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WASHINGTON — President Trump’s notoriously bellicose former national security adviser, John Bolton, is ready to speak out during his boss’ impeachment proceedings — if he gets a subpoena.
“I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify,” Bolton said in a statement posted to his website on Monday.
Bolton’s surprise announcement sets the stage for potentially explosive testimony about events at the heart of Trump’s impeachment, including internal deliberations over Trump’s decision to withhold vital military aid to Ukraine. But a handful of Republican senators would have to be convinced of the need to hear from him directly.
Democrats are demanding that new witnesses like Bolton testify in Trump’s Senate trial, which is now on hold after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed forwarding the articles of impeachment to the upper chamber.
But they’re facing an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Senate. They need a majority of votes to change the trial procedures, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, has staunchly resisted Democrats’ demands. For now, it appears, McConnell has enough votes to get his way.
Democrats would need to convince at least four Republican senators to join them to call in witnesses. While that still looks unlikely, it’s a much easier lift than the two-thirds Senate majority vote they’d need to actually boot Trump out of office, an outcome widely seen as impossible.
Bolton’s statement Monday will likely put more pressure on the few moderate Republican senators who could potentially side with Democrats on witnesses. That includes Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, who recently declared herself “disturbed” by McConnell’s pledge of “total coordination” with the White House.
Bolton’s attorney has said his client knows about events and meetings that were never addressed during the House investigation.
Bolton had previously balked at testifying and said he'd make a final decision based on the outcome of a lawsuit filed in October by his former deputy, Charles Kupperman. He had asked a judge to decide who he should listen to: Pelosi, who had subpoenaed him, or Trump, who demanded that he not appear in front of the Senate.
For his part, Bolton had said he would follow along with whatever the judge ordered Kupperman to do — but that suit was never resolved.
The House then eventually dropped its subpoena for Kupperman over worries that the pending courtroom wrangling over the Kupperman case would take months and end up bogging down the impeachment process. The judge dismissed the suit in late December.
Now, Bolton has changed his tune. In his statement Monday, he said that since it’s unlikely the courts will have time to resolve the dispute between Congress and the presidency over witnesses before the Senate trial is over, he’ll have to go ahead and make a decision himself.
Cover image: FILE: U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton John Bolton arrives at the prime minister's office to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo on May 24, 2019. John Bolton was removed from duty by U.S. President Donald Trump. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )