Trump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims

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 is facing a surge of vitriolic attacks from President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America MORE’s allies after a leaked manuscript revealed that the former national security adviser’s unpublished book will dish damaging details about Trump’s contacts with Ukraine.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 DobbsTwo additional Fox Media employees test positive for COVID-19 Second Fox Business employee tests positive for coronavirus Fox Business host Lou Dobbs in self-quarantine after staffer tests positive for coronavirus MORE, a Fox Business personality known for his ardent defense of Trump, said Sunday.

Shortly after White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamPence names new press secretary McEnany: Prayer 'made a lot of difference' in 2016 election McEnany stamps her brand on White House press operation 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 PaulSenate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Tim Kaine tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies Trump urges GOP to vote against bill reauthorizing surveillance powers 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 SchiffThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation COVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks 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 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 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 DemingsMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Police killing in Minneapolis puts new scrutiny on Biden pick Cortez Masto says she's not interested in being Biden VP 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 PompeoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Government watchdog: 'No evidence' Pompeo violated Hatch Act with Kansas trips Inspector general fired over leaks had been cleared of wrongdoing before ouster: report MORE and John Bolton, @realDonaldTrump is successfully lining up his war cabinet,” Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: New documents show EPA rolled back mileage standards despite staff, WH concerns | Land management bureau grants 75 royalty rate cuts for oil and gas | EPA employees allege leadership interference with science in watchdog survey EPA's Wheeler grilled by Democrats over environmental rollbacks amid COVID-19 Markey says EPA administrator should apologize to minorities for coronavirus response 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.