“Momentum for uncovering the truth in a Senate trial continues. John Bolton correctly acknowledged that he needs to comply with a Senate subpoena to compel his testimony, if issued. It is now up to four Senate Republicans to support bringing in Mr. Bolton, and the other three witnesses, as well as the key documents we have requested to ensure all the evidence is presented at the onset of a Senate trial,” [Chuck] Schumer said in a statement.
“Given that Mr. Bolton’s lawyers have stated he has new relevant information to share, if any Senate Republican opposes issuing subpoenas to the four witnesses and documents we have requested they would make absolutely clear they are participating in a cover up,” Schumer added.
A fun possibility: What if Bolton wants to testify because he fully intends to exonerate Trump? Ross Douthat floated the idea that maybe he had kept quiet until now because he was grumpy at Trump’s dovishness and didn’t want to do him any favors by supporting his claims of innocence. But with Qassem Soleimani now reduced to bite-sized pieces, maybe Bolton’s finally ready to do his old friend Donald a solid.
Then again, how likely is it that the guy who allegedly described Gordon Sondland’s and Mick Mulvaney’s interactions with Ukraine as a “drug deal” is going to show up on the stand with nothing incriminating to say?
Pelosi chipped in today too:
The President & Sen. McConnell have run out of excuses. They must allow key witnesses to testify, and produce the documents Trump has blocked, so Americans can see the facts for themselves.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 6, 2020
That reaction was foreseeable when Bolton made his announcement this morning, which deepens the mystery of why he made it. Unquestionably, he’s strengthened Democrats’ hands by announcing his willingness to testify. Maybe not a lot…
The news that Bolton is willing to testify is unlikely to change McConnell’s strategy over Trump’s trial, according to multiple GOP sources familiar with the matter. “Not at all,” one source said. McConnell expected to address his view at GOP lunch tomorrow. w/@Phil_Mattingly
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 6, 2020
…but at a minimum he’s handed them the “cover up” spin after Trump is acquitted if in fact McConnell and the GOP end up declining to call Bolton as a witness. Why didn’t he just keep quiet about whether he’d testify or not and wait to see if Senate Republicans — or House Democrats — tried to call him? He could have announced his intentions then. He would have spared McConnell and other Republicans a political headache.
Did he do it to make life harder for Trump? ABC is reporting that Bolton had the courtesy to call McConnell beforehand and let him know that this was coming. He did not extend the same courtesy to the White House.
Gabe Malor makes an interesting point about the prospect of Schiff seizing on Bolton’s announcement as a reason to call him before the House Intelligence Committee. If Bolton’s willing to testify at the Senate trial, does that necessarily mean he’s also willing to testify before the House? Maybe not:
Per his statement, his preference was for a judicial resolution of the constitutional questions.
Presumably, if a House committee were to subpoena him now, he could distinguish this statement by pointing out that there is time for a judicial resolution for a House subpoena. https://t.co/rWTO7eJiva
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) January 6, 2020
Americans expect a speedy trial but impeachment itself is on no timeline. If Pelosi holds the articles of impeachment so that Schiff can try to get Bolton to testify, Bolton may revert to his previous posture of deferring to the courts to decide the matter. Although that would seem strange to much of the public: If his testimony is urgent enough that he’ll provide it to the Senate, why wouldn’t he also provide it to the House — especially when Democrats have spent the past two months insisting that time is of the essence in proceeding?
And if, for whatever weird reason, he’s adamant about testifying *only* before the Senate, many voters will simply shrug and say fine, we should do it that way then. Average people aren’t sticklers for legal procedure. If there’s a key witness who’s willing to talk and half the Senate wants him to talk and it’s within the Senate’s power to make him talk, then he should talk. Everything else is nicety.
Although that won’t stop Marco Rubio from grasping for reasons to keep Bolton out of the trial:
Rubio on why he would vote against a subpoena of Bolton: "I think in my view our inquiry should be based on the testimony that they took, we are acting on articles of impeachment. We should be constrained by the information that those articles are based on." pic.twitter.com/IOyCkw6ZxU
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 6, 2020
That comes off as too cute. If there’s a witness whom everyone agrees is material and who’s willing to testify, it’s goofy for the ultimate finder of fact to decide that he’s not worth hearing because the prosecution hasn’t deposed him yet. The point of the trial (ostensibly) is to get to the truth. Bolton can help with that, maybe to Trump’s detriment but possibly to his benefit too. Now that Bolton’s said publicly that he’ll talk, Rubio’s position risks playing into the Democrats’ “cover up” talking point, that the Senate GOP doesn’t want to call him precisely because he has incriminating information about the defendant.
Regardless, Rubio’s vote doesn’t matter. The Collins faction will decide this issue, not senators to their right. Speaking of which, I know one guy who’s keen to hear from Bolton:
Romney, leaving a briefing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Iran, told reporters that he wants to hear from Bolton and find out “what he knows” about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
“I would like to be able to hear from John Bolton, what the process is to make that happen, I don’t have an answer for you,” Romney added.
In lieu of an exit question, read this Law & Crime piece in which law nerds try to tease out the coming fight over Bolton’s testimony. Could Trump sue to quash the Senate’s subpoena if one is issued? What if Bolton shows up and testifies anyway — could Trump’s lawyers assert executive privilege to particular questions to prevent Bolton from answering them? Would John Roberts have the power to overrule them on the spot? If he doesn’t overrule them, could the Senate vote to force Bolton to answer each question?