In Bolton’s telling, members of the so-called Deep State, including senior intelligence and defense officials, knew about actions by Trump that were unethical if not illegal — and said nothing. That would mean the press, the public, and House impeachment investigators were kept in the dark.

The reason more insiders didn’t speak out are complex, according to a former senior national security official who served for years in the Trump administration and faced the choice on a near daily basis. But broadly, the official said, unelected national security bureaucrats tend to give great deference to the president’s policy choices, and the line between bad decisions and abuse of office is not a clear one.

“Sometimes you ask yourself: Is that malfeasance, or is that just something so dumb that you know it’s not going to happen?” said the former official.

The American system of government “has developed to give the president tremendous leeway to set policy,” said John Gans, author of a book about the White House National Security Council. “Those in the executive branch are expected to kind of nod their heads and say, ‘Okay.’ There really isn’t a whistleblower system at the White House.”