of it.

In an unpublished manuscript, former National Security Adviser John Bolton alleges that Trump confessed.

Bolton writes that he repeatedly pressed Trump on why Trump was withholding $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine. In an August meeting, Bolton says, Trump said he would not release the money until Ukraine turned over all documents related to the Bidens and other Democrats.

The revelation sent a shockwave through the ongoing impeachment trial in the Senate.

Bolton’s allegations strike at the very core of Trump’s defense: there was no quid pro quo. The White House has released a call summary in which Trump asks the president of Ukraine to investigate his political opponents. But Trump and his lawyers argue that it was OK because Trump never applied any pressure for Ukraine to comply. They insist that Trump did not withhold security assistance or a White House meeting to coerce Ukraine.

This argument is legally dubious — the request itself constituted an abuse of power. But this is the argument Trump and his lawyers were relying on. In their legal brief submitted to the Senate last week, Trump’s lawyers place special emphasis on the fact that no one personally heard Trump link security assistance to the investigation.

  1. House Democrats Rely Solely on Speculation Built on Hearsay. House Democrats’ charge is further disproved by the straightforward fact that not a single witness with actual knowledge ever testified that the President suggested any connection between announcing investigations and security assistance. Assumptions, presumptions, and speculation based on hearsay are all that House Democrats can rely on to spin their tale of a quid pro quo.

The revelation that there is a person who heard Trump admit there was a quid pro quo — and that person was Trump’s National Security Adviser — has upended expectations about how the impeachment trial would proceed.

Bolton has indicated he will testify as part of the impeachment trial if the Senate subpoenas him. A Senate vote on whether to allow witnesses is expected at the end of the week.

Short-term memory problems

Notwithstanding Bolton’s allegations, most Republican Senators seem poised to stand by Trump and vote against allowing witnesses. In several cases, these Senators defended Trump by asserting there was no direct evidence of quid pro quo linking security assistance to an investigation of Trump’s political opponents. Now that there is a first-hand witness who is willing to testify that Trump admitted to the quid pro quo, these same Senators say Bolton’s testimony is irrelevant.

These Senators include Cornyn, Cruz, and Inhofe. A longer list includes Reps Jordan, Collins, and Meadows.

Giuliani and Trump shoot themselves in the foot

The reason that witnesses give live testimony in a trial, rather than just have lawyers submit transcripts of a deposition, is so jurors can judge the credibility of the witness. The issue is not only what the witnesses are saying but also whether the jury believes the witness is telling the truth.

On Monday morning, Trump accused Bolton of lying. “I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens,” Trump tweeted. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, tweeted the same accusation a few hours later: “There is no way in the world President Trump would say this to John Bolton.”

By accusing Bolton of lying, Trump and Giuliani are strengthening the case to call Bolton. They are making an issue of Bolton’s credibility. It is now up to the Senators, who are acting as jurors, to assess Bolton’s credibility. And the only way to do that is to have Bolton testify.

What happens next

There is a vote expected at the end of this week on whether to allow witnesses. If all Democrats vote to allow witness, as expected, four Republican Senators need to join them for the motion to pass. That prospect seemed more likely after the Bolton revelation. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) said he would vote to have Bolton testify. And Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) made statements strongly suggesting they would join Romney.

That means that one more Republican defection would provide the votes necessary. Romney was confident he’ll have more company. “It’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton. … I have spoken with others who have opined upon this,” Romney said.

In a closed-door lunch, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly encouraged Republican Senators to “stay the course.”

But even if the Senate votes to allow Bolton to testify, the White House plans to try to stop him. According to ABC News, “senior level White House sources” say “the president’s lawyers are preparing for the possibility of witnesses in the impeachment trial.” Trump’s legal team is “preparing an aggressive, drawn out legal fight to block the testimony of potential witnesses.”

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