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VICTOR JOECKS: Bolton blows his credibility by prioritizing his book

Updated January 28, 2020 - 9:06 pm

John Bolton’s actions during the impeachment saga make a lot more sense when you realize that he has a book deal.

Last year, the House Intelligence Committee requested that Bolton testify as part of its impeachment inquiry. As President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Bolton could have first-hand knowledge as to why Trump delayed aid to Ukraine. Bolton refused and threatened to take the committee to court if subpoenaed.

This made it look as if Bolton was on Trump’s side. The White House argues that executive privilege allows it to keep top officials from testifying.

After the House impeached Trump, Bolton changed his tune. Earlier this month, he said he would testify if the Senate subpoenaed him.

Odd. If Bolton was willing to testify, why refuse an opportunity to speak with the House Intelligence Committee? Loyalty to the White House no longer explained that decision. Trump’s legal team and most Republican senators have been working to prevent new witnesses during the trial.

The answer came Sunday. The New York Times talked with people who claim to have seen an unpublished manuscript of Bolton’s forthcoming book. Bolton writes, per The Times per its unnamed sources, that Trump linked freezing aid to Ukraine with its willingness to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. That directly contradicts Trump’s claim that there was “no quid pro quo.”

Bolton gave that manuscript to close associates. He also sent it to the National Security Council on Dec. 30 for a review concerning classified information. This led to Bolton’s lawyer blaming the White House for the leak.

That is absurd. Bolton’s claims undercut Trump’s defense. It also comes at the worst possible time politically. The trial hasn’t just been putting senators to sleep. The American public isn’t paying attention. Barring a last-minute Kavanaughesque accusation, Trump was on the glide path to acquittal.

Trump didn’t gain by this report, but Bolton certainly did. Bolton’s new book became available for preorder on Sunday. Yes, that’s the same day as The Times’ article. As a publicity stunt, it worked. His new book, which isn’t available for seven weeks, is the top-selling political science book for Amazon’s Kindle as of this writing.

Bolton’s selfishness and the level of self-indulgence it takes to co-opt impeachment for personal gain is staggering. But it doesn’t mean he’s lying. Bolton’s reported revelations echo what appears to be the best explanation of Trump’s actions. Trump withheld support to Ukraine in an attempt to force it to investigate 2016-election interference and internal corruption. That’s not inherently wrong. Biden bragged about doing something similar in 2016. Trump’s actions would warrant impeachment only if he acted solely with an eye on 2020.

Bolton’s revelations are problematic because Trump has insisted there was no connection between aid and investigations. The better defense, which appears also to be true, is that Trump had a justifiable, even if mistaken, reason to link the two.

Impeachment is formally about Trump, but Bolton is now the star of the show. He’s laughing all the way to the bank.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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