Bolton, GOP senators see their close ties challenged

Many of the Republican senators dismissing the relevance of former national security advisor John BoltonJohn BoltonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - US vaccine effort takes hit with Johnson & Johnson pause Bipartisan lawmakers signal support for Biden cybersecurity picks On North Korea, Biden should borrow from Trump's Singapore declaration MORE's testimony to President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Illinois House passes bill that would mandate Asian-American history lessons in schools Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he MORE's ongoing impeachment trial are also his longtime friends and colleagues.

A fixture in Republican national security circles for decades and a former Fox News contributor, Bolton has long-standing relationships with much of the Republican conference.

The connections have put Republicans in a tough spot as Trump trashes his former advisor, with the senators walking a tightrope between defending Trump and respecting Bolton.


“I like John Bolton,” Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP MORE (R-Mo.) told reporters this week, but quickly added he wouldn’t vote for Bolton to be a witness in the trial. “The one thing I know for sure is John Bolton doesn’t know a single thing today he didn’t know before Christmas. It’s the House’s job to put a case together. It’s then our job to deal with that in a prompt manner.”

Bolton was thrust into the center of the Senate’s fight over witnesses in the impeachment trial after the New York Times reported that Bolton’s forthcoming memoir will say Trump directly tied a freeze in U.S. military aid to Ukraine to Kyiv announcing investigations into the Bidens.

The claim made in the draft of the memoir would give Bolton direct knowledge of a scheme alleged in Trump’s impeachment.

Bolton previously said he’d appear before the Senate if subpoenaed after refusing to testify before the House during its impeachment inquiry, and Democrats seized on the revelations about his book to bolster their case for calling him as a witness.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyModerates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats Sinema, Romney propose bill to tackle student loan debt Romney, Sinema teaming up on proposal to raise minimum wage MORE (R-Utah), who has been the most vocal Republican in support of witnesses, called Bolton “a very responsible and capable person.”

The pressure to call Bolton briefly scrambled GOP plans to quickly end the trial without witnesses, but in the days since the revelations about the memoir were first reported, Republicans have expressed confidence they have the votes to block witnesses.


Trump, meanwhile, has been lashing out at his former national security adviser, with whom he had an acrimonious split. On Wednesday, he tweeted that Bolton wrote a “nasty” and “untrue” book.

“For a guy who couldn’t get approved for the Ambassador to the U.N. years ago, couldn’t get approved for anything since, 'begged' me for a non Senate approved job, which I gave him despite many saying 'Don’t do it, sir,' takes the job, mistakenly says 'Libyan Model' on T.V., and many more mistakes of judgement, gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book,” Trump tweeted.

Trump and Bolton parted ways in September amid policy disagreements on Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Afghanistan and other areas.

In a sign of the bitterness of the split, the two have not even agreed on the terms of Bolton’s departure. Trump says he fired Bolton, while Bolton insists that he quit.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - US vaccine effort takes hit with Johnson & Johnson pause Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike MORE (R-Okla.), who notes he’s known Bolton for “decades,” suggested this week that Bolton’s split with Trump has colored his view of the president.

“He was fired by the president,” Inhofe told reporters. “That can have an effect on a person.”

Inhofe also stressed Wednesday that Bolton is an “old friend.” But Inhofe added that “doesn’t have anything to do” with whether he should be called as a witness, citing Trump legal team member Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzDershowitz advising MyPillow CEO's lawyers in Dominion case Kushner planning book about time in Trump White House: report A victory for the Constitution, not so much for Trump MORE’s arguments that even if Bolton’s allegations are true, they would not constitute an impeachable offense.

Bolton, the national security hawk known for his advocacy of regime change in places such as Iran, forged his connections with Republican lawmakers as he held positions in the Reagan and both Bush administrations.

In the years between his roles in the George W. Bush administration and Trump administration, Bolton was a fixture on Fox News as a paid contributor.

Bolton’s self-named political action committee has donated to dozens of Republican senators’ campaigns over the years. For the 2020 campaign cycle, the PAC has given to Republican Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonHillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Republican lawmakers reintroduce bill to ban TikTok on federal devices MORE (Ark.), Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE (Colo.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisBipartisan Senate proposal would grant million to minority businesses Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings MORE (N.C.), according to Open Secrets.

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.), whose campaign received money from Bolton’s PAC in the 2016 cycle, told reporters this week that “I got nothing for you” when asked what he thinks of Bolton. When pressed by a reporter on the campaign donations, Toomey did not appear to respond before another reporter asked a different question.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study Biden aide: Ability to collect daily intel in Afghanistan 'will diminish' Leaving Afghanistan: Is it victory or defeat? MORE (R-S.C.), who has become a staunch Trump ally, noted that he’s known Bolton for two decades and has a “very shared worldview” with him.


Still, in an interview on Fox News, Graham lamented that Bolton has “kind of thrown the country into a ditch here."

“Just come forward and say what's on your mind,” Graham said Tuesday night in an appeal to Bolton. “Hold a news conference, and we'll consider what you've got to say if you think it's that important.”

Jordain Carney contributed.