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Democrats drop efforts to secure Bolton testimony in impeachment inquiry

House Democrats have signaled they are moving on from their efforts to obtain testimony from former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday Bolton calls on GOP leadership to label Trump's behavior 'inexcusable' MORE after they say a lawyer for Bolton threatened to file a lawsuit if their client was subpoenaed.

Democrats had scheduled for Bolton to testify voluntarily on Thursday as part of the chamber's impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE's dealings with Ukraine, but sources ahead of his testimony said it was unlikely that the longtime GOP hawk would appear.

A House Intelligence Committee official later said in a statement that a lawyer for Bolton notified the panel that "Mr. Bolton would take us to court if we subpoenaed him."

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"We would welcome John Bolton’s deposition and he did not appear as he was requested today," the official said. "We regret Mr. Bolton’s decision not to appear voluntarily, but we have no interest in allowing the Administration to play rope-a-dope with us in the courts for months."

A spokesperson for Bolton did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Hill has reached out to Bolton's lawyer for comment.

Lawmakers had hoped to get testimony on Thursday from Bolton, who is said to have clashed with the president on a series of key foreign policy matters.

Democrats viewed Bolton as a possible star witness, with Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (D-Calif.) calling him a “very important” witness late last month.

In particular, Bolton was involved in some of the most explosive events related to Trump's contacts with Kiev that are now at the heart of the House impeachment investigation.

Bolton, who departed the White House last month amid conflicts with Trump over major foreign policy matters, is said to have raised concerns about efforts by the president and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe BidenJoe BidenGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Senate approves two energy regulators, completing panel Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race MORE, one of his top 2020 rivals.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, testified last month that during a July 10 meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland “started to speak about delivering the specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the President, at which time Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short,” according to a copy of his opening remarks.

The reported pledge to file a lawsuit in the face of a subpoena for Bolton's testimony would follow the same playbook as Charles Kupperman, who served as a deputy to Bolton before his departure and who asked a judge to decide whether he should appear for testimony.

In a lawsuit for Kupperman, his attorney had previously argued that the former aide was caught in a “classic Catch-22,” between the request to testify and the Trump administration's order seeking to block former and current administration officials from testifying, citing executive privilege.

The former official asked a court to help him decide which branch of government to listen to: the executive branch's immunity claim or the legislative branch's subpoena.

But Democrats on Wednesday withdrew their subpoena for Kupperman's testimony, signaling a desire to maintain the fast-paced nature of their inquiry that is about to enter a public phase with open hearings scheduled for next week.

"There is no proper basis for a witness to sue the Congress in court to oppose a duly authorized congressional subpoena," a House Intelligence Committee official said Wednesday, adding that they do not expect to reissue the subpoena.

"Nevertheless, given the schedule of our impeachment hearings, a court process that leads to the dismissal of Dr. Kupperman’s flawed lawsuit would only result in delay, so we have withdrawn his subpoena."

Still, both Democrats and Republicans say they wanted to hear from Bolton.

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship MORE (R-N.C.), a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee and a close Trump ally, suggested Thursday that he'd like to see Bolton testify, characterizing more transparency in the process as "a good thing."

"But," he quickly added, "that's not my call — that's certainly Chairman Schiff's call."

Meadows said he hasn't spoken directly to Bolton, but based on the testimony of other witnesses, he's not worried that Bolton's appearance would do any damage to Trump's case.

"I'm not concerned about any testimony that Ambassador Bolton might provide," Meadows said.

Mike Lillis contributed.