Bolton, GOP senators see their close ties challenged

Many of the Republican senators dismissing the relevance of former national security advisor John BoltonJohn BoltonDiplomacy with China is good for America The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep DOJ launches probe into Bolton book for possible classified information disclosures MORE's testimony to President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I like John Bolton,” Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntCDC tells Congress it urgently needs billion for vaccine distribution On The Money: Trump undercuts GOP, calls for bigger COVID-19 relief package | Communities of color hit hardest financially by COVID-19 | Businesses, states pass on Trump payroll tax deferral Trump undercuts GOP, calls for bigger COVID-19 relief package 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 RomneyMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Toobin: McConnell engaging in 'greatest act of hypocrisy in American political history' with Ginsburg replacement vote The Memo: Court battle explodes across tense election landscape 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 InhofeChamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection Overnight Defense: Top admiral says 'no condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' | Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings Top admiral: 'No condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' 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 suing CNN for 0 million in defamation suit Bannon and Maxwell cases display DOJ press strategy chutzpah Ghislaine Maxwell attorneys ask for delay to unseal court documents due to 'critical new information' 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 CottonRenewed focus on Trump's Supreme Court list after Ginsburg's death Republicans call for DOJ to prosecute Netflix executives for releasing 'Cuties' Loeffler calls for hearing in wake of Netflix's 'Cuties' MORE (Ark.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerJeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Momentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Gardner on court vacancy: Country needs to mourn Ginsburg 'before the politics begin' MORE (Colo.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTrump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally Momentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Vulnerable GOP incumbents embrace filling Supreme Court seat this year MORE (N.C.), according to Open Secrets.

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy 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 GrahamMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Video of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral Warning signs flash for Lindsey Graham in South Carolina 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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.