Trump impeachment: John Bolton says in book draft president wanted to freeze Ukraine aid until it launched Biden probe

White House said to be vetting document ahead of possible publication

Andrew Buncombe
Sunday 26 January 2020 19:55
Donald Trump says John Bolton 'would would know nothing about what we're talking about' ahead of impeachment trial

John Bolton has said Donald Trump told him last summer that he wanted to continue to freeze military aid to Ukraine until it agreed to launch a probe into Joe Biden and his son.

The former national security advisor reportedly made the claim in an as yet unpublished manuscript, currently doing the rounds in Washington DC, and a copy of which has sent to the White House for standard vetting.

The New York Times said that in the document, which it does not quote from directly, Mr Bolton reveals over the space of dozens of pages how the Ukraine scandal played out until the left the administration in September.

He said that, in August, Mr Tump told him he wanted to continue to freeze almost $400m in security assistance to Ukraine assigned by Congress to help Kiev confront the threat from Russia until it announced it was looking into allegations of corruption concerning the former vice president and his son.

Details of the manuscript emerged with Mr Trump’s lawyers set to continue their defence of the president, as the Senate considers two articles of impeachment passed last year by the House of Representatives.

Mr Bolton’s comments, apparently undercutting the president’s claim that the military aid was not linked to to a quid pro quo, have the power to be especially damaging given Mr Bolton’s status as someone who was until very recently at the heart of the Trump administration’s foreign policy world.

It may also explain why Mr Trump and Republicans have sought not to permit Mr Bolton to testify, and why Democrats are so keen to hear from him.

Last week, Mr Trump told reporters he did not want Mr Bolton to appear and said that even if he simply spoke in public it could damage national security.

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“The problem with John is it’s a national security problem,” Mr Trump said at Davos, Switzerland. “He knows some of my thoughts. He knows what I think about leaders. What happens if he reveals what I think about a certain leader and it’s not very positive?” He added: “It’s going to make the job very hard.”

The manuscript apparently also claims that secretary of state Mike Pompeo conceded in private to Mr Bolton there was no basis to claims by Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that the then US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was corrupt.

Ms Yovanovitch, who had a reputation for fighting corruption, was abruptly recalled in May 2019 after a whispering campaign against her.

This week an audio tape emerged in which Lev Parnas, an associate of Mr Giuliani, can be heard telling the president at a dinner in April 2018 that Ms Yovanovitch had been bad-mouthing him, suggesting he was going to be impeached. A voice believed to be that of Mr Trump then says: “Get rid of her. Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”

It was reported that another associate of Mr Giuliani, former US Marine Robert Hyde, claimed to have had Ms Yovanovitch under surveillance, although he later said he was joking.

In his 25 July phone call to the Ukrainian president, which sparked the impeachment investigation, Mr Trump appears to threaten the former ambassador, saying: “Well, she’s going to go through some things.”

Mr Pompeo recently erupted at a reporter when asked about whether he owed Ms Yovanovitch an apology. She was withdrawn early from her position and testified to the House that she felt intimated by the comments made about her by Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani.

Reuters said the White House had yet to respond to the claims made by Mr Bolton, and neither had Jay Sekulow, helping lead Mr Trump’s legal defence in his impeachment trial.

Charles Cooper, a lawyer representing Mr Bolton, did not respond to a request for comment.

The White House has directed Mr Bolton and other administration officials not to cooperate with the impeachment probe, although Mr Bolton has said that he would testify on the matter if subpoenaed.

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