Democrats in the House of Representatives did everything they could last year to prove that Donald Trump abused the office of President for his own political gain, but they lacked any first-hand witness to corroborate the numerous details provided by diplomats and staffers who drew dots but couldn’t connect them all.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then-Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton, who all had differing degrees of involvement with Trump’s actions alleged in the Articles of Impeachment, refused to testify before the House, and John Bolton even said he would defy a Congressional subpoena unless a court ordered him to testify.
In the end, the House chose not to stall the impeachment proceedings for months to see if the courts would force the witnesses to testify, so they concluded their case with circumstantial, yet compelling, evidence that Trump abused his powers.
Republicans in the Senate voted not to call any witnesses, including Pompeo, Mulvaney, and Bolton, but later criticized the House for not proving the charges. The Senate Republicans, every single one of them, voted to acquit Trump on the charge of obstructing Congress.
Trump, of course, cheered what he called his complete vindication, again proving his loose relationship with definitions and the truth.
The fact that President Trump was able to control and limit direct witnesses with first-hand knowledge of his misdeeds was not a vindication at all, but just another example of his obstruction of justice and abuse of power.
Trump has since moved on to misdirecting the truth in other crises, from denying and downplaying the COVID-19 pandemic to slow-playing and dismissing racial injustices and police brutality in the wake of several more wrongful death cases involving white officers and black victims that continue to spur protests and finally some long-needed reforms.
But this week a ghost from his past came back to haunt Donald Trump, this time in the form of his former national security advisor and long-time Republicans war hawk, John Bolton.
The former Ambassador to the UN under George W Bush, former Assistant Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush, and former Assistant US Attorney General under Ronald Reagan is a life-long Republicans and also former Fox News pundit so he can’t easily be dismissed as a liberal deep state operative.
Bolton launched a Super PAC in the 2018 midterm elections and raised over $9 million to help Republicans in Senate and House races. He worked with conservative think tanks and gave paid speeches about his strong opposition to Iran and his loyal support for Israel.
In short, he’s a dyed in the wool Republican, but now he’s out to cash in on what he knows.
Bolton is promoting a long-awaited book, titled ‘The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir’, detailing his personal interactions with Trump, not only invoking the Ukraine military funding at the heart of the impeachment, but also Trump’s conversations with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and China’s Xi Jinping, arguably America’s three most dangerous foreign powers.
The Justice Department has already filed a lawsuit to stop the book’s release, claiming it contains national security secrets, and demanding that Bolton continue a National Security Council review process that has already taken more than five months to review the book but did not issue a final approval.
Trump has called Bolton a “liar” and “loser” and said Bolton will have “criminal problems” for disclosing classified information because the President considers every conversation with him to be classified, an absurd claim that would render his every interaction a national security secret.
Bolton has already released embargoed copies of the book to reporters that have summarized several claims he makes in the book, and some of them go to the heart of the impeachment inquiry and beyond.
For example, Bolton claims Trump directly told him the withholding of military funding to Ukraine was connected to the requested investigations on Jie Biden and his son, Hunter. Bolton also claims Trump pleaded with China’s President Xi, asking hin to buy American farm exports to help Trump’s re-election chances. And Bolton also claims Trump assured Turkish President Erdujan that an investigation into a Turkish company would be fixed when Trump replaced Obama-era prosecutors with ones he would appoint.
Bolton alleges that Trump was singularly focused on his re-election and that he committed abuses of power and the “pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn’t accept.”
But that’s where Bolton begins to lose credibility when he now says he was concerned and astonished by both the way Trump acted and the fact that Congress did not pursue a broader investigation of Trump during the impeachment.
Coming from one of the main witnesses and enablers around Trump that refused to testify before Congress or speak out publicly, it’s now hard to accept that Bolton is airing out Trump’s dirty laundry in hopes of helping the country. It seems more like Bolton is out to help himself.
John Bolton received a $2 million advance on his book deal and has been teasing it with advance copies to reporters and a taped interview with ABC that will air this weekend, right before the book hits the market next Tuesday. All of a sudden, Bolton is a whistleblower.
Bolton has been known as a copious notetaker in meetings so he may have contemporaneous notes of critical meetings and even comments he jotted down for exactly this moment. He may truly have been in the room when these nefarious schemes happened. He may be the proverbial fly on the way.
But Trump and his allies are and will pummel Bolton as the book release comes and goes. The judge hearing the Administration’s case to halt the book’s release seemed reluctant to do so on today, leaving a final decision for Monday. The judge questioned DOJ lawyers on details on how and when some of the claims in the book were classified. Bolton alleges that several details were not classified until he submitted his book for review, which could be their way of suppressing the book that includes politically damaging revelations, but not state secrets.
And the judge also said that since hundreds of copies have already been released to reporters and hundreds of thousands sent to distributors, the “horse seems to be out of the barn”. Several new outlets and the ACLU have filed briefs in favor of the book’s release claiming First Amendment protections much like when newspapers published the Pentagon Papers in 1971.
Bolton clearly held back his criticisms and potentially devastating (to Trump) first-hand accounts during the impeachment process, and he helped ensure that Trump would not be impeached. He watched, in silence, as Democrats tried to piece together a case with various dots but no direct witnesses. Bolton left the country hanging.
Now Bolton has set himself up for a payday but also left himself open to criticism and scorn from both sides. To Democrats, he’s an enabler that’s finally coming clean; to Republicans, he’s as a turncoat and an opportunist. To Trump, he’s a sellout and a liar.
Somewhere in there is the truth. Bolton has been around too long and too deep to have made all of this up. Maybe he does think Trump has gone too far and should be exposed. Maybe Bolton is a jilted former staffer seeking revenge. But maybe he’s 100% right.
One point to consider; if John Bolton is lying, then how can he be disclosing classified information? If it’s not true its can’t be classified. And Trump wouldn’t be suing to stop him from disclosing lies, would he?
One thing is for sure; there is now a new name added to the long and distinguished list of former Trump staffers that he loved before he hated. Flynn. McMasters. Tillerson. Mattis. Kelly. Mulvaney. Manafort. Cohen. Plus Bolton.
Trump promised during his first campaign that he would only hire “the best people” and he prides himself on knowing people better than they know themselves. But now, in less than three and a half years, he has had a higher staff turnover rate than any president in modern times, maybe of all time.
And after he fires them, Trump always burns them on Twitter in childlike ways, calling them names and degrading them personally. Former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said during an interview this week that maybe Trump “didn’t hire very well’ in setting up his White House.
But maybe the “sicko”, “liar”, “over-rated”, “sick puppy”, “dumb as a rock”, “lazy as hell” “loser” who is “in over his head” and will “have criminal problems” is Trump himself, and the one who “didn’t hire very well” was the country.
The count so far is Trump versus several generals, experienced Republican presidential staffers, and campaign staff that have come and gone from the White House and have since expressed concern, dismay, and disbelief that the President of the United States acts in reckless and damaging ways.
Voters will have an opportunity to decide in November whether to continue down this path with Trump or to chart a new course.