Many Democrats want John Bolton's testimony, but Pelosi stays mum

Many Democrats want John Bolton's testimony, but Pelosi stays mum
© UPI Photo

Rank-and-file Democrats are itching to hear testimony from 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, saying 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 former national security adviser should answer to Congress — under oath — about his time in the White House.

Bolton had refused to appear on Capitol Hill during the Democrats' impeachment proceedings late last year, but in a new book released in June he presented damning allegations of Trump’s negligence, incompetence and general unfitness to hold the office.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases House Democrats urge congressional leaders to support .1B budget for IRS Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE (D-Calif.) has said for weeks that she’s weighing the question of whether to seek Bolton’s testimony — by subpoena or otherwise — but has yet to announce a decision.

Filling the silent void are the voices of a growing number of Democrats eager for the opportunity to confront Bolton — directly and under threat of perjury — about the eyewitness details of his tumultuous 17 months in the Trump White House.

“Perfecting the record for history is what we need to do,” said Rep. Hank JohnsonHenry (Hank) C. JohnsonDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Five takeaways as panel grills tech CEOs Lawmakers, public bid farewell to John Lewis MORE (D-Ga.), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee.

“It’s too late for his testimony to have an impact on impeachment, and that's regrettable because it shows his lack of character,” he added. “But it's never too late to create that record and to have that for posterity in congressional record keeping.”

Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesDemocrats debate fate of Trump probes if Biden wins House Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy MORE (D-Conn.) offered a similar assessment, saying Bolton’s appearance before Congress is a logical step — “if for no other reason [than] for the historical record.”

“It's obviously a very painful topic, because he hurt his country in the service of his own commercial interests,” said Himes, a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, which led the impeachment investigation into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

“But I think on balance there is some value in getting sworn testimony from him, because that means we can ask questions about some of the very serious allegations he has made,” Himes added.

Interest in hearing Bolton discuss his White House tenure is hardly new.

At the height of the impeachment proceedings, the Democratic calls for Bolton’s appearance reached a fever pitch, captivating Washington and pitting the parties in a fierce tug of war over the wisdom and value of hearing new eyewitness accounts of Trump’s conduct.

Yet Bolton, a national security hawk with decades of experience across multiple Republican administrations, had refused to appear before Democratic investigators in the House, even under subpoena. And although he offered to testify during the Senate trial, Republican leaders quashed the effort to call him in.

More recently, the calls for Bolton’s appearance have been muted on both sides by the arrival of the deadly coronavirus; the resulting economic collapse; and the racial unrest prompted by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in May.

Still, the issue presents something of a dilemma for Pelosi and other party leaders, who are fighting to invigorate Democratic voters heading into November’s elections — and face pressure from liberals on and off Capitol Hill to hold Trump accountable at every turn.

Pelosi has vowed to do just that — “We will never stop our oversight that is our responsibility under the Constitution,” she told reporters Thursday — but on the question of Bolton she’s remained mum.

Last month, Pelosi said she would announce a decision after huddling with the heads of the various committees of jurisdiction, including the Intelligence, Oversight, Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels.

“One thing is for sure: the American people have the right to know,” Pelosi said at the time.

Yet Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelTop donor allegedly sold access to key politicians for millions in foreign cash: report Meet the three Democrats who could lead foreign affairs in the House Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin MORE (D-N.Y.), who heads the Foreign Affairs panel, said the decision is essentially Pelosi’s alone.

“There's a lot to talk with him about, but we'll have to see how it all comes together,” Engel said. “I always think there's a value in hearing what people have to say. And then people can make up their own minds.”

Pelosi's office declined to comment this week.

Rep. 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.), head of the Intelligence Committee, also suggested there's merit in having Bolton testify, particularly since the emergence of reports that Russia had paid bounties to Taliban-backed militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But Schiff emphasized that no decision has yet been made.

“I think it's important to put a public spotlight on the misconduct of this president and any dangers facing the country as a result — or the incompetence of this president — and honestly Bolton has had something to say on that topic, on the topic of this recent report regarding alleged Russian bounties on our troops,” Schiff said earlier this month.

“So I think these issues all need to be explored,” he added. “We have not made a decision yet regarding testimony, but I hope that we'll make that decision soon.”

Complicating the calculation for Democratic leaders is the potential effect on moderate lawmakers if the House revisits foreign policies related to impeachment less than four months before the elections. Republican campaign operatives have salivated over the opportunity to link those vulnerable Democrats to the highly partisan effort to oust Trump, and Democratic leaders have responded by shifting their focus to the poll-tested issues of health care, jobs and infrastructure, which formed the backbone of their successful House takeover in 2018.

Meanwhile, liberals hoping to question Bolton are dismissing the political risk for Democrats, predicting voters will be more likely to punish Republicans for defending Trump from the new accusations — without hearing from the accuser.

“Bolton has raised profoundly serious allegations,” said Himes.

“And if the Republicans' position is that we shouldn't investigate allegations,” he added, “that's their problem, not ours.”