By Robert A. Vella
Yesterday’s announcement by former National Security Advisor John Bolton that he would testify at President Trump’s impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate – if subpoenaed – is causing quite a stir in Washington D.C. and a lot of wild speculation about his actual motives. Since I’ve been closely following this story and the larger impeachment process, I’ll try to dissect what’s happening.
First, let’s review his background. Bolton has been a fixture in the upper echelons of the Republican Party for several decades primarily as a foreign policy expert. He has served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (2005-2006), Under Secretary of State (2001-2005), Assistant Secretary of State (1989-1993), two positions as Assistant Attorney General (1985-1989), and as an Assistant Administrator in the Reagan White House (1982-1983). He has never held an elected office, and is universally regarded as a staunch neoconservative and as a war-hawk. Bolton owes absolutely nothing to Donald Trump, nor is he vulnerable to political retribution like so many congressional Republicans are today.
As a top White House official, Bolton was adamantly opposed to Trump’s attempted coercion of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky (i.e. the withholding of desperately needed military aid in exchange for interfering in the 2020 election on Trump’s behalf) so much so that he called it a “drug deal” and was subsequently fired by Trump (Bolton insists that he resigned). This conflict between Bolton and Trump was confirmed by several witnesses, most notably by former National Security Council Senior Director Fiona Hill, in the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry hearings held last November.
Bolton still has political ambitions which he expects to fulfill after Trump’s presidency is over, and he obviously doesn’t want his reputation stained by Trump’s criminal actions involving Ukraine. Therefore, it is apparent that he wants his side of the story to be told. To that effect, he signed a multi-million dollar book deal after leaving the White House last fall (see: John Bolton lands a book deal. It will publish before the 2020 presidential election). However, there is a big problem. Any confidential information must be pre-cleared before publication; and, since that authority is held by the Trump administration, getting such preclearance would be problematic. Furthermore, the publisher will want to make as much money as possible from Bolton’s book, and that means release before the November election. The solution would be for Bolton to publicly testify before Congress because that would negate the preclearance requirement.
However, Bolton must be careful about how he testifies. If he is perceived as aiding the Democrats, his career in the GOP could be over. That is why he wouldn’t testify in the Democratic-controlled House impeachment inquiry, but would testify in the Republican-controlled Senate impeachment trial providing he is compelled to by subpoena.
Trump’s reaction to Bolton’s announcement seems to support my analysis here. Prior to it, Trump wanted a long trial where he could be vindicated by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell putting on a show trial which advanced only Trump’s wild conspiracy theory about Ukraine, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden. McConnell resisted this, for good reason, and instead wants to conduct a quick preordained sham trial with no witness testimony. Immediately after Bolton’s announcement, Trump reversed course and now supports McConnell’s strategy.
Here is today’s news on this and other stories:
Former national security adviser John Bolton’s surprise announcement Monday that he is willing to testify in the Senate’s impeachment trial significantly raises the already massive stakes of the pending votes in the chamber as to how the trial of President Donald Trump will be conducted. And it puts even more pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he seeks to keep his 52 GOP colleagues in line as both sides prepare for the historic proceeding.
At the core of the debate over how the Senate impeachment trial will work is whether or not witnesses will be allowed to be called.
Prior to Bolton’s announcement Monday, there were only small cracks in that Republican unity.
Bolton’s willingness to testify could very well change that math for McConnell.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday told Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, that he does not plan to run for Senate in 2020, most likely ending Republicans’ hopes of securing a potentially dominant candidate for the open seat in his home state of Kansas, according to four people briefed on the meeting.
Mr. Pompeo, a former congressman from the Wichita area, has quietly explored a campaign for months. But in the aftermath of the military operation last week that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran, Mr. Pompeo has told senior party officials that he is ruling out becoming a candidate, according to several people who have spoken with him directly.
His conversation with the majority leader, which took place in Mr. McConnell’s Capitol office, touched on the events of the last few days in the Middle East, according to an aide to the senator.
Federal prosecutors on Tuesday recommended that former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn serve up to six months in prison, reversing their earlier recommendation of probation because of his drawn out attacks against the FBI and Justice Department.
The dramatic revocation of the Justice Department’s request for leniency came weeks after Flynn’s sentencing judge on Dec. 16 categorically rejected Flynn’s claims of prosecutorial misconduct and that he had been duped into pleading guilty to lying to FBI agents about his Russian contacts after the 2016 U.S. election.
“It is within the government’s sole discretion to determine whether the defendant has ‘substantially assisted’ the government,” prosecutor Brandon Van Grack wrote in a 33-page court filing. “In light of the complete record, including actions subsequent to December 18, 2018, that negate the benefits of much of the defendant’s earlier cooperation, the government no longer deems the defendant’s assistance ‘substantial.’”
Flynn faces sentencing Jan. 28 before U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington, D.C. Flynn defense attorney Sidney Powell is scheduled to file his sentencing request on Jan. 22.
Washington — The daughter of a deceased Republican redistricting expert whose files roiled legal challenges to North Carolina’s state voting map and the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census has made those documents available to the public.
The records belonged to GOP strategist Thomas Hofeller, who died in August 2018, and were discovered by Stephanie Hofeller following his death. In all, Stephanie Hofeller stumbled upon thousands of files stored on four hard drives and 18 thumb drives.
Republicans in North Carolina and Thomas Hofeller’s former company have sought to block the release of the cache of records, which include spreadsheets, maps, emails and presentations. But last month, Stephanie Hofeller announced on Twitter she made copies of the documents and would upload them to TheHofellerFiles.com. She tweeted a link to the records Sunday.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has said it will share citizenship information with the Census Bureau following a 2019 executive order by President Trump that stemmed from a Supreme Court decision.
DHS quietly announced the move at the end of December in a document posted to its website.
The executive order was issued after the Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The Supreme Court said in June that the administration did not give an adequate reason for wanting to include the question in the decennial population count.
The Trump administration is planning to ease fair housing regulations for local governments throughout the country, the latest effort to scale back sweeping Obama-era rules meant to crack down on segregation.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development this week will propose a rule that would redefine the way jurisdictions are required to promote fair housing and scrap a key assessment tool used to map racial segregation under the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule.
The 2015 rule — which the Obama administration introduced as a way to beef up enforcement of the landmark Fair Housing Act of 1968 — required local governments to track patterns of poverty and segregation with a checklist of 92 questions in order to gain access to federal housing funds.