Hot Air

Report: Bolton negotiating with House Dems to testify on Ukraine

I can already see the Time “Person of the Year” cover with Bolton’s picture on it. Caption: “The Man Who Brought Down a President.”

For extra drama, maybe Bolton will finally reveal in that same issue that he’s the “Anonymous” who was working for the Resistance inside Trump’s administration the whole time.

I kid, but the prospect of a deposition is real. And as noted last night, Bolton figures to be a potentially important witness.

Lawyers for former national security adviser John Bolton have had talks with the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry about a possible deposition, according to a source familiar…

As House members who serve on the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees have been interviewing witnesses in private, some of the committees’ Democrats have said they believe there’s a need for Bolton to testify.

As a Twitter pal said yesterday, I can’t believe he’s going to get Trump impeached just because Trump wouldn’t let him start a war.

There’s news today about another potentially important witness. The figure who came up most often in Bill Taylor’s testimony earlier this week was Tim Morrison, an expert on Russia and Europe who served under Bolton on the National Security Council and who was on the call between Trump and Zelensky on July 25. Morrison is already set to testify. The newsy part, per CNN, is that he’s supposedly going to corroborate Taylor’s bombshell testimony about a quid pro quo — but with a key caveat.

[T]wo sources also tell CNN that Morrison will contend that he didn’t see anything wrong with what the Trump administration did, while one of the sources said there will be “nuance” over what Morrison intends to say.

Taylor testified that he was “alarmed” to learn from Morrison that the Trump administration “conditioned” not only a Trump-Zelensky White House meeting but also the military assistance on the investigations.

Taylor said that Morrison told him about a conversation between Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, and Andriy Yermak, a Zelensky aide. Sondland told Yermak in September that the aid “would not come” until Zelensky “committed to pursue the Burisma investigation,” according to Taylor’s testimony.

I’m not sure it’ll work to Trump’s benefit if Morrison confirms that everything Taylor said is true, up to and including Sondland warning the Ukrainians that they needed to do something on Biden to get their aid, but subjectively he just didn’t see what the big deal was. I guess it depends on why Morrison didn’t think it was a big deal. Does he have reason to believe that Trump wasn’t looped in on what Sondland was doing, in which case he’d be helpful to Trump’s defense? Or is he just sort of “meh” on the president using taxpayer funds to squeeze foreign powers on corruption probes that just so happen to focus on the frontrunner in the other party’s presidential primaries?

Either way, Morrison is notable because of his firsthand knowledge of some of the key events, like the call. It’s fair to knock the whistleblower complaint for hearsay, relaying little more than second-hand information, but that’s what the inquiry was for. To haul in the people who were actually there as the Ukraine business was carried out and hear it from them directly. The whistleblower probably won’t testify at Trump’s trial but Sondland, Taylor, and Morrison will.

In lieu of an exit question, read this other CNN piece addressing one of the mysteries of the Ukraine case: After blocking Ukraine’s military aid throughout the month of August, why did Trump finally relent and hand it over on September 11? In the abstract, that undercuts the idea of a quid pro quo. After all, Ukraine never did publicly commit to reopening the Burisma and CrowdStrike probes until later, after they had the money in hand. Trump forking over the cash in advance is potential evidence that he wasn’t using it for leverage after all. The CNN story argues, though, that all sorts of political grenades about a quid pro quo were starting to go off around the president just before he coughed up the money, which may have spooked him into doing it. Members of Congress were demanding to know why it hadn’t been turned over, with Democrats ready to block Pentagon funding over it; people at OMB were allegedly worried they’d be in legal trouble if the money didn’t go out before September 30; and just two days before, on September 9, the House Oversight Committee opened an investigation into what Trump and Rudy were doing with Ukraine. Whispers about irregularities had also leaked into the press, with WaPo running an editorial about a possible quid pro quo on September 5 under the eye-popping headline, “Trump tries to force Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election.”

Here’s a bit from the CNN piece that I hadn’t heard before, though: “That same week, Mulvaney and other top White House officials first learned about the whistleblower complaint. While White House lawyers had known about the complaint for weeks, news of its existence was starting to spread within the West Wing.” Either Trump first discovered that week that people in the intel bureaucracy were scrutinizing his dealings with Ukraine or he realized that the rest of the world was about to discover it. And so, perhaps, he decided to just get rid of the hot potato by finally handing the aid over. If he was about to be accused of a quid pro quo, best not to have the quid still in hand while awaiting the quo.

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