Monday, January 27, 2020

What Chief Justice Roberts should say in the Senate trial - 'Mr. Bolton, please raise your right hand.'

Trumpublican senators should insist on a simple test of who is telling the truth - Trump or Bolton. Put Bolton on the stand in the senate chambers and take his testimony under oath. Two Washington Post authors expand on why that’s needed - and why it scares the GOP sh!tless.

Aaron Blake describes how John Bolton’s bombshell gives the GOP a glimpse of its nightmare scenario.

We finally got a taste Sunday night of what former national security adviser John Bolton might tell President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial — if he’s called to testify, that is.

What we learned reinforced the potential peril for Republicans if they refuse to let him do so.

The New York Times reported Sunday that Bolton makes a series of very big Ukraine-related claims in an unpublished manuscript of his upcoming book, slated to be released in March.

Chief among them:

  • Bolton writes that he heard Trump say explicitly that the withholding of military aid would continue until Ukraine announced an investigation involving the Bidens — implicating Trump directly in a quid pro quo for the first time and contradicting the Trump team’s defense.
  • He writes that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said privately that there was nothing to the Trump team’s claims that then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was corrupt — suggesting that this was indeed a smear campaign and that Pompeo recognized it as such, even as he didn’t defend Yovanovitch publicly.
  • He writes that he raised concerns about Rudolph W. Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine with Attorney General William P. Barr after Trump’s July call with Ukraine’s president — despite the Justice Department saying Barr learned about the call in mid-August.
  • He writes that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was present for one of Trump’s calls with Giuliani about Yovanovitch, even though Mulvaney has told associates that he stayed out of those conversations to protect Trump and Giuliani’s attorney-client privilege.

In other words: Bolton is naming names — lots of names — and directly contradicting what top administration officials are saying.

And Trump has made no secret that he’s not particularly happy about the new revelations. …

The nightmare scenario for the GOP is that they give Trump the quick and witness-free acquittal that he apparently desires, but then information like Bolton’s keeps coming out. Bolton now suggests Trump was indeed telling people privately that the withheld military aid was part of a quid pro quo — a quid pro quo that Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified that he communicated to the Ukrainians. This is something Trump’s team has strenuously denied, including at the impeachment trial. What if Bolton isn’t the only person Trump told this to who might suddenly contradict them? However closely this has already been tied to Trump, it can always be tied more closely. Bolton’s upcoming book — slated for March 17 — is a great example of how the hastily assembled walls the Trump team have built around its defense can quickly crumble and, in some cases, already have.

The evidence, after all, is pretty compelling that Trump wasn’t truly concerned about corruption in Ukraine. Giuliani actually said publicly that these investigations weren’t about foreign policy but were instead about helping “my client.” There are also several confirmations that these were quid pro quos — including both military aid and a White House meeting — and that the quid pro quos were communicated to the Ukrainians, even if previous witnesses couldn’t say whether Trump explicitly signed off on them. Indeed, both Bolton and Mulvaney — two very high-ranking White House aides — have now offered confirmation of the quid pro quos, even though Mulvaney recanted his.

The danger in this for the GOP is that this all keeps coming out, as it has been, in a steady stream of drips as we get closer and closer to the 2020 election. In just the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen indicted Ukrainian American business executive Lev Parnas supplying high-profile claims about all this — with documentation and audio to back some of the big ones up — and now we’ve got Bolton finally stepping forward and connecting this to Trump.

Imagine if Republicans vote against entertaining Parnas’s evidence or putting Bolton on the stand, and then the information comes out anyway. If it proves damning, it will look like they engaged in the coverup that Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) accused them of last week.

And at the least, if Trump is saying Bolton is lying, what better way to hold him accountable than to make him say all of this under oath? He’s indicated he’s willing. Now it’s in the Senate GOP’s hands, and you can bet it’s a tougher call now.

George Conway concurs with how to verify Bolton’s claims and thinks that Bolton’s testimony would be devastating. Not even Republicans could look away..

From Trump on down, they all know how damning Bolton’s testimony would be to Trump’s defense. Indeed, the leak of what’s in Bolton’s book shows how disingenuous the president’s defense has been.

Before the Senate on Saturday, deputy White House counsel Michael Purpura laid out the elements of that defense. Key among them: “Not a single witness testified that the President himself said there was any connection between any investigations and security assistance, a Presidential meeting, or anything else.”

He continued: “Most of the Democrats’ witnesses have never spoken to the President at all, let alone about Ukraine security assistance.” And: “The Democrats’ entire quid pro quo theory is based on nothing more than the initial speculation of one person” — U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.

If Bolton testifies to what’s in his manuscript, these arguments, weak as they are, will collapse. The words will come from Trump’s mouth, because Bolton will have put them there. The direct witness whose absence Trump’s lawyers trumpeted will have appeared.

And that witness would destroy the central defense Trump’s lawyers have raised. Which is that the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was perfect — factually, legally, and constitutionally.

Or, as Purpura put it on Saturday: “The Democrats’ allegation that the President engaged in a quid pro quo is unfounded and contrary to the facts. … The President was, at all times, acting in our national interest and pursuant to his oath of office.” The president has “done nothing wrong”; “rightly, he had real concerns” about “burden-sharing” and “corruption,” which was why he held back the aid.

Bolton begs to differ.

In light of Trump’s own arguments, it would now be preposterous, if it ever wasn’t, for the Senate not to call Bolton as a witness. To refuse to do so would ensure that the trial would be recorded forever in history as a GOP-orchestrated farce. And if the president’s defense is that Bolton is now peddling this tale of quid pro quo “only to sell a book,” fine. Let’s also have a look at the documents that could demonstrate who is telling the truth.

Trump’s own lawyers have framed the removal question as turning on proof of the president’s true motives. Well, here’s a witness who can tell us what the president, in a face-to-face conversation, said he wanted.

Trump’s lawyers complain that no witness talked to Trump about the linkage between the aid and the investigation. Well, here’s Bolton, ready, willing, and able to testify.

Trump himself claims that Bolton is lying. Well, there’s a tried-and-true way to find out if he is or is not.

Mr. Bolton, please raise your right hand.

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