The accusation is made in a draft of Bolton's manuscript from the Trump White House and, for the first time, would provide – if confirmed – direct evidence that Trump not only personally ordered the suspension, but did so to target the top Democratic candidate. against him in 2020. Bolton's statement – again, if confirmed – would be a smoking gun for Trump's use of his office for personal and political gains. Period.
Which leads us to the debate in the Senate about whether any witnesses will be able to testify at Trump's trial and, if so, who.
Prior to Bolton's news on Sunday, Republican Party sentiment seemed to be far from allowing witnesses, with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, an important vote, offering criticism of the manner and style used by House of Democrats impeachment managers to defend your case.
While official Washington is still processing Bolton's news, it is difficult to see the accusation and the initial reaction to it not to change the voting calculation for Republicans.
Here's why: Today, there is a credible claim made by a longtime figure in Republican politics and the conservative movement that, if proven, directly implicates the President of the United States in a quid pro quo. This is not Lev Parnas, a somewhat somber Ukrainian businessman on criminal charges, saying a lot of things about Trump. Parnas, Republican senators can agree to the resignation. It is much more difficult to fire someone with Bolton's resume.
Then there is the following: Trump and his White House categorically deny Bolton's claim.
On Fox News Monday morning, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham echoed her boss. "I think the timing of all this is very, very suspicious," she said. "Our team only left on Saturday in two hours and did all the hours and hours in 24 hours that the Democrats did at the Senate trial and it is very clear that the president did nothing wrong and suddenly, this manuscript appeared magically in the hands The New York Times makes very, very big claims … This is the same editor that [former FBI Director James] Comey used it too. "
But do the White House denials and the insistence that all of this is a publicity stunt to sell books to Bolton make it all the more important that he be called before the Senate to testify – under oath – about all of this? With "under oath" being the key part of that last sentence? The president – or Bolton! – they can say or tweet whatever they want about what happened or not, because there is no criminal penalty for lying in a tweet or in a public statement. But there are penalties associated with lying under oath.
So Bolton would have said something. Trump says the other. And the "thing" in question is whether or not the President of the United States has reached an agreement with a foreign country to benefit his own political and personal interests. It seems like the kind of thing we should want to get to the bottom of, right? To find out who is lying and who is not? Or, moreover, who is willing to take an oath to witness what happened and who is not?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Yes, too.
If you are a Republican senator on the fence about allowing witnesses in this trial, after the news from Bolton, it will be very difficult to find a way to vote against his hearing. Very, very hard. And potentially damaging politically.