Trump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims

John BoltonJohn BoltonSchumer on Trump intel shakeup: 'Disgrace,' 'closer to a banana republic' Trump directly sought to block publication of Bolton's book: WaPo 'Parasite' studio fires back after Trump criticism: 'He can't read' MORE is facing a surge of vitriolic attacks from President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE’s allies after a leaked manuscript revealed that the former national security adviser’s unpublished book will dish damaging details about Trump’s contacts with Ukraine.

Almost overnight, the president’s defenders switched from friend to foe toward Bolton after The New York Times reported Sunday that Bolton’s book will claim that Trump wanted to withhold $391 million in Ukraine aid as leverage for investigations that would benefit him politically.

The report gave new energy to Democratic demands to bring in witnesses for the impeachment trial, turning up the heat on Republicans, who were blindsided.

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Bolton has denied coordinating the leak with the Times, blaming the “corrupted” White House book review process. But that hasn’t stopped Trump allies from going on the attack.

“John Bolton, himself, has been reduced to a tool for the radical Dems and the deep state,” Lou DobbsLouis (Lou) Carl DobbsRepublicans give Barr vote of confidence Top Republicans back Barr amid criticism over controversial DOJ decisions Barr back on the hot seat MORE, a Fox Business personality known for his ardent defense of Trump, said Sunday.

Shortly after White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamSupreme Court allows 'public charge' rule to take effect nationwide Pelosi blasts Trump's 'dangerous' pick for intelligence chief Lawyers to seek asylum for Assange in France: report MORE described Bolton as a “friend” on Dobbs’s Sunday show, she asked: “How much does it cost to sell out potentially national security in your country?”

GOP lawmakers have largely sidestepped questions about Bolton’s credibility, but old opponents have piled on.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony MORE (R-Ky.), a frequent sparring partner of Bolton’s, said people should ask whether the former Trump official is a neutral party or “someone who is a very unhappy, disgruntled, fired employee who now has a motive — a multimillion-dollar motive to inflame the situation?”

Trump on Monday denied the account attributed to Bolton’s manuscript and accused him of trying to sell books.

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“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” the president tweeted Monday.

Some ex-Trump aides have come to Bolton’s defense.

“If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton,” former White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE said at an event in Sarasota, Fla., the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported Tuesday. “Every single time I was with him ... he always gave the president the unvarnished truth.”

Kelly also sided with Democrats who say Bolton’s account should be part of the Senate trial.

“I think some of the conversations seem to me to be very inappropriate, but I wasn’t there. But there are people that were there that ought to be heard from,” he said.

Democrats seized on Kelly’s remarks.

“That is extraordinary in and of itself that the president’s own former chief of staff believes John Bolton, and by implication, does not believe the president of the United States that he worked closely with for such a long time,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOcasio-Cortez: Trump would 'never' say to her face some of the shots he takes at her on Twitter John Ratcliffe back under consideration by Trump for top intel job Trump says he wants 'no help from any country' in 2020 election MORE (D-Calif.), the lead impeachment manager, said in a press conference Tuesday after the conclusion of the White House defense team’s three days of arguments.

Bolton left the administration in September after clashing with Trump over Iran and North Korea policy. The two, in a final parting quarrel, even disagreed on the terms of Bolton’s departure.

Since then, Democrats have grown increasingly interested in hearing from Bolton.

House Democrats invited Bolton to testify as part of their impeachment inquiry but chose not to subpoena him after they say it became clear Bolton would challenge their congressional order in court.

The ex-national security aide then caught both sides in the impeachment drama off guard when he publicly announced that he would be willing to testify if the GOP-controlled Senate chose to subpoena him, shortly before the Senate trial was set to begin.

Bolton’s remarks raised pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans give Barr vote of confidence Democrats block two Senate abortion bills VA could lead way for nation on lower drug pricing MORE (R-Ky.), who has argued against bringing in new witnesses. It’s a position McConnell has stuck to throughout the drama this week surrounding the report on Bolton’s book.

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Some GOP senators have proposed allowing senators to read Bolton’s manuscript in a classified setting. But Democrats rejected the proposal as ridiculous, noting the contents of Bolton’s book will be public soon. It is set to be published in March.

Trump’s defense team has largely ignored the Bolton news, though Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzA disgraced Senate and president have no business confirming judges Dershowitz files defamation suit against Boies, alleging extortion Sunday shows - 2020 Democrats make closing arguments in New Hampshire MORE in his remarks on Monday said the revelations in the report about Bolton’s book would not constitute an impeachable offense because they would not be a crime.

“If a president, any president, were to have done what the Times reported about the content of the Bolton manuscript, that would not constitute an impeachable offense. Let me repeat: Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense,” he argued.

Other constitutional lawyers, however, have differed with Dershowitz’s argument that an actual crime must have been committed to have an impeachable offense.

Democrats have used attacks from the right on Bolton’s credibility to bolster their arguments that he testify.

“If there are other Republican senators out there, or anyone else, who has questions about John Bolton’s credibility, well, he said he would testify. He said he would come in and testify under oath,” said Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsTrump set to confront his impeachment foes Live coverage: Senators query impeachment managers, Trump defense Trump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims MORE (D-Fla.). “So let’s subpoena him and see what he said and the American people can make up their own minds about his credibility.”

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Democrats fiercely raised objections against Bolton’s appointment in March 2018, voicing concern that the military hawk would draw the U.S. into overseas wars, citing his support of the Iraq War when he served as President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations.

“With the appointments of Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: More closures possible at US bases in Europe as coronavirus spreads | Pompeo says Afghan 'reduction in violence is working' | Man accused of trying to blow up vehicle at Pentagon Pompeo: Afghanistan 'reduction of violence is working' Pompeo accuses China and Iran of hiding coronavirus outbreak MORE and John Bolton, @realDonaldTrump is successfully lining up his war cabinet,” Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyKennedy, Markey neck-and-neck in Massachusetts primary: poll Overnight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development MORE (D-Mass.) tweeted at the time. “We cannot let this extreme war hawk blunder us into another terrible conflict.”

Now Democrats are leaning on him to help make their case during the Senate trial.

Trump allies have also flipped.

“I think anyone who knows John Bolton is celebrating because of his intellect, his capacity, his experience, his talent,” Dobbs said when the veteran Washington policymaker was appointed by Trump.

But now, Democrats are the ones praising his record as they hammer the message that a trial without Bolton is no fair trial.

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The report about Bolton’s manuscript “makes it all the more clear why you can’t have a meaningful trial without witnesses, and you certainly cannot have one without John Bolton,” Schiff said Monday.

 

Jordain Carney contributed.