Bolton bolstered by a leading House Dem, contradicting Trump

Trump claimed yesterday that Bolton said "nothing" about his concerns after leaving the White House. As it turns out, realty suggests otherwise.
Image: FILE PHOTO: National Security Advisor Bolton listens as U.S. President Trump speaks while meeting with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg at White House in Washington
Former National Security Advisor John BoltonJoshua Roberts / Reuters
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By Steve Benen

Shortly after midnight yesterday morning, Donald Trump came up with a new line of attack against his former White House national security adviser. "Why didn't John Bolton complain about this 'nonsense' a long time ago, when he was very publicly terminated," the president wrote. "He said, not that it matters, NOTHING!"

Trump often struggles to present coherent arguments, but taken at face value, this isn't necessarily ridiculous. After Bolton departed the West Wing, he could've raised concerns about what he'd seen and heard. Maybe he should have?

According to the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- who doesn't exactly see the world as Bolton does -- the former White House national security adviser did raise concerns after he'd left Team Trump.

Rep. Eliot Engel pushed back Wednesday on President Donald Trump's claim that John Bolton didn't complain about his conduct toward Ukraine, revealing that Bolton, only days after being ousted as Trump's national security adviser, told him in a phone call to examine the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

"President Trump is wrong that John Bolton didn't say anything about the Trump-Ukraine scandal at the time the President fired him," Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. "He said something to me."

Bolton and Trump parted ways on Sept. 10, and it was about a week later, on Sept. 19, when the New York Democrat reached out to Bolton, asking whether he'd testify to the House Foreign Affairs Committee at a hearing about the administration's foreign policy.

Four days later, Bolton recommended that Engel "look into the recall of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch." The congressman added yesterday that Bolton brought up the ambassador "unprompted."

The Democratic committee chairman added in his written statement, "He strongly implied that something improper had occurred around her removal as our top diplomat in Kyiv. At the time, I said nothing publicly about what was a private conversation, but because this detail was relevant to the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight Committees' investigation into this matter, I informed my investigative colleagues. It was one of the reasons we wished to hear from Ambassador Bolton, under oath, in a formal setting."

Or put another way, when Trump claimed yesterday that Bolton said "nothing" about his concerns, that wasn't true.

A Vox report added yesterday, "House managers have tried to frame Yovanovitch as collateral in Trump's scheme to advance his personal interests in Ukraine. But Engel's revelation -- and Bolton's apparent concern that something sketchy had gone down -- might strengthen the case to wary senators that they have no choice but to agree to hear from witnesses, Bolton chief among them."

Under the circumstances, that would certainly make sense, though as of this hour, there remains great uncertainty as to whether the Republican-led Senate will allow any new witness testimony at all.

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