I believe we should push very hard for the testimony of John Bolton. But can we as Democrats be honest with ourselves about one very likely and important thing?  John Bolton is not going to testify that President Trump committed an impeachable act.  In fact, he is going to testify that what Trump did (while strenuously opposed by Bolton) is ultimately within a President’s powers and thus unimpeachable.

How do I know that? Well, first, it is consistent with Bolton’s entire career and ideology. In case you haven’t been paying attention, John Bolton not only isn’t the Democrats’ friend, he is a neocon, “unitary executive,” flat-out dangerous loon.  I mean, he has really been “out there” to such a degree that I am embarrassed if you want me to provide a supporting link.

Second, when you look at the tantalizing New York Times article previewing the leaks (no doubt from Bolton) of what will be in his planned book, notice one thing: he does not argue that Trump committed an impeachable offense.  That is not some oversight.  

No. If John Bolton testifies, I am fairly certain he will say two things: 1.  Trump and Giuliani et al. were dangerous, uninformed, “outside of order,” maybe quasi-criminal, but certainly incompetent, actors who committed the principal sin of not listening to John Bolton.  This factual testimony will be extremely damaging for Trump, but…

2.  Bolton also will say that he never remotely considered that any of this was impeachable conduct.  It may have been stupid, but well within the ambit of the President’s powers and discretion.  Any Democratic argument to the contrary is reckless and treasonous, etc.

Republican Senators will not only seize on point number two to acquit President Trump, but will gleefully characterize it as a bombshell revelation that “destroyed” and “humiliated” the Democrats and their case.

So why did I start by saying that Democrats should push hard for the testimony of John Bolton? The simple answer is because Democrats should pursue the best evidence and have no real choice.  Initially, Democrats have no hope of removing Trump unless they take some risks. Also, how the heck do I really know what Bolton will say? In addition, even if I am right, Bolton likely may implicate other actors, such as Pompeo, Mulvaney, Pence, Perry, or some OMB guy.  Then maybe their testimony becomes unavoidable and, crucially, remember that each witness should come with documents — the most important thing of all.

Bottom line: Democrats need to keep pulling at the obvious threads and accept the risk of some counter-punches.  That’s what a trial is, and it requires some nerve and conviction.  Right now, Republicans have no credible argument against calling John Bolton as a witness. So be it and let’s have at it.

  • January 27, 2020