Last week, reports indicated that John Bolton’s lawyers were in touch with officials working on the three House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump.
Bolton’s name has come up repeatedly during testimony from current and former officials, usually in the context of concerns he voiced about the involvement of Rudy Giuliani in a pressure campaign aimed at compelling the Volodymyr Zelensky government in Ukraine to commit publicly to investigations of Trump’s political rivals.
The most compelling testimony in that regard came from Bolton aide Fiona Hill, who suggested to lawmakers that Bolton was aghast at the situation, going so far as to call the whole thing a “drug deal“. Giuliani, Bolton assessed, was a “hand grenade”.
Additional reports indicated Bolton in August told Bob Lighthizer that Trump wasn’t likely to restore trade privileges to Ukraine, something House Democrats will also be interested in hearing about.
On Wednesday, former special adviser for Ukraine negotiations Christopher Anderson told Congress that Bolton warned about the potential for Giuliani to jeopardize US efforts to establish cordial relations with the Zelensky government. Here’s a passage from Anderson’s opening statement:
On June 13, I accompanied Ambassador Volker to a meeting with National Security Advisor John Bolton. In that meeting, Bolton stated that he agreed with our three lines of effort and that he also supported increased senior White House engagement. However, he cautioned that Mr. Giuliani was a key voice with the President on Ukraine which could be an obstacle to increased White House engagement. He did suggest that perhaps the Vice President would be available to travel to Toronto to meet with President Zelenskyy in early July at the Ukraine Reform Conference that the Canadian government was hosting. We later learned that the Vice President would not attend the conference. The morning after the meeting, I sent a brief message to Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent summarizing the meeting and relaying NSA Bolton’s message about Mr. Giuliani. I sent around a more formal summary later that day to my State Department colleagues.
Given all of this, you can understand why House impeachment investigators want to hear from Bolton in person and, if they have their way, John (and his mustache) will be on Capitol Hill as early as next week.
“House Democrats have scheduled depositions for two figures at the center of the impeachment inquiry: former national security adviser John Bolton and top White House lawyer John Eisenberg”, CBS reported on Wednesday afternoon, adding that Bolton’s deposition “is set for November 7, and Eisenberg [was] told to appear on November 4”.
It was Eisenberg, you’re reminded, who ordered the account of Trump’s now infamous phone call with Zelensky to be sequestered away on a code-word server, where it remained until the transcript was released by Trump himself.
As noted last week, it’s not known whether Bolton would deliver a damning account even if he were to go before lawmakers. That said, the White House would surely prefer it if John simply refrained from saying anything at all, unless he intends to deliver effusive praise of the administration.