Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday called the revelation that former national security adviser John Bolton can implicate President Trump directly in the effort to pressure Ukraine by withholding military aid “stunning” evidence that “we’re all staring a White House cover-up in the face.”
Schumer was reacting to a report in the New York Times that Bolton’s forthcoming memoir contains an account of an August 2019 conversation in which Trump told him he wanted military aid to Ukraine frozen until that country’s government announced investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The withholding of aid from Ukraine and the White House’s alleged attempts to cover it up constitute the two impeachment charges against the president.
The manuscript of the book, which is scheduled for publication in March, was circulated among officials at the National Security Council for security vetting. The Times said it had spoken to “multiple people” with knowledge of its contents.
“This is stunning,” Schumer said in a press conference on Capitol Hill. “It goes right to the heart of the charges against the president. Ambassador Bolton essentially confirms the president committed the offenses charged in the first article of impeachment.”
Numerous witnesses in the House inquiry outlined what they described as orchestrated pressure by the administration to get Ukraine to announce the investigation into the former vice president, who is a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to oppose Trump for reelection — an effort Bolton reportedly likened to a “drug deal.” But the testimony directly implicating the president was mostly secondhand, a key point in Trump’s defense.
House Democrats approved two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — against Trump. The Republican-controlled Senate voted to take up the matter, but blocked attempts by Schumer and Democrats to call witnesses, deferring any decision until near the end of the trial.
Bolton said he would be willing to testify if called by the Senate.
“We have a witness who has firsthand evidence of the president’s actions for which he is on trial,” Schumer continued. “He is ready and willing to testify. How can Senate Republicans not vote to call that witness and request his documents? Anyone who says the House case lacks eyewitnesses and then votes to prevent eyewitnesses from testifying is talking out of both sides of their mouth.”
The Senate minority leader also cited Bolton’s claim that acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was on the phone with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani while Trump was discussing the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Mulvaney has publicly denied knowledge of such a conversation.
Schumer called the revelations in Bolton’s book “further evidence” of a “giant cover-up among so many of the leading people in the White House.”
“If there was ever even a shred of logic left to not hear witnesses and review the documents, Mr. Bolton’s book just erased it,” Schumer said. “We’re all staring a White House cover-up in the face. It is so clear what is going on here.”
In a series of late night tweets, Trump denied ever telling Bolton the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into the Bidens.
Schumer was unmoved by the president’s tweeted denials.
“I would remind everyone, between President Trump and Ambassador Bolton, only one of them is willing to testify in the Senate under oath,” he said. “Only Mr. Bolton is willing to swear he is telling the truth.”
Democrats involved in the impeachment effort cited the disclosure about Bolton to accuse White House counsel Pat Cipollone of “crossing the line” ethically in his defense of Trump at the Senate trial.
The White House counsel is not the president’s personal lawyer but represents the office of the president.
The Bolton revelations make it even more likely that Cipollone is a “fact witness,” they said.
In a Jan. 21 letter, the House impeachment managers said that because of Cipollone’s firsthand knowledge of the Ukraine matter, he should disclose the extent of what he knew “so that the Senate and Chief Justice can be apprised of any potential ethical issues, conflicts, or biases.”
“He was at risk at the time of running afoul of his ethical and professional obligations and responsibilities,” a House Democratic aide working on the impeachment trial said in a conference call with reporters Monday morning. “The revelations about Ambassador Bolton highlight the point that it appears he and his team have crossed that line.”
And based on allegations that Bolton’s manuscript had been circulated widely within the White House, the Democratic aide said that Cipollone and his team were “suppressing and concealing evidence from the Senate and the American people.”
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