I Knew John Bolton Liked Regime Change, I Just Assumed He Meant Overseas

Charles P. Pierce
Photo credit: Win McNamee - Getty Images

From Esquire

I mean, I knew John Bolton believed in regime change, but I always assumed he meant overseas.

The mustachioed crazy person who spent about 11 minutes as the national security adviser to El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago—until this administration* became too crazy even for Bolton, a philosophical concept that scholars will still be discussing when we first land on Neptune—was the star in absentia of the testimony given Monday by Fiona Hill, the former Russian expert in the employ of Camp Runamuck. According to Hill via The New York Times, Bolton delivered the line of the decade while discussing Rudolph Giuliani's most excellent Ukrainian adventure.

The aide, Fiona Hill, testified that Mr. Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the people familiar with the testimony.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition. (Another person in the room initially said Mr. Bolton referred to Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mulvaney, but two others said he cited Mr. Sondland.)

It was not the first time Mr. Bolton expressed grave concerns to Ms. Hill about the campaign being run by Mr. Giuliani. “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” Ms. Hill quoted Mr. Bolton as saying during an earlier conversation.

Bolton is no hero. You will note that we only know about this exchange through Hill's testimony, and not through anything Bolton has said or done in service of the ongoing impeachment inquiry. He remains a dangerous monger of war who should be kept out of government for the same reasons we keep wolverines out of meat lockers. But even someone like Bolton recognizes the importance of, well, coherence in running a government.

The testimony revealed in a powerful way just how divisive Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to extract damaging information about Democrats from Ukraine on President Trump’s behalf were within the White House. Ms. Hill, the senior director for European and Russian affairs, testified that Mr. Giuliani and his allies circumvented the usual national security process to run their own foreign policy efforts, leaving the president’s official advisers aware of the rogue operation yet powerless to stop it.

Photo credit: Alex Wroblewski - Getty Images

At one point, she confronted Mr. Sondland, who had inserted himself into dealings with Ukraine even though it was not part of his official portfolio, according to the people informed about Ms. Hill’s testimony. He told her that he was in charge of Ukraine, a moment she compared to Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr.’s declaration that he was in charge after the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt, according to those who heard the testimony.

According to whom, she asked. The president, he answered.

Say what, now?

Sondland's turn on the perch will come later this week, but the canary chorus is beginning to sing in harmony now. Careers are becoming endangered, and the president* is running out of both people who'll protect him and people whom he can blame, although he does have something of a gift for turning people from the former group into people in the latter. Giuliani's already on the spit, rotating ever so slowly. The two mooks with whom Giuliani did business do not look like stand-up guys. And there's nobody in this whole episode between Giuliani and the president*. Somewhere, behind his mustache, and perhaps out of sheer self-preserving serendipity, John Bolton did us all a favor.

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