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John Bolton is going to burn down the Trump administration ... eventually. The question is whether he's going to do it on the witness stand when it actually matters, or just save it all for his stupid book. Because he's got the goods on everybody in that White House, including Bill Barr, Mike Pompeo, Mick Mulvaney, and Rudy Giuliani. And, as The New York Times reported last night, he's got Donald Trump by the short and curlies:

President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.

How you livin', Mitch McConnell? Looks like that warmongering bastard just raised the stakes on that vote to sweep this whole impeachment under the rug without witnesses. Because he's got firsthand knowledge of Donald Trump personally saying YES, QUID PRO QUO, no defense aid for Ukraine until they throw dirt on Joe Biden, and he's made it clear that he'll be telling his story sooner rather than later.


If he gets on the stand, that could be the whole ballgame. Plus, once that witness dam breaks, it's liable to trigger a flood. Because if Democrats get Bolton on the stand, they're going to ask him about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who played along with Rudy Giuliani's demented ranting about Joe Biden and Ukraine, even sacrificing Marie Yovanovitch to a public smear campaign, despite knowing it was all bullshit.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged privately that there was no basis to claims by the president's lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani that the ambassador to Ukraine was corrupt and believed Mr. Giuliani may have been acting on behalf of other clients, Mr. Bolton wrote.

No wonder he's been so touchy about that!

Kamala Harris will bring it if she gets a chance to ask Bolton about Bill Barr's claim that he only found out in August that the president told President Zelenskyy three times to get in touch with Barr on the infamous July 25 shakedown call:

Mr. Bolton also said that after the president's July phone call with the president of Ukraine, he raised with Attorney General William P. Barr his concerns about Mr. Giuliani, who was pursuing a shadow Ukraine policy encouraged by the president, and told Mr. Barr that the president had mentioned him on the call. A spokeswoman for Mr. Barr denied that he learned of the call from Mr. Bolton; the Justice Department has said he learned about it only in mid-August.

Hell, even Joe Manchin could make short work of Mick "Get Over It" Mulvaney.

And the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, was present for at least one phone call where the president and Mr. Giuliani discussed the ambassador, Mr. Bolton wrote. Mr. Mulvaney has told associates he would always step away when the president spoke with his lawyer to protect their attorney-client privilege.

Neat! So no attorney-client privilege for those conversations, since Mulvaney was there, and no executive privilege either, since Rudy Giuliani is not a member of the executive branch. And while he's on the stand, Mulvaney can 'splain us how that Ukraine money got held up and who was in on the hold.

And, paging Pat Cipollone and Mike Purpura, Bolton's book says that he "warned White House lawyers that Mr. Giuliani might have been leveraging his work with the president to help his private clients." Which is something those guys are pretty clearly going to get asked about on Wednesday when senators get to the question round before a vote on witnesses.

There's also whatever this weird shit is.

In his August 2019 discussion with Mr. Bolton, the president appeared focused on the theories Mr. Giuliani had shared with him, replying to Mr. Bolton's question that he preferred sending no assistance to Ukraine until officials had turned over all materials they had about the Russia investigation that related to Mr. Biden and supporters of Mrs. Clinton in Ukraine.

Wait, does he think that Biden has something to do with the Russia investigation? Is this the Crowdstrike conspiracy theory, or the one about the ledger with Manafort's oligarch payoffs being a fake designed to hurt Trump's campaign? Or ... did Trump just have a stroke here?

The president often hits at multiple opponents in his harangues, and he frequently lumps together the law enforcement officials who conducted the Russia inquiry with Democrats and other perceived enemies, as he appeared to do in speaking to Mr. Bolton.

Looks like Maggie Haberman and Mike Schmidt don't know either. (For the record, I've seen Susan Simpson's theory that Trumpers will try to spin this as conditioning aid for Ukraine on help with John Durham's inquest into the origins of the Russia investigation, but I suspect they'll try to say Bolton is just a liar settling scores first. Particularly since Bolton himself will probably stick a pin in that Durham balloon before they can even get it inflated.)

It's also not clear why this is all coming out now, in the middle of the Senate impeachment hearings. Bolton's lawyer Charles Cooper immediately issued a statement blaming the White House for leaking details from the manuscript of his upcoming book, which the former National Security Advisor submitted on December 30, 2019, for prepublication review in accordance with his White House non-disclosure agreement. Note, this is not that bullshit NDA the Trump people imported from the campaign and tried to foist on White House employees; this is a standard, enforceable legal document which protects government employees from being prosecuted for revealing classified information, and if Bolton goes to press without it, he's in serious legal jeopardy.

Trump is barfing out nonsense about Bolton's blabbermouth being a threat to "national security" because, "He knows some of my thoughts. He knows what I think about leaders. What happens if he reveals what I think about a certain leader and it's not very positive?" As usual, that idiot doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. Prepublication review is for classified material only, and courts have not allowed abuse of the process to censor information that is merely embarrassing. Or, in this case, incriminating.

So where is this story coming from, and why now?

Bolton and his lawyer would clearly like to blame the White House, but The Times reports that the Mustache Man's been passing a draft around to "close associates" for weeks, and says, "Multiple people described Mr. Bolton's account of the Ukraine affair." There's also this:

Surely Mr. Bolton would never stoop to leaking excerpts in an attempt to generate pre-release buzz for his own book! This man is a dedicated public servant, not some self-serving publicity whore.

Mr. Bolton would like to testify for several reasons, according to associates. He believes he has relevant information, and he has also expressed concern that if his account of the Ukraine affair emerges only after the trial, he will be accused of holding back to increase his book sales.

Yes, he will indeed be accused of asserting a facially nonsensical claim of executive privilege to deny Congress access to information he was in the process of selling to Simon & Schuster back in November. Because that's exactly what he did. He clearly thought the information was his to profit from, not give away for free in an impeachment inquiry. And now we'll find out whether hiking up his skirts so we can all see the goods at this late date raises the price enough that four Republican senators will break ranks and refuse to buy a ticket for Mitch McConnell's Impeachment Sham Express Train, destination Acquittal with no stops for witnesses. Never bet against Mitch McConnell's ability to harness Republican cravenness, but ... who the hell knows!

[NYT]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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