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Trump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims

John BoltonJohn BoltonJohn Bolton in heated exchange with BBC anchor over lack of impeachment testimony President Trump: To know him is to 'No' him Obama highlights Biden's tweet from a year ago warning Trump wasn't ready for pandemic MORE is facing a surge of vitriolic attacks from President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline MORE’s allies after a leaked manuscript revealed that the former national security adviser’s unpublished book will dish damaging details about Trump’s contacts with Ukraine.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 DobbsGraham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lou Dobbs goes after Lindsey Graham: 'I don't know why anyone' would vote for him  Shepard Smith averages 322,000 viewers in first week on CNBC MORE, a Fox Business personality known for his ardent defense of Trump, said Sunday.

Shortly after White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamMelania Trump cancels campaign appearance over 'lingering cough' The Memo: Trump grapples with credibility gap in crisis President Trump, Melania Trump test positive for COVID-19 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 says ex-staffer who penned 'Anonymous' op-ed should be 'prosecuted' CIA impeachment whistleblower forced to live under surveillance due to threats: report Rand Paul rips 'leftwing media' for focusing on COVID-19 cases: 'Mortality rates are plummeting' 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 SchiffCIA impeachment whistleblower forced to live under surveillance due to threats: report In our 'Bizarro World' of 2020 politics, the left takes a wrong turn Greenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox 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 McConnellMcConnell: Battle for Senate 'a 50-50 proposition' 'Packing' federal courts is already a serious problem What a Biden administration should look like 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 DershowitzThe Hill's 12:30 Report: War over the Supreme Court Dershowitz suing CNN for 0 million in defamation suit Bannon and Maxwell cases display DOJ press strategy chutzpah 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 DemingsDisney to lay off 28,000 employees Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Sunday shows - Trump team defends coronavirus response 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 PompeoPompeo says US to open embassy in the Maldives Microsoft: Iranian hacking group targeting attendees of major international security conferences American money for American ideas: Think tanks should disclose foreign funding MORE and John Bolton, @realDonaldTrump is successfully lining up his war cabinet,” Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyTech CEOs clash with lawmakers in contentious hearing OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump strips protections for Tongass forest, opening it to logging | Interior 'propaganda' video and tweets may violate ethics laws, experts say | Democrats see Green New Deal yielding gains despite GOP attacks Democrats see Green New Deal yielding gains despite GOP attacks 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.