GOP's Hawley questions Bolton's status as 'a firsthand witness'

I can appreciate why Republicans see Bolton's testimony as dangerous, but can we agree that Bolton meets the definition of a "firsthand witness"?
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By Steve Benen

When Donald Trump's Ukraine scandal first started gaining traction as a controversy of historic significance, one of the leading Republican talking points was a single word: "hearsay."

This was especially true after an intelligence community whistleblower filed a formal complaint, prompting the president and his allies to insist that the allegations were not to be taken seriously because the whistleblower had not spoken directly to Trump, relying instead on the accounts of other White House officials.

It was a weak pitch at the time, but it quickly became a moot point as Americans heard from plenty of officials -- Mick Mulvaney, Gordon Sondland, Lev Parnas, et al. -- who'd spoken directly with Trump on multiple occasions and had firsthand information about the president's scandal.

But with former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton poised to take the scandal in an even more serious direction, the question about firsthand witnesses has obviously been answered. Or has it?

The Senate would probably want to hear from a firsthand witness in President Trump's impeachment trial. But Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) isn't sure where you'd find one.

Despite a Sunday report indicating former National Security Adviser John Bolton will say in his book he spoke directly to President Trump about Ukraine, a number of GOP senators still don't want to hear from him in Trump's impeachment trial. Hawley is among those lawmakers, giving new reasoning to his anti-Bolton argument Monday by questioning whether Bolton even was a firsthand witness to Trump's alleged crimes.

CNN's Haley Byrd caught up with the Missouri Republican yesterday and asked why the Senate wouldn't want to hear from a firsthand witness. "Well, I don't know," Hawley said. "Is he a firsthand witness? I'm not sure."

And I'm not sure what the senator isn't sure about.

Bolton was Trump's White House national security advisor. He appears to have written a book in which he describes conversations he had with the president, including discussions about Trump's Ukraine scheme.

I don't mean to sound picky, but according to Merriam-Webster, "firsthand" means "obtained by, coming from, or being direct personal observation or experience."

I can appreciate why congressional Republicans see Bolton's testimony as a threat to Trump's presidency, but can we agree that the former White House aide meets the definition of a firsthand witness?

As The Atlantic's Ron Brownstein joked, "What would be firsthand? An informant inside Trump's subconscious?"

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