As President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial seemed set to draw to a close this Friday, another bombshell revelation emerged from the still private manuscript of a memoir by Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton. According to a report from The New York Times on that manuscript, Bolton says that Trump directly asked him to help set up a meeting between personal Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump issued that demand in early May 2019, around the time that Giuliani was planning a trip to the country that was eventually cancelled.
The revelation directly implicates the president in the scheme to get Ukraine to investigate his opponents, which is what Giuliani was advocating for at the time. The new Times report follows an earlier revelation from Bolton’s manuscript, in which he revealed that the president apparently also said that he would not release military aid for Ukraine until they launched those investigations, which directly implicates Trump not just in the political pressure but in the bribery as well.
According to the account, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were involved in the conversation. Cipollone has been defending the president during his trial — but he’s been complicit since the beginning, apparently. The Times notes:
‘The previously undisclosed directive that Mr. Bolton describes would be the earliest known instance of Mr. Trump seeking to harness the power of the United States government to advance his pressure campaign against Ukraine… disclosure of the meeting underscores the kind of information Democrats were looking for in seeking testimony from his top advisers in their impeachment investigation, including Mr. Bolton and Mr. Mulvaney, only to be blocked by the White House.’
Democrats have continued their push to get Bolton to testify in the actual trial part of the impeachment proceedings, but with swing vote Lamar Alexander’s Thursday announcement that he would not support calling witnesses, that gambit seemed to have been sunk by Republican obstruction. The new revelation from Bolton could increase the witness pressure, but Republicans haven’t exactly proven keen on breaking with the president so far, no matter the ample evidence. For example, Alexander called Trump’s conduct “inappropriate” but supposedly not impeachable.
The president denied Bolton’s newest allegation. He insisted:
‘I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of N.Y.C., to meet with President Zelensky. That meeting never happened.’
The problem is that Trump has lied so many times while in office that it’s difficult to take him seriously about just about anything.
Notably, outside of the specific Ukraine scandal context, The Times notes that Bolton also “expressed concern to others in the administration that the president was effectively granting favors to autocratic leaders like Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Xi Jinping of China.” The dangerous ramifications of those favors could continue to be felt long after Trump leaves the White House.