President Trump told then-National Security Advisor John Bolton, in August 2019, that the hold his administration placed on the military aid to Ukraine should continue until Ukraine officials announced investigations into Trump’s political opponents, including former vice president Joe Biden and his son. This contradicts Trump’s public statements that he withheld the aid because he was concerned about corruption in Ukraine.
Bolton’s claim comes from a draft manuscript of his unpublished book, which was obtained by the New York Times. Bolton sent drafts, which included more than dozens of pages, to some associates and to the White House.
Bolton, according to the Times, wrote that the president disparaged the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time, Marie Yovanovitch, and said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told him privately that claims made by the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, alleging the ambassador was corrupt were untrue. In fact, Pompeo told Bolton that he believed Giuliani was pushing for Yovanovitch’s ouster because she was targeting some of Giuliani’s clients in her efforts to fight corruption.
Bolton also claimed that he warned White House lawyers that Giuliani might be using his connection to the president to help his business clients.
Other revelations in the drafts include Bolton’s claim that after Trump’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, Bolton went to Attorney General William Barr and told him that Trump had mentioned Barr in the call. Bolton also said he expressed concerns about Giuliani’s activities regarding Ukraine. That contradicts Barr’s account of when he found out about Trump raising his name in the call. The Justice Department says Barr learned about it in mid-August.
Bolton also contradicted Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s claims that he left the room when the president and Giuliani spoke on the phone about Yovanovitch to protect their attorney-client privilege. Bolton claims Mulvaney remained in the room at least once while the former ambassador was discussed.
Bolton’s book confirms some of what has already been reported. But, it’s important because of Bolton’s stature in conservative circles, where he stood in Trump’s administration and his potential testimony in the impeachment trial. Bolton has said he would testify if subpoenaed, but Democrats and Republicans have not yet reached an agreement on whether additional witnesses will be allowed to testify, though that seems less and less likely.
With the White House having access to Bolton’s drafts since late December and Trump’s recent comments about Bolton’s possibly testimony, it seems clear the administration will fight against that happening by claiming national security concerns.
“The problem with John is, it’s a national security problem,” Trump said.