Democrats see John Bolton as potential star witness

Democrats are eyeing John BoltonJohn BoltonWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Will Pence primary Trump — and win? Bolton: Trump lacked enough 'advance thinking' for a coup MORE as a potential witness in their impeachment case amid increasing scrutiny of President TrumpDonald TrumpMyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections Simone Biles, Vince Lombardi and the courage to walk away MORE and Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiCapitol insurrection hearing exposes Trumpworld delusions DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's riot lawsuit Bob Dole: 'I'm a Trumper' but 'I'm sort of Trumped out' MORE’s contacts with Ukraine. 

Bolton, Trump’s third national security adviser who was pushed out last month, has long clashed with Democrats over a host of foreign policy initiatives.

But amid the Democrats’ investigation into Trump’s controversial dealings with Ukraine, they now see the military hawk as a potential star witness — one whose intimate knowledge of the Ukraine affair could expose more evidence of wrongdoing by the president. 

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“When he calls Giuliani a ‘live hand grenade,’ that says something. He speaks from experience. He's someone who should know,” Rep. Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchOvernight Defense: Military justice overhaul included in defense bill | Pentagon watchdog to review security of 'nuclear football' | Pentagon carries out first air strike in Somalia under Biden Pentagon watchdog to review security of 'nuclear football' Overnight Defense: Ex-Pentagon chief defends Capitol attack response as GOP downplays violence | Austin, Biden confer with Israeli counterparts amid conflict with Hamas | Lawmakers press Pentagon officials on visas for Afghan partners MORE (D-Mass.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told CNN on Tuesday, referencing Fiona Hill’s reported closed-door testimony on Monday.

“So, yes, we would want to talk to Bolton. We understand that he did leave the White House under stressful circumstances, but I think he had a good read on what was going on in Ukraine and his testimony would be very desirable as far as the committee goes,” Lynch added.

Others also echoed this position, arguing that Bolton’s conservative bona fides make him a potentially more politically potent witness — a Republican who could challenge the narrative of Trump’s GOP defenders on Capitol Hill.

“He’s as big a hawk as you’re going to find,” said Rep. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchShakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' Democrats debate shape of new Jan. 6 probe On the Money: Tech giants face rising pressure from shareholder activists | House Democrats urge IRS to reverse Trump-era rule reducing donor disclosure | Sen. Warren, Jamie Dimon spar over overdraft fees at Senate hearing MORE (D-Vt.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “And according to the news report, he was shocked and appalled at the run around of the official channels for a private foreign policy run by Giuliani. So that makes what he has to say of interest to me.”

“I think it would be useful to hear from John Bolton,” echoed Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyHouse bill targets US passport backlog Democrats weigh next steps on Jan. 6 probe Tlaib, Democrats slam GOP calls for border oversight to fight opioid crisis MORE (D-Va.), a member of both the House Oversight and Reform and Foreign Affairs committees.

Bolton, who departed the White House last month amid conflicts with Trump over major foreign policy matters, is said to have raised concerns about the president and Giuliani’s efforts to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate one of Trump’s top political opponents, 2020 Democratic candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenFirst lady leaves Walter Reed after foot procedure Biden backs effort to include immigration in budget package MyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News MORE

Although Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, is not a government employee, he has said repeatedly that he was taking direction from the State Department in efforts to drum up foreign-led anti-corruption investigations into Trump’s political rivals. 

Hill, Trump’s former leading Russia expert who left voluntarily in July, told House investigators during a closed-door deposition Monday that Bolton was so alarmed by what he heard about Trump’s contacts with Ukraine that he instructed her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about the efforts of Giuliani, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE, The New York Times reported late Monday morning.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Bolton told Hill, according to her reported testimony.

If Bolton agrees to testify, he would follow a string of witnesses who have defied the White House’s order seeking to block former and current administration officials from testifying about their time in the administration, including those who have had an involvement in the Ukraine scandal.

Last week, Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, defied the administration to give nearly 10 hours of testimony, voicing concerns that her removal was politically motivated. 

Hill’s appearance Monday also bucked the administration’s wishes. And George Kent, who remains at the State Department as a deputy assistant secretary, testified Tuesday even after the agency tried to prevent his appearance.

While multiple members on the Intelligence Committee said they were not sure whether the panel has been in touch with Bolton about securing a deposition, Democrats say they are racing the clock to collect as much evidence as they can about Trump’s conduct with Ukraine.

Members on the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees for the most part remained mum as they left the closed-door hearing with Kent on whether they wanted to hear from Bolton.

Some also dodged questions about whether they had been instructed to stay quiet about future witnesses, deferring to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE (D-Calif.), who is leading the investigation into the Trump administration’s contacts with Ukraine. 

Bolton, now a Republican operative, clashed with Trump on major policy issues such as North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan, with the president viewing the longtime hawk as too militant in his approaches. He is reportedly working on a book about his time in the administration. 

Still, at the onset of his departure, Bolton showed he was willing to fight back with the administration, disputing Trump’s claims that he had been fired, rather than offering to submit a letter of resignation a day prior.