John Bolton witnessed a “drug deal.” Why won’t he tell the cops?

President Trump’s former national security adviser wanted nothing to do with the “drug deal” Trump advisers were “cooking up” on Ukraine, according to an aide’s impeachment testimony. Bolton’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, teased House investigators Friday with a letter saying his client has first-hand knowledge of “many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far.”

And yet Bolton so far chooses to cover for the drug dealers. He’s letting Cooper pursue a legal maneuver that — whatever its intent — would result in delaying Bolton’s testimony so long that he would likely avoid testifying at all. That the maneuver serves primarily as a delay mechanism became obvious Friday when Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, a Trump loyalist and key figure in the “drug deal,” tried to join the lawsuit Cooper filed; Mulvaney withdrew his request Monday after Cooper protested.

Bolton’s seeming complicity in the coverup is puzzling. The legendary hawk has pushed for confrontations with Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and elsewhere. Suddenly he’s conflict-avoidant?

For better or worse, Bolton has been a man of principle. He is an ideologue with unwavering beliefs about America’s role in the world. Last year, for example, he argued to the Federalist Society that U.S. participation in the International Criminal Court is “superfluous” because:

“Domestic U.S. judicial systems already hold American citizens to the highest legal and ethical standards. … When violations of law do occur, the United States takes appropriate and swift action to hold perpetrators accountable. We are a democratic nation, with the most robust system of investigation, accountability, and transparency in the world. We believe in the rule of law, and we uphold it.”

And now Bolton is helping to thwart the rule of law in the United States by helping a secretive administration avoid accountability. How could Bolton not agree with George Kent, the senior diplomat who told impeachment investigators that the administration’s attempt to force Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponents was “injurious to the rule of law”?

Bolton is instead behaving like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, angling for a Senate run in Kansas, who didn’t defend Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch when Trump wrongly maligned her. Now Pompeo blames his failure on subordinates. Politically ambitious former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, in a new book, boasts that she rebuffed efforts by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to temper Trump’s more reckless moves. This, like her claim that she wanted to quash “rumors” that she would replace Vice President Pence on the ticket, is a conveniently self-promotional way of professing allegiance to Trump.

But Bolton isn’t a politician. He’s a foreign policy warrior, think-tank denizen and bureaucratic infighter. When President George W. Bush nominated him to be ambassador to the U.N., even some Republicans described Bolton as a “bully” and “arrogant.” His reputation for extensive note-taking reportedly has Trump advisers in a dither about what damage he could do in the impeachment probe.

Bolton should itch for the chance to tell the world that what happened in Ukraine — the self-interested use of U.S. military aid to target domestic political rivals — squanders U.S. strength and betrays his conservative foreign policy. Instead he sits quietly while Trump pressures Republicans to declare such corruption “perfect.”

Bolton and his former deputy, Charles Kupperman, were reportedly “flabbergasted” that Mulvaney wanted to join the lawsuit their lawyer filed seeking a ruling on whether officials must comply with congressional subpoenas. They shouldn’t have been surprised. The judge set arguments for Dec. 10 — guaranteeing the ruling will come after the investigation is essentially over. Waiting isn’t an option: Republicans are already demanding Democrats “wrap it up” and protesting that impeachment shouldn’t be undertaken before an election.

This explains why White House Counsel Pat Cipollone blessed Mulvaney’s maneuver — and why House Democratic leaders are trying to get the lawsuit dismissed by withdrawing and withholding subpoenas. Cooper, representing Bolton and Kupperman, claims he can’t rely on a related court ruling because his clients would be testifying on the “sensitive areas” of national security and foreign affairs.

That might be persuasive if no fewer than six national security advisers, and various deputies, hadn’t testified to Congress on matters of alleged misconduct — including on national security.

Bolton isn’t being tight-lipped on principle. The Associated Press reported over the weekend that he just signed a $2 million book deal.

If he’s true to his professed beliefs — in transparency, accountability and the rule of law — he’ll find a way to give his eyewitness account of the “drug deal” before the investigation closes. Alternatively, Bolton can swallow his principles as he cashes out. With luck, he might land a spot on “Dancing With the Stars.”

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