It's not over: House is likely to subpoena Bolton, says Nadler

I mean, it’s sort of over. Maybe even permanently over, given how impeachment seems to have helped Trump’s polling lately. It’s not like Pelosi will be eager to revisit this topic in the thick of a presidential campaign, when the Democratic nominee is trying to press his or her (but probably his) policy case against Trump.

But go figure that House Dems would be talking tough on the day the Senate is poised to vindicate Trump. Don’t think of acquittal as a defeat, they’re saying, think of it as a … momentary setback.

Question: Will they have to subpoena Bolton or will a polite invitation entice him into showing up this time? Watch, then read on.

That wasn’t all he said today. If you believe Fox News, he also claimed Pelosi has given the green light to haul Bolton in.

Lots of upside and little downside for Dems in trying to compel his testimony. The downside is that the public will have long since moved past the Ukraine business by the time Bolton is compelled to testify and will be annoyed at Democrats for trying to relitigate it. But I think that sentiment would have been more of a worry before Bolton and his allies spent weeks last month signaling that he wants to talk and has something juicy to say about Trump. He’s the missing “star witness” in the impeachment trial; even voters who are tired of Ukraine will be curious to see if his testimony is as incriminating as it was cracked up to be.

If it is, it’ll turbo-charge Democratic accusations that the Senate GOP’s verdict was a “sham” and a “cover-up,” with unpredictable consequences for the likes of Susan Collins. It’ll also give Bolton a platform to comment more broadly about Trump as an administrator and a foreign-policy thinker, two topics on which he’s unlikely to be flattering. Bolton’s testimony will distract Trump and possibly throw him off of his own campaign talking points on the trail. God only knows whether there’ll be some new, unrelated Trump scandal brewing at the time, with Bolton’s appearance a reminder that the Senate could have and should have been harder on the president when it had a chance.

Look at it this way. Given how well the economy’s doing and how Trump is benefiting politically from its performance, Democrats might be in a position this summer where they’d prefer to talk about anything except policy. Subpoena Bolton? Sure, why not? Haul Bob Mueller back in too, see if he left anything on the shelf in Russiagate.

Pelosi might even be willing to revisit Bolton and Ukraine as a matter of pure pique, against her strategic judgment. Last night’s SOTU spectacle proved that the personal bitterness between her and Trump is intensifying. No regrets, she told her caucus this morning:

Pelosi, addressing her caucus Wednesday morning, said she felt “liberated” after defiantly ripping up Trump’s speech for the world to see, tearing up each page as she stood behind the president after he concluded his annual address.

“He shredded the truth, so I shredded his speech,” Pelosi told House Democrats, according to multiple sources in the room. “What we heard last night was a disgrace.”…

“She said that he disgraced the House of Representatives by using it as a backdrop for a reality show,” Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said leaving the meeting.

House Democrats gave her a standing ovation. Maybe she’s now in scorched-earth mode against Trump and willing to promote anyone with the willingness and ability to singe him, at whatever political cost. Bolton wants to steer the country back into the Ukraine matter? Great, call him in.

Even if his testimony is a dud, Democrats would get a consolation prize after losing the Senate trial if they can beat Trump in court on the issue of executive privilege. Especially if that court is the Supreme Court, for obvious political reasons. Imagine SCOTUS handing down a decision in June or October that Trump’s notion of “absolute immunity” from testimony for his aides and former aides is nonsense on stilts. Imagine Brett Kavanaugh or Neil Gorsuch joining the majority in that ruling.

Back to the question I asked up top. Do they even have to subpoena Bolton this time? Remember the statement he issued early last month, when he announced that he’d testify if called by the Senate. Time was of the essence now that the impeachment process had moved to the upper chamber, he claimed. Because the Senate would reach a verdict soon, he no longer had the luxury of waiting for a federal court to decide the thorny constitutional question of whether Congress’s interest in hearing his testimony trumped Trump’s interest in executive privilege. Now that the trial is over and we’re back to regular process in the House, he does have that luxury — which means he will, presumably, force them to issue a subpoena. Although considering that his book will (probably) be published this year and Bolton will speak publicly to the media at some point, it’d be strange if he put up a fuss about appearing before the House to talk too. I’m guessing he’ll accept their invitation to testify and then wait for Trump’s lawyers to dive into the fray to try to block him.

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David Strom 5:30 PM | March 04, 2024