Trump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims

John BoltonJohn BoltonChina sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Trump ignores science at our peril Bolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office MORE is facing a surge of vitriolic attacks from President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE’s allies after a leaked manuscript revealed that the former national security adviser’s unpublished book will dish damaging details about Trump’s contacts with Ukraine.

Almost overnight, the president’s defenders switched from friend to foe toward Bolton after The New York Times reported Sunday that Bolton’s book will claim that Trump wanted to withhold $391 million in Ukraine aid as leverage for investigations that would benefit him politically.

The report gave new energy to Democratic demands to bring in witnesses for the impeachment trial, turning up the heat on Republicans, who were blindsided.

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Bolton has denied coordinating the leak with the Times, blaming the “corrupted” White House book review process. But that hasn’t stopped Trump allies from going on the attack.

“John Bolton, himself, has been reduced to a tool for the radical Dems and the deep state,” Lou DobbsLouis (Lou) Carl DobbsTwo additional Fox Media employees test positive for COVID-19 Second Fox Business employee tests positive for coronavirus Fox Business host Lou Dobbs in self-quarantine after staffer tests positive for coronavirus MORE, a Fox Business personality known for his ardent defense of Trump, said Sunday.

Shortly after White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamOAN says it will attend briefing as White House guest after violating social distancing rules UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus White House press secretary to return to work after negative virus test MORE described Bolton as a “friend” on Dobbs’s Sunday show, she asked: “How much does it cost to sell out potentially national security in your country?”

GOP lawmakers have largely sidestepped questions about Bolton’s credibility, but old opponents have piled on.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGeorgia governor says he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus McConnell: Impeachment distracted government from coronavirus threat Warren knocks McConnell for forcing in-person Senate vote amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Ky.), a frequent sparring partner of Bolton’s, said people should ask whether the former Trump official is a neutral party or “someone who is a very unhappy, disgruntled, fired employee who now has a motive — a multimillion-dollar motive to inflame the situation?”

Trump on Monday denied the account attributed to Bolton’s manuscript and accused him of trying to sell books.

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“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” the president tweeted Monday.

Some ex-Trump aides have come to Bolton’s defense.

“If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton,” former White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE said at an event in Sarasota, Fla., the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported Tuesday. “Every single time I was with him ... he always gave the president the unvarnished truth.”

Kelly also sided with Democrats who say Bolton’s account should be part of the Senate trial.

“I think some of the conversations seem to me to be very inappropriate, but I wasn’t there. But there are people that were there that ought to be heard from,” he said.

Democrats seized on Kelly’s remarks.

“That is extraordinary in and of itself that the president’s own former chief of staff believes John Bolton, and by implication, does not believe the president of the United States that he worked closely with for such a long time,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Trump fires intelligence community watchdog who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint MORE (D-Calif.), the lead impeachment manager, said in a press conference Tuesday after the conclusion of the White House defense team’s three days of arguments.

Bolton left the administration in September after clashing with Trump over Iran and North Korea policy. The two, in a final parting quarrel, even disagreed on the terms of Bolton’s departure.

Since then, Democrats have grown increasingly interested in hearing from Bolton.

House Democrats invited Bolton to testify as part of their impeachment inquiry but chose not to subpoena him after they say it became clear Bolton would challenge their congressional order in court.

The ex-national security aide then caught both sides in the impeachment drama off guard when he publicly announced that he would be willing to testify if the GOP-controlled Senate chose to subpoena him, shortly before the Senate trial was set to begin.

Bolton’s remarks raised pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Progressive group knocks McConnell for talking judicial picks during coronavirus Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ky.), who has argued against bringing in new witnesses. It’s a position McConnell has stuck to throughout the drama this week surrounding the report on Bolton’s book.

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Some GOP senators have proposed allowing senators to read Bolton’s manuscript in a classified setting. But Democrats rejected the proposal as ridiculous, noting the contents of Bolton’s book will be public soon. It is set to be published in March.

Trump’s defense team has largely ignored the Bolton news, though Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzCBS All Access launches animated 'Tooning Out the News' series Trump's three-track clemency process just might work A disgraced Senate and president have no business confirming judges MORE in his remarks on Monday said the revelations in the report about Bolton’s book would not constitute an impeachable offense because they would not be a crime.

“If a president, any president, were to have done what the Times reported about the content of the Bolton manuscript, that would not constitute an impeachable offense. Let me repeat: Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense,” he argued.

Other constitutional lawyers, however, have differed with Dershowitz’s argument that an actual crime must have been committed to have an impeachable offense.

Democrats have used attacks from the right on Bolton’s credibility to bolster their arguments that he testify.

“If there are other Republican senators out there, or anyone else, who has questions about John Bolton’s credibility, well, he said he would testify. He said he would come in and testify under oath,” said Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsBiden associates reach out to Holder about VP search Biden confirms he's considering Whitmer for VP Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much MORE (D-Fla.). “So let’s subpoena him and see what he said and the American people can make up their own minds about his credibility.”

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Democrats fiercely raised objections against Bolton’s appointment in March 2018, voicing concern that the military hawk would draw the U.S. into overseas wars, citing his support of the Iraq War when he served as President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations.

“With the appointments of Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump says 40,000 Americans have been repatriated who were stranded abroad US should adopt a Marshall Plan for Ethiopia Tired of worrying about the pandemic? There's always Pyongyang MORE and John Bolton, @realDonaldTrump is successfully lining up his war cabinet,” Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill Democratic senators want probe into change of national stockpile description Overnight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal MORE (D-Mass.) tweeted at the time. “We cannot let this extreme war hawk blunder us into another terrible conflict.”

Now Democrats are leaning on him to help make their case during the Senate trial.

Trump allies have also flipped.

“I think anyone who knows John Bolton is celebrating because of his intellect, his capacity, his experience, his talent,” Dobbs said when the veteran Washington policymaker was appointed by Trump.

But now, Democrats are the ones praising his record as they hammer the message that a trial without Bolton is no fair trial.

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The report about Bolton’s manuscript “makes it all the more clear why you can’t have a meaningful trial without witnesses, and you certainly cannot have one without John Bolton,” Schiff said Monday.

 

Jordain Carney contributed.