Update: This story has been updated with a comment from Bolton’s lawyer.
WASHINGTON — House Democrats have summoned President Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton to give a deposition in their impeachment inquiry on Nov. 7, a person familiar with the situation told VICE News.
Bolton’s name has been mentioned repeatedly in testimony by other witnesses about Trump’s alleged pressure campaign to push Ukraine to launch politically-helpful investigations. If he agrees to appear, Bolton would be the highest-ranking official yet to testify before the committees.
Bolton’s attorney Charles Cooper said his client wouldn’t appear on his own accord, meaning Democrats will have to subpoena the former NSC chief. Even then, it’s not yet clear if Bolton will show.
"Bolton is not willing to appear voluntarily," Cooper said. "I stand ready at all times to accept service of a subpoena on his behalf."
Still, Bolton represents a potentially devastating witness against Trump for his closeness to the president, centrality to the Ukraine issue, and longstanding conservative credentials that give him heft with a wide swath of Trump’s GOP supporters in Congress.
“Bolton is a hawk and he’s a real right-winger, but I think he’s a straight shooter”
Other witnesses have reportedly described Bolton as caustically dismissive of attempts to pressure Ukraine, slamming those efforts as a “drug deal” cooked up by EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. He reportedly warned that Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was “a hand grenade” threatening to blow up the entire Trump administration.
Such testimony has cast Giuliani as a central player in a shadow campaign to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations of Trump’s Democratic opponents — an allegation at the heart of the impeachment inquiry now raging in Washington, D.C.
Famous for his hardcore right-wing foreign policy views, Bolton is often viewed as a neoconservative ideologue — but also as a man guided by his own set of principles, even by many of the same detractors who think his aggressive positions are outright dangerous.
“Bolton is a hawk and he’s a real right-winger, but I think he’s a straight shooter,” said Robert Deitz, who held top positions in George W. Bush’s National Security Agency and CIA. “I cannot imagine he will lie for this president.”
Bolton’s former deputy at the National Security Council, Charles Kupperman, responded to his Congressional subpoena with a lawsuit that asked a judge to rule on whether he should testify or comply with a White House demand to refrain.
A person familiar with Kupperman’s thinking has told VICE News that Kupperman does not plan to testify on the Hill before the court has weighed in on the question.
Bolton played a key role in a July 10 meeting with top Ukrainian officials that has emerged as perhaps the most important set piece in the impeachment inquiry.
At that meeting, Sondland raised the question of swapping a meeting with Trump in the White House for investigations, according to testimony by Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was Trump’s top Ukraine advisor in the White House. But Bolton abruptly shut that meeting down, Vindman said.
Vindman testified that he later confronted Sondland about Sondland’s “inappropriate” comments on investigations, and then spoke to a National Security Council lawyer — at a time when Bolton was heading the NSC.
Another witness, Trump’s former top advisor on Russia and Europe, Fiona Hill, has reportedly testified that Bolton advised her to speak with an NSC lawyer as well.
Cover: U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks to the media after his meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, in Minsk, Belarus. Viktor Tolochko / Sputnik via AP