John Bolton Didn’t Tell the Truth When It Mattered Most

Instead, he kept his mouth shut until he could cash in on a book deal.

During the House impeachment hearings, John Bolton refused to testify, saying that he would wait for a judge to decide if former aides should do so over the objections of the White House. By the time the Senate trial began, he was ready to testify, but Republicans refused to call any witnesses.

With Bolton’s book about to be published next week, Peter Baker got an advanced copy and summarized what the former national security advisor would have said.

The book confirms House testimony that Mr. Bolton was wary all along of the president’s actions with regard to Ukraine and that Mr. Trump explicitly linked the security aid to investigations involving Mr. Biden and Hillary Clinton. On Aug. 20, Mr. Bolton writes, Mr. Trump “said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over.” Mr. Bolton writes that he, Mr. Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper tried eight to 10 times to get Mr. Trump to release the aid.

So Bolton, Pompeo, and Esper all knew that Trump was attempting to extort the president of Ukraine for political purposes. And yet none of them spoke up.

There are other reasons why the White House is trying to stop the publication of Bolton’s book.

It is a withering portrait of a president ignorant of even basic facts about the world, susceptible to transparent flattery by authoritarian leaders manipulating him and prone to false statements, foul-mouthed eruptions and snap decisions that aides try to manage or reverse.

According to Bolton, Trump is even more ignorant than we have assumed. For example, he once asked if Finland was part of Russia. But his attempt to extort Ukraine was just the tip of the iceberg.

Mr. Bolton also recounts a discussion at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Osaka, Japan, last summer at which the president overtly linked policy to his own political fortunes as he asked Mr. Xi to buy a lot of American agricultural products to help him win farm states in this year’s election. Mr. Trump, he writes, was “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

That simply confirms what Representative Adam Schiff said during his “midnight in Washington” speech at the Senate trial: “You can’t trust this president to do the right thing. Not for one minute. Not for one election. Not for the sake of our country. You just can’t.”

Demonstrating that his own sense of duty is questionable, John Bolton decided to keep his mouth shut about all of this until he cashed in on a book deal. But that isn’t the end of it. He has the gall to blame House Democrats for failing to conduct investigations into matters Bolton refused to talk about.

Mr. Bolton, however, had nothing but scorn for the House Democrats who impeached Mr. Trump, saying they committed “impeachment malpractice” by limiting their inquiry to the Ukraine matter…Instead, he said they should have also looked at how Mr. Trump was willing to intervene in investigations into companies like Turkey’s Halkbank to curry favor with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey or China’s ZTE to favor President Xi Jinping.

What I’m not hearing is any scorn for Senate Republicans who shut the trial down by refusing to call witnesses and then, other than Senator Romney, failed to hold Trump accountable. I suspect that Bolton’s partisanship is on display in his attempt to call out those who prosecuted the president, but not those who refused to find him guilty.

Perhaps if Bolton had been willing to testify about Trump intervening in criminal investigations in order to curry favor with dictators, House Democrats would have been willing to expand their inquiry. But just like every other White House official who participated in stonewalling the investigation, Bolton kept his mouth shut.

The rap against Trump is that everything he does is in service to his own self interests. Ironically, for all that Bolton is criticizing the president, he is doing the same thing. When it might have benefited the country for him to speak up, he stayed silent and has only come forward in order to cash in on a book deal.

Based on what we know about Donald Trump, I suspect that what Bolton has written is truthful—which is how he separates himself from the Liar-in-Chief. But just as Schiff said about Trump, when it really mattered, we found out that you can’t trust John Bolton to do the right thing.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.