It was a moderately tough crowd for former National Security Adviser John Bolton at Nashville's Vanderbilt University on Wednesday night, with the students audibly skeptical of his rationale for declining to tell Congress what he knew about President Trump and Ukraine during Trump's impeachment proceedings. And the audience cheered Bolton's co-panelist and fellow former national security adviser, Susan Rice, when she called him out on it.
Bolton said he was surprised Senate Republicans voted against having him testify at Trump's impeachment trial. "People can argue about what I should have said and what I should have done," Bolton said. "I would bet you a dollar right here and now, my testimony would have made no difference to the ultimate outcome." He suggested he's still not revealing the relevant disclosures in his unpublished book because of "implied threat of criminal prosecution" if he were to "just spill my guts" before the White House clears the book for publication.
"It's inconceivable to me that if I had firsthand knowledge of a gross abuse of presidential power, that I would withhold my testimony," with or without a subpoena, Rice said, getting a round of applause. "I would feel like I was shamefully violating my oath that I took to support and defend the Constitution." She added: "I also can't imagine, frankly, in the absence of being able to provide that information directly to Congress, not having exercised my First Amendment right to speak publicly at a time when my testimony or my experience would be relevant."
Bolton prompted grumbling when he said House Democrats "committed impeachment malpractice" by creating a process that "drove Republicans who might have voted for impeachment away because it was so partisan." Rice said Trump clearly abused his power and "Congress abdicated their responsibilities and made it impossible in the future to hold any president accountable." The theme of the talk was "Defining U.S. Global Leadership," so Rice added that the Senate's failure to sanction Trump has "unsettled" America's allies and "weakened our democratic model."
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