John Bolton sure knows how to market a book.
The president and his allies have accused Bolton of a cynical ploy to make big profits following a conveniently-timed “bombshell” leak of his upcoming memoir, Fox News reported. Trump’s press secretary Stephanie Grisham questioned the timing of the 11th-hour book drop, which came the night before the Trump defense team was preparing to conclude opening arguments in the impeachment trial, saying, “I think the timing of all of this is very, very suspect.”
Grisham slams “suspect” Bolton leak
The New York Times obtained an unpublished Bolton manuscript the night before Trump’s lawyers returned to the Senate chamber to make their second day of arguments in defense of the president. The book reportedly includes a passage claiming that Trump directly tied a hold on military aid to Ukraine with his desire to have Joe Biden investigated, which is the crux of the “abuse of power” charge from the Democrats.
Democrats and their allies in the media greeted the “bombshell” eagerly, particularly as it appeared to catch Trump’s lawyers off guard right in the middle of their rebuttal. If the book’s claims are true, then they do appear to undercut the defense argument that there was no “quid pro quo” between Trump and Ukraine.
But the timing certainly seemed generous, to the say the least, to Democrats who have desperately clamored for additional witnesses, including Bolton. Grisham said that Trump’s lawyers had just started dismantling the Democrats’ case in a brief two-hour session Saturday when the details of the book emerged the following evening — complete with a preorder page on Amazon:
It’s very clear the president did nothing wrong. Then suddenly, this manuscript has magically appeared in the hands of the New York Times, making very, very big claims.
Trump team dismisses Bolton claims
Democrats have seen Bolton as a potentially crucial witness ever since he left the White House in September on bad terms with Trump. The president said he fired Bolton, though the former National Security adviser claimed he resigned.
Trump has dismissed Bolton as a liar who is just trying to sell a book, and his allies have echoed that point. True or not, the Bolton “bombshell” does little to damage the defense argument that Trump’s conduct does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.
The president’s legal team has argued that Democrats are attempting to oust him for partisan reasons, that a conviction would set a dangerous precedent, and that the impeachment articles for “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress” simply make the president into a criminal for using his legitimate authority to set foreign policy and rightfully claim executive privilege. In their final arguments Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers said that the Bolton book was “inadmissible” and did nothing to change the fact that Democrats have not accused Trump of a crime.
“The bar for impeachment cannot be set this low,” Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow said.
Witness vote looms
Trump’s lawyers have also argued that Trump had a legitimate interest in having the Bidens investigated for possible corruption. The president’s team has pressed Trump’s claims that Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who had investigated Burisma Holdings, a company on whose board Hunter Biden sat, but Democrats have dismissed any allegation of wrongdoing by the Bidens as a “conspiracy theory.”
Many in the media have hyped the Bolton leak as a pivot point that could change Trump’s fate, and it does appear that it will make witness testimony in the trial more likely to occur. Although Trump’s acquittal is still expected, the surprise Bolton bomb has already shaken up a predictable schedule, raising the possibility of a drawn-out spectacle with testimony from Hunter Biden as well as Bolton.
Senators will vote as soon as Friday on whether to move to a final vote or continue the trial well into February. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) appear ready to vote in support of witness testimony and therefore a more protracted process.