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Pressure mounting for senators to call John Bolton to testify

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives at the

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives at the Capitol for the impeachment trial of President Trump on Tuesday. Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday pushed back against claims made by former National Security Adviser John Bolton in his forthcoming book, amid intensified calls for Bolton to testify at the president’s Senate impeachment trial.

Trump in a series of early morning tweets denied telling Bolton that U.S. military aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into his Democratic rivals, a claim Bolton reportedly makes in his tell-all book, according to a New York Times report published Sunday.

Bolton’s disclosure on the withheld aid to Ukraine — which undercuts Trump’s long-standing assertion that an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and Democrats was never a condition for releasing $391 million in military aid to Ukraine — led congressional Democrats to amplify their calls for Senate Republicans to vote in favor of subpoenaing Bolton and other top White House officials.

Two moderate Senate Republicans — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah — joined Democrats in calling for Bolton to testify, saying the Times report provided a convincing argument to question Bolton under oath about his firsthand knowledge of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Bolton has said he is willing to testify before the Senate if subpoenaed.

Romney said it’s “increasingly likely” that other Republicans will join the push for Bolton to testify before lawmakers. Senate Democrats need at least four Republican votes to secure the admission of new witnesses and documents in the trial.

“John Bolton’s relevance to our decision has become increasingly clear,” Romney told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Collins said the report about Bolton’s book “strengthens the case” for witness testimony.

Trump’s staunchest GOP allies in the Senate seemed less convinced that Bolton’s book would be a game-changer, accusing him of solely trying to boost book sales with his revelations. The book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir” is set to be released on March 17, but quickly became a “Best Seller” after pre-orders of the book became available on the retail website on Sunday night.

“Really, there’s nothing new here,” said Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters that a vote on whether to admit new witnesses would “presumably” take place on Friday.

“It probably happens Friday or Saturday at the latest,” Thune said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), speaking at a news conference, argued that Bolton’s testimony was critical because he is a “witness with firsthand evidence for the president's actions for which he is on trial.”

“If there was ever even a shred of logic left to not hear witnesses and review the documents, Mr. Bolton's book just erased it,” Schumer said.

Trump, in a morning tweet, falsely asserted that “The Democrat controlled House never even asked John Bolton to testify. It is up to them, not up to the Senate!”

House Democrats had called on Bolton to voluntarily testify during the House impeachment proceedings, but he declined through his attorney, citing orders from the White House not to testify. House Democrats opted against subpoenaing Bolton after his lawyer advised that he would await the outcome of a court case on congressional subpoenas of Trump administration officials before deciding whether to appear.

Trump on Twitter said he “NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens.”

“In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination,” Trump tweeted. “If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book."

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