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Et tu, General? Ex-Trump chief of staff Kelly trusts Bolton, favors witnesses

John Kelly, then White House chief of staff,

John Kelly, then White House chief of staff, in October 2017. Credit: Bloomberg / Andrew Harrer

Off the ledge of allegiance

For Trump cheerleader Rush Limbaugh, whether John Bolton is telling the truth about a Ukraine quid pro quo is almost beside the point. "It’s not the John Bolton I thought I knew, this kind of disloyalty," lamented the radio talk show host.

But Bolton's forsaking of fidelity to Trump is no aberration. The degree of fealty that Trump demands from those inside his administration seems in inverse proportion to what he gets from many of those who left. It's not just the Mooches, the Omarosas or even the Rexes who choose payback over watching the back of their ex-boss.

John Kelly has lined up with Bolton. “If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton,” said the retired four-star general who served at Trump's side as chief of staff for 17 months. Speaking on Monday evening to a college lecture series audience in Sarasota, Florida, Kelly said of Bolton: “Every single time I was with him … he always gave the president the unvarnished truth."

Kelly went further. The Senate should call witnesses, he said, because "the majority of Americans would like to hear the whole story." What's more, he doubts Trump's conduct was perfect, as the president has claimed. “I think some of the conversations seem to me to be very inappropriate, but I wasn’t there. But … there are people that were there that ought to be heard from,” he said.

Kelly also said the aid to Ukraine should never have been held up. His remarks were reported by the Herald-Tribune of Sarasota. 

It wasn't the first time Kelly has let disdain for Trump show. Three months ago, Kelly said that on his way out, he warned Trump that replacing him with a “yes man” would lead to his impeachment. Based on evidence tying Kelly's successor, Mick Mulvaney, to Trump's Ukraine machinations, Democrats want to haul him before the Senate as a witness, too.

The president in turn has accused Bolton and Kelly of putting their self-interests ahead of the truth about Trump. In denying former national security adviser Bolton's story, Trump tweeted, "If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book." In October, disputing Kelly's impeachment prophesy, the president said, "He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does."

Whither witnesses

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told fellow GOP senators after Tuesday's impeachment trial session that he doesn't have the votes to block the momentum toward calling witnesses. That doesn't mean he won't get them. The Senate is expected to debate and decide that issue on Friday.

Trump's lawyers confronted the Bolton revelations as they wrapped up arguments on Tuesday. “You cannot impeach a president on an unsourced allegation,” Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said. In his unpublished book, Bolton said he heard firsthand Trump link Ukraine aid to the investigations into Democrats.

Sekulow also re-aired Trump's grievances from the Russia investigation against the FBI, Robert Mueller and others. “You can’t view this case in a vacuum,” he said.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Republicans and Democrats will take turns posing questions — through Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts — to the Democratic House managers and the Trump legal defense team. See Tom Brune's trial takeaways for Newsday.

Janison: Woulda coulda shoulda

The more the information emerges, the clearer it becomes that Trump had repeated chances to spare himself the disgrace of impeachment by exercising simple common sense, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

Couldn't the president have listened to his own advisers instead of falling under the spell of Kremlin-promoted "theories" about Ukraine meddling in the U.S. election? Couldn't he understand the difference between making foreign policy and lobbying a foreign leader to help him smear Joe Biden?

Trump chose to keep Congress, including his GOP allies, in the dark about the freeze in Ukraine aid they had approved. If he had kept them informed, there might have been no stink about the delay.

As president, he could have read and thought about the Constitution he's sworn to support and defend before making the legally weak assertion that Article II gives him the right to do "whatever I want as President."

Rudy: Why won't they call me?

Rudy Giuliani is fretting that the impeachment trial is passing him by. He complained via text to the Daily News: "Why do they want Bolton if not me?”

Answering his own question, he concluded that Senate Democrats are afraid of him. “They have indicated in every way possible they are afraid of my physical presence,” he wrote. “They know I know what they are covering up."

Then again, the Republicans don't appear to have any interest in calling Trump's personal lawyer and conspiracy promoter either. On Monday, Giuliani got a rhetorical kiss and a kiss-off from Trump impeachment lawyer Jane Raskin, who called him "a colorful distraction" and "a minor player."

Peace for one

There's an adage that it takes two to make peace. The Middle East plan unveiled by Trump on Tuesday to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict defies that math.

The proposal, promised for three years, calls for the recognition of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, in exchange for a four-year freeze on the development of new settlements in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu planned to move within days to annex the territory Israel would keep, which includes the Jordan River Valley.

The plan also calls for a State of Palestine, which would double the territorial currently under Palestinian rule and include a capital in “areas of East Jerusalem.”

Trump called it a “great deal for the Palestinians,” who refused to participate in the proposal's development. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected the plan with “a thousand no’s.” A Trump tweet shows a map of the proposed Palestinian state. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Bloomberg foes: Give him debate mic

Progressive allies of Elizabeth Warren have made a surprising request to the Democratic National Committee: They want billionaire Mike Bloomberg in upcoming presidential primary debates, Politico reports.

The reasoning is that by not qualifying to appear at the debates, Bloomberg has been spared face-to-face verbal combat with his rivals.

Though he has reached the low double digits in some polls, Bloomberg hasn't met the debate criteria because he does no outside fundraising, relying instead on his bottomless bank account for at least $270 million in ad spending so far.

“I think he’ll inherently get more scrutiny when he’s playing in the same sandbox,” said Adam Green, of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

That's fine with Bloomberg, his campaign said. "As we've said before, Mike would be happy to debate if the DNC changes its rules," a press aide said.

What else is happening:

  • Trump gave an attaboy to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his F-word-laced tirade at an NPR interviewer who asked about Ukraine. "You did a good job on her,” Trump said.
  • The U.S. government’s budget deficit is projected to reach $1.02 trillion in 2020 as spending continues to outpace tax revenue, according to a report Tuesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
  • Attorney General William Barr, meeting with Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn's Borough Park, said federal prosecutors will more aggressively pursue acts of anti-Semitism as hate crime cases.
  • Voters have struggled with names like Pete Buttigieg in the 2020 field. Bloomberg hasn't bought himself universal recognition either. As he marched in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Arkansas last week, The Associated Press reported, a woman asked: "Mike Boomerang?"
  • Trump fired off an angry pair of tweets at Fox News for interviewing Democrats. "Watch, this will be the beginning of the end for Fox," he wrote.

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