Bolton, GOP senators see their close ties challenged

Many of the Republican senators dismissing the relevance of former national security advisor John BoltonJohn BoltonHave the courage to recognize Taiwan McConnell says Obama administration 'did leave behind' pandemic plan Trump company lawyer warned Michael Cohen not to write 'tell-all' book: report MORE's testimony to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters 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.

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“I like John Bolton,” Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntCalls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress Washington prepares for a summer without interns GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill 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 RomneyEx-Joint Chiefs chairman: Trump threat to use military on protesters 'very dangerous' Ex-Defense secretary criticizes Trump for using military for 'partisan political purposes' Biden: Probably '10 to 15 percent' of Americans 'are just not very good people' 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.

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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 InhofeMinority caucuses call for quick action on police reform Calls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress Bipartisan Senate panel leaders back fund to deter China 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 DershowitzMoussaoui says he now renounces terrorism, bin Laden The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Frist says Manhattan Project-like initiative necessary to fight virus; WH to release plan for easing lockdowns The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden faces tough task of uniting Democrats 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 CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonNYT says Tom Cotton editorial 'did not meet our standards' Engel says he refuses to seek NYT endorsement over Cotton op-ed Cotton praises NY Times for 'standing up to the woke progressive mob' in publishing opinion piece MORE (Ark.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerWe need a '9-1-1' for mental health — we need '9-8-8' Overnight Energy: US Park Police say 'tear gas' statements were 'mistake' | Trump to reopen area off New England coast for fishing | Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump juggles three crises ahead of November election MORE (Colo.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP Sen. Murkowski 'struggling' with whether to vote for Trump Poll: Biden leads Trump, Cunningham neck and neck with Tillis in North Carolina Scaled-back Pride Month poses challenges for fundraising, outreach MORE (N.C.), according to Open Secrets.

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy NSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general 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 GrahamBill aims to help farmers sell carbon credits Graham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over Graham pushes back on Mattis criticism of Trump: 'You're missing something here, my friend' 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.

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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.