January 28, 2020

Bolton’s Book

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On Sunday, The New York Times reported that “President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.” New York Times

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From the Left

The left sees the claims as confirmation of Trump’s misconduct and calls for Bolton’s testimony.

“There now exists a credible claim made by a longtime figure in Republican politics and the conservative movement that, if proven out, directly implicates the President of the United States in a quid pro quo. This isn't Lev Parnas, a somewhat shady Ukrainian businessman under criminal indictment, saying a bunch of things about Trump. Parnas, Republican senators might be OK with dismissing. It's a hell of a lot harder to dismiss someone with the resume of Bolton… If you are a Republican senator on the fence about whether to allow witnesses in this trial, it's going to be very hard after this Bolton news to find a way to vote against hearing from him.”
Chris Cillizza, CNN

“Sure, the odds still overwhelmingly favor acquittal. But trials, not unlike wars, can be unpredictable. Just as the United States has gone to war against much weaker enemies, mistakenly expecting an easy stride to victory, this trial could suddenly move in a wholly unexpected direction. Half the country or more wants the Senate to convict and remove Trump from office. A Pew poll found a majority of 51% want him gone; 63% think Trump has acted illegally, and 70% think he has acted unethically. As we know, it's Republican voters senators worry about. But even a large majority of Republicans, according to a Reuters poll, say the trial should hear witnesses.”
Frida Ghitis, CNN

“Mr. Bolton’s account is particularly important because an integral part of the case Mr. Trump’s lawyers made in their first presentation to the Senate on Saturday was that no direct testimony established Mr. Trump’s motives in freezing military aid to Ukraine. That was already a distortion, since acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said at a news conference that the president had told him the aid freeze was connected to the politicized investigations he sought. But now, senators know that Mr. Bolton reportedly had a similar conversation…

“Excuses by Republicans for not [calling witnesses] are flimsy: for example, that a subpoena of Mr. Bolton would violate the president’s right to shield communications with aides under the doctrine of executive privilege. In fact, since the substance of Mr. Bolton’s account is already public, and it’s unlikely the White House can prevent the publication of his manuscript, the question is moot.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“Bolton submitted his manuscript to the White House on Dec. 30 for review against disclosure of classified information, according to a letter from Bolton’s lawyer. The White House says the manuscript’s distribution was restricted to some members of the National Security Council staff. But senators — especially Republicans — have a right to wonder whether the president’s legal team might have known these revelations were coming. And they have a right to wonder what else the White House knows but hasn’t told [them]

“Republican senators need to take a deep breath and take stock. Bolton has essentially proffered his testimony. He will tell what he knows very soon, either at this trial or in the pages of a book to be released just weeks from now. A quick and dirty coverup will not get endangered GOP senators past the election. It won’t even get them through the winter. Bolton must speak.”
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

“Mr. Bolton, a hard-line conservative with decades of service in Republican administrations, is no anti-Trump zealot, which makes his allegations against the president that much more devastating… Republicans have already admitted how bad the president’s behavior was. Back in September, Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican and one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest defenders, said: ‘What would’ve been wrong is if the president had suggested to the Ukrainian government that if you don’t do what I want you to do regarding the Bidens, we’re not going to give you the aid. That was the accusation; that did not remotely happen.’ Except that it did, as Mr. Bolton is apparently willing to say under oath.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Regarding Pelosi, “[her] talents have always lain in the less glamorous, less public side of politics: she is good at whipping up votes in her caucus and she is good at disciplining dissenters. She is good at offering incentives and punishments to get Democratic members of Congress to do what she wants them to do… To rip up the speech on television was a bit of theatricality, sure – a ploy designed to get attention. It also worked. The day after Trump made a long speech full of misinformation that tried to make a case for his re-election, no one is talking about him. Instead we are talking about the speaker of the House. That, too, is a skill, one that Pelosi seems to be honing.”
Moira Donegan, The Guardian

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right is skeptical that the new claims will change the outcome of the impeachment trial but generally supports Bolton testifying.

From the Right

The right is skeptical that the new claims will change the outcome of the impeachment trial but generally supports Bolton testifying.

“The New York Times’s story contains no ‘bombshells,’ notwithstanding the media hype. Anyone paying attention, or who has read Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s Nov. 18 letter to House Members, knows that Mr. Trump mistrusted Ukraine and considered cutting off aid. Anyone who read the rough transcript of Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s President knows he wanted an investigation of Hunter and Joe Biden. All Mr. Bolton reportedly adds is news of a conversation in which Mr. Trump made a direct connection between the two that nearly everyone already assumed…

“This still isn’t close to a high crime or misdemeanor. Mr. Trump’s reckless judgment was resisted by his staff and Senators like Mr. Johnson, and the President eventually changed his mind. Ukraine never opened an investigation, the U.S. aid was delivered on time, and Mr. Trump met with Ukraine’s President in New York. There was no crime, and Mr. Trump’s military support for Ukraine continues to be far more robust than Barack Obama’s.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Just imagine where we’d be if Adam Schiff had done his job properly and subpoenaed John Bolton in the first place… Bolton suggested publicly that he had information germane to the probe but said a court would need to litigate the issues of executive privilege. Schiff was more interested in issuing an impeachment before Christmas than hearing from ‘a witness who had a direct conversation,’ and dropped the effort to get testimony from Bolton.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

Nevertheless, “What matters most is what the truth is, not how any of this information made its way into public view. The best way to assess that bottom-line question is for Bolton to testify, under oath in some capacity, for the purposes of the trial. Fully justified objections to House Democrats' embarrassingly flawed, cynical process do not ultimately outweigh the value of learning what Bolton knows.”
Guy Benson, Townhall

“If the Trump defense had taken the position that we should assume for argument’s sake that the president put pressure on Ukraine but, in the end, he folded, the Bolton revelation would be a big nothing…  All foreign policy involves pressure and quid pro quo. There is a good-faith basis to suspect the Bidens were involved in corrupt self-dealing. It is ridiculous to suggest that Ukraine’s defense, let alone American national security, was in any way compromised…

“But they decided to contest the underlying facts, where the president’s case is weakest. They decided to fight on quid pro quo… so now they will have to deal with John Bolton’s account and the rising demands that he be called as a witness.”
Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review

“Bolton isn’t some rando with obvious ideological motives coming out of the woodwork to accuse Trump of misconduct. He’s his own former NSA, allegedly prepared to confirm that what all of those Democratic witnesses believed was happening with Ukraine actually was happening with Ukraine, according to Trump himself. He doesn’t have a strong ideological motive, especially after Trump went and eliminated Qassem Soleimani. If you want to believe he’d lie because he’s a disgruntled employee, okay, but at the moment it looks like the main political beneficiary of that lie would be Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders, a man with zero in common with Bolton politically.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

Some note that “the words are from the New York Times, not Bolton. Neither the [Times] report nor any other [what] has quoted even a word from the Bolton book… there is no way to assess what Bolton has written because no one in the public, and that appears to include the news organizations that broke the Bolton story, has read what Bolton has written. What, precisely, did Bolton say, and in what words did he say it? The public is entirely in the dark.”
Byron York, Washington Examiner

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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