Trump suggests he'd invoke executive privilege to block Bolton testimony

By Caitlin Oprysko

President Donald Trump on Friday said he planned to invoke executive privilege in the event former national security adviser John Bolton was subpoenaed by lawmakers for the Senate impeachment trial.

In clips of an interview with Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host asks Trump why he wouldn’t block Bolton from testifying if Bolton had information that could bolster Trump’s claims that he’d done nothing wrong.

Trump responded that he would have “no problem” with Bolton testifying, “other than one thing.”

“You can’t be in the White House as president, future, I’m talking about future — any future presidents — and have a security adviser, anybody having to do with security, and legal and other things but especially—,” he argued, before Ingraham interjected.

“Are you going to invoke executive privilege?” she asked.

“Well I think you have to for the sake of the office,” Trump replied.

Bolton announced earlier this week that he would be willing to testify in the impeachment trial, likely set to begin sometime next week, if subpoenaed by the Senate. Bolton is largely suspected to have testimony that would be damning to the president, as he was present at a number of key moments that lawmakers examined in their efforts to determine whether Trump abused his office by withholding security aide for Ukraine in exchange for political investigations.

While Trump has spoken repeatedly about the prospect of Bolton testifying, Friday's assertion to Ingraham is the most definitive he's been about the issue.

Bolton was asked to testify before House investigators in the impeachment inquiry, but refused to appear and was never subpoenaed while a similar case over executive privilege involving his former deputy was being litigated.

Democrats ultimately pushed forward without Bolton’s testimony. But in the weeks since the House voted to impeach Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been engaged in a game of chicken with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during which she refused to transmit the two articles of impeachment to the Senate until McConnell agreed to release a blueprint for the Senate trial.

The standoff only ended earlier Friday, when Pelosi announced she would send the articles to the Senate and name impeachment managers next week, without McConnell committing to call witnesses in the upcoming trial.

A majority of senators could still vote to subpoena Bolton or another witness once the trial begins, though that would require four Republicans to side with all Democrats on the matter. And even then, as Trump affirmed Friday, he would likely invoke executive privilege, which could then lead to a protracted court battle that would last much longer than the Senate trial.