Dems unlikely to subpoena Bolton

Dems unlikely to subpoena Bolton
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The Democratic push to haul former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump offered North Korea's Kim a ride home on Air Force One: report Key impeachment figure Pence sticks to sidelines Bolton lawyer: Trump impeachment trial is constitutional MORE before the House has fizzled out roughly a month after the Senate acquitted President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE.

Bolton had emerged as an alluring figure in the Democrats’ Ukraine investigation following revelations that his forthcoming book includes firsthand accounts that Trump withheld security aid to Kyiv to secure political favors — the crux of the Democrats’ impeachment case.

After Senate Republicans refused Bolton’s offer to testify in January, Democratic leaders floated the idea of reclaiming the baton and issuing their own subpoena to compel his appearance before the House — a strategy still being mulled by party leaders.


Yet in interviews with almost 20 Democratic lawmakers on the committees with jurisdiction over Trump’s Ukraine dealings, the predominant view is that “impeachment fatigue” has dulled the appetite for Bolton’s participation, in the words of one lawmaker. Instead, the months-long Ukraine saga has given way to the 2020 campaign season — and many Democrats are only happy to shift the focus to health care, wages and other bread-and-butter issues that won them control of the House in the 2018 midterms.

“I would have liked to hear what he had to say, and I think that if there’s nothing to hide then we should have listened. But I don’t know that I would be in favor of opening it up again. Then it becomes the never-ending story,” said Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelProgressives target Manchin, Sinema with new PAC State Department sets up new bureau for cybersecurity and emerging technologies How Congress dismissed women's empowerment MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “When he said he was willing to come, that’s when we should have invited him.”

Some Democrats believe that pushing Bolton to testify and continuing the Ukraine investigation could bolster Trump’s reelection campaign, which has used impeachment to raise money and rile up the president’s base. 

Rep. Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayProgressives target Manchin, Sinema with new PAC Cori Bush dismisses concerns of being 'co-opted' by establishment Rep. Bush calls Trump a 'white supremacist president' on House floor MORE (D-Mo.), a senior member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said Democrats “have moved on, and away from impeachment,” warning that there’s no value in summoning Bolton “unless we’re gonna just reopen this whole inquiry.”

Another Democratic lawmaker familiar with the Bolton debate warned that any effort to compel his testimony would distract from Democrats’ legislative agenda — including emergency efforts to fight the coronavirus — just as the campaign season is heating up.  

“It overwhelms the other things that we’re trying to do, so I don’t think it’s going to happen,” the lawmaker said. “That would poison the well for a lot of that stuff.”


And Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric RichmondBottom line Biden pledges action on guns amid resistance Congressional Black Caucus to push aggressive agenda MORE (D-La.), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, accused Bolton of dangling offers to cooperate — without ever intending to follow through — for the sole purpose of promoting his unreleased book.

“One day he’s teasing something, the next day he’s doing whatever,” said Richmond. “Man up and do it on your own; I have no interest in subpoenaing him.”

To be sure, there are plenty of dissenting voices in the large and diverse Democratic caucus, particularly among more liberal lawmakers who say Congress has a constitutional responsibility to get to the bottom of Trump’s Ukraine policy, regardless of the political concerns. Relying on Bolton’s book, they say, is no substitute for having the longtime national security official testify under oath.

“It’s night and day,” said Rep. Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis CorreaRep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19 An attack on America that's divided Congress — and a nation FAA: No more warnings for unruly passengers on flights MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee. “It’s one thing to read a book, but you’re talking about legal proceedings — judicial proceedings. ... We’re talking about our democracy and the influence of foreign governments on our democracy.”

Rep. Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiYouTube still pushing white supremacist videos: study Lawmakers grill NSA on years-old breach in the wake of massive Russian hack Biden administration pauses UAE, Saudi arms sales amid broader review MORE (D-N.J.), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed.

“I’ve always thought that he has insights that I would like to see delivered under oath, rather than in a profit-making book,” he said.

The divergent views have created a dilemma for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike Budget Committee chair pledges to raise minimum wage: 'Hold me to it' Capitol review to recommend adding more fencing, 1,000 officers: report MORE (D-Calif.) and other House Democratic leaders, who are fighting to keep their majority at the polls in November. To do so will require a delicate balance between energizing liberals, who are more prone to support aggressive steps like subpoenaing Bolton, and protecting moderates in battleground districts, who have struggled through the impeachment debate and are pleased to be beyond it.

Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerHouse panel spars over GameStop frenzy, trading apps The Hill's Morning Report - Biden on COVID-19: Next year Americans will be 'better off' NRCC finance chair: Republicans who voted for Trump impeachment will not be penalized MORE (R-Minn.), who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee, has predicted impeachment will cost Democrats their House majority this fall. 

“Everybody would like to hear from Bolton. Everybody. And Bolton should testify,” said Rep. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchLawmakers debate role of prescription drugs and generics in health care costs The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending Overnight Health Care: New COVID-19 cases nationally drop below 100K for first time in 2021 | CDC warns states against lifting restrictions amid threat of virus variants | Health officials warn COVID-19 eradication unlikely MORE (D-Vt.), a member of both the Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees. “But can we make him? And is it wise to pursue it in the present moment? I’m not sure.”

Officially, Democratic leaders and committee heads maintain that they’re still weighing their options as they navigate an ever-changing playing field.

“We have not made a decision,” Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Democrats demand Saudi accountability over Khashoggi killing US intel: Saudi crown prince approved Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday. “I don’t have a timeline,” he added. “I’m going to leave it at that.”

Rep. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyLawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation DeJoy apologizes for mail delays while defending Postal Service changes House panel spars over GameStop frenzy, trading apps MORE (D-N.Y.), who heads the Oversight and Reform Committee, was similarly noncommittal.

“We’ll see. Things are under consideration,” she said. “I’ll let you know.”

Complicating their decision has been the uncertainty surrounding the publication of Bolton’s book. Initially scheduled for release on March 17, his publisher announced Tuesday that the date would be pushed to mid-May, pending clearance by the administration, which is screening the memoir for potentially sensitive information.

Trump has reportedly sought to block the publication altogether, leaving Democrats with little confidence it will ever be cleared while the president remains in office.

“I don’t have any confidence that the administration will scrutinize the contents of that book with an eye towards the appropriate classification considerations as opposed to just wanting to silence Mr. Bolton,” Schiff said. “I say that even though I have no great fondness for many of his positions.”

Bolton’s attorney did not respond on Tuesday to questions seeking comment.

Clouding the debate, Bolton had offered to testify under subpoena before the GOP-led Senate, but not before the House, which is controlled by Democrats. That’s only fueled the Democratic accusations that Bolton has used the high-profile impeachment debate to market his forthcoming book.

“There’s a general desire to know what John Bolton knows. But there’s also a concern about getting played. You wouldn’t want to invite him in until you see his book,” said the lawmaker familiar with the debate. “So there is a desire to know what he knows. But you’d want to do that in a way that’s in the interest of the public rather than in the interest of John Bolton.”