WASHINGTON – Former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Monday that he is prepared to testify in a possible Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump if he receives 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.
Bolton is a potential bombshell of a witness, with knowledge of the president’s actions and conversations regarding Ukraine. He would be the closest adviser to the president to testify in the proceedings.
The impeachment has been stalled over Democrats’ insistence on hearing from witnesses Trump blocked from testifying in the House inquiry into his pressure campaign on Ukraine. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has refused to commit to calling witnesses at the trial.
A spokesman for McConnell has declined requests by the press for comment.
Bolton declined to tell The New York Times on Monday what exactly he would be willing to tell Congress.
“It now falls to the Senate to fulfill its constitutional obligation to try impeachments, and it does not appear possible that a final judicial resolution of the still-unanswered constitutional questions can be obtained before the Senate acts,” Bolton said in his statement. “Accordingly, since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study.”
Is Bolton defying Trump by saying he will testify in impeachment?
Trump has gone to court to stop several of his senior aides and former White House advisers from cooperating with the impeachment.
In October, the White House tried to block a subpoena by the Democratic-controlled House of Bolton’s deputy, Charles Kupperman. Kupperman’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, who also represents Bolton, filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to decide on what Kupperman should do.
The House then withdrew the subpoena, with leading Democrats saying they did not want the impeachment proceedings to be bogged down in a lengthy legal battle.
In late December, the judged ruled that the issue was moot, leaving the question of whether the president’s closest advisers had to testify unresolved.
Although Bolton never spoke with House impeachment investigators, his aides said he had concerns about how Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, pressed the Ukrainians to investigate Democrats.
Other officials testified under oath that Bolton told White House colleagues that Giuliani was a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”
Lindsey Graham has a need for speed
Earlier Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said he wanted the Senate to launch the impeachment trial within days and wrap it up this month, even if it means changing Senate rules.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, however, has not yet sent the articles of impeachment to the Republican-led Senate, where the president would be tried, as Democrats have sought to pressure Republicans to call witnesses.
McConnell said on Friday the Senate cannot proceed with a trial under its rules until it receives them.He has argued that any decision on potential witnesses should come after senators have heard opening arguments and have had a chance to ask questions.
“My goal is to start this trial in the next coming days,” Graham said. “If we don’t get the articles this week, then we need to take matters in our own hands and change the rules.”
“This thing needs to be over with in January,” he said, arguing that a delay denies Trump an opportunity to confront the accusations and impedes Congress’ ability to pursue other business.
An aide to Pelosi referred to a statement she issued on Friday in which she accused McConnell of being complicit in Trump’s “cover-up of his abuses of power.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that led the House impeachment proceedings said on CNN: “Both Democrats and Republicans are now having to go on the record and say, do we want witnesses? Do we want to see the documents? Do we want the American people to hear the evidence? Do we want a real trial? Or do we want a cover-up? It’s clear, I think, from the president and Mitch McConnell they don’t want a trial anymore.”
“We need the truth”
Last month, the House voted to impeach Trump for abuse of power by asking Ukraine to announce a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the November presidential election.
Trump was also accused of obstructing Congress by directing administration officials and agencies not to cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry.
The president has said he did nothing wrong and has dismissed his impeachment as a partisan bid to undo his 2016 election win.
With Trump’s fellow Republicans controlling the Senate with a 53-47 majority, he is unlikely to be convicted and removed from office, which would require a two-thirds majority vote.
Democrats, however, hope they could peel off a few Republicans to push through a resolution for witnesses, which would only require a simple majority.
“We need the truth,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter. “Not a cover-up. Not a nationally televised mock trial with no evidence.”
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert, Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann; editing by Doina Chiacu, Diane Craft and Chizu Nomiyama; Pluralist contributed to this report.)