WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump said he wanted to maintain a freeze on military assistance to Ukraine until it aided political investigations into his Democratic rivals, former national security adviser John Bolton recounts in a draft of his forthcoming book.
The revelation challenges the defense offered up by Trump and his attorneys in his Senate impeachment trial and raises the stakes as the chamber decides this week whether to seek sworn testimony from Bolton and other witnesses.
Bolton's account was first reported by The New York Times and confirmed to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the manuscript on the condition of anonymity to discuss the book, “The Room Where It Happened; A White House Memoir," ahead of its release March 17.
Bolton, who acrimoniously left the White House a day before Trump ultimately released the Ukraine aid on Sept. 11, has already told lawmakers that he is willing to testify, despite the president's order barring aides from cooperating in the probe.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment Sunday night. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has played a prominent role in the Ukraine affair, replied to a request for comment with a text: “I used to like and respect John and tell people they were wrong about how irresponsible he was. I was wrong.”
Democrats need at least four Republicans to vote with them to seek witness testimony. Those prospects looked unlikely in recent days and it's unclear if the new revelations about Bolton's book will sway any GOP senators.
Democrats quickly sought to ramp up the pressure on their Republican counterparts. The House managers called the book’s revelation “explosive” in a joint statement and said, “Senators should insist that Mr. Bolton be called as a witness, and provide his notes and other relevant documents.” They added: “During our impeachment inquiry, the President blocked our request for Mr. Bolton’s testimony. Now we see why.”
“John Bolton has the evidence,” tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “It’s up to four Senate Republicans to ensure that John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, and the others with direct knowledge of President Trump’s actions testify in the Senate trial.”