Mostly, Monday’s argument came across as tired and utterly irrelevant. What matters now is whether former national security adviser John Bolton and other witnesses will now testify, blowing Trump’s defense to smithereens. As of this writing, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) have said the Bolton bombshell has underscored the need for witnesses.
Bolton’s book is coming out in March, so the facts will be known whether they come out in the trial or not. Trying to prevent Bolton testimony now would be a confession of Republicans’ spinelessness and would be futile to boot. The facts cannot be hidden any longer.
Trying to raise executive privilege claims to prevent Bolton from testifying was already a stretch. The privilege cannot be used to cover up wrongdoing. And asserting it got a whole lot harder in the past 24 hours, thanks to Trump’s decision to publicly tweet about conversations with Bolton, and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s written statement about what he heard Bolton say. Moreover, Trump can raise whatever privilege he likes: Bolton as a former official can testify anyway. That sounds like what he is prepared to do.
What would House managers ask Bolton under oath? Oh, plenty, including:
- Did Trump tell you there would be no aid to Ukraine unless two investigations, one into CrowdStrike and one into the Bidens, was announced?
- When and where did he tell you? How many times did he tell you? Please show us your notes that confirm your testimony.
- Did Trump say he wanted investigations or just the announcement of investigations?
- Did you or anyone in your presence tell the president this was wrong? Illegal? Contrary to U.S. policy?
- Did you or anyone in your presence tell the president that delaying aid would benefit Russia?
- Why did you tell former White House national security staffer Fiona Hill to talk to the lawyers? What other National Security Council employees did you tell to talk to the lawyers?
- Did you ever follow up with NSC legal adviser John Eisenberg?
- Did the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky contain information that would warrant stashing it on a super-secret server?
- What did you mean when you said Giuliani was a grenade that would blow everyone up?
- Why did you say you wanted no part of the “drug deal” that Mulvaney and U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland were cooking up?
- Aside from CrowdStrike and the Bidens, did the president show any interest in corruption? If so, what did he do?
- Is Vladimir Putin corrupt? Did the president ever raise that topic with him?
- When to your knowledge did Ukraine become aware aid was tied up? What concern if any did Ukraine officials express to you or your staff? Did Ukrainian officials express awareness that they were under pressure to comply with Trump’s demands?
- Did you ever explain to Trump that the CrowdStrike conspiracy was Russian propaganda? What did he say?
- Did you ever explain that former vice president Joe Biden was carrying out U.S. policy and the policy of Western allies when he pushed for former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin to be replaced?
- Have you ever heard a president before this one condition official U.S. action on an investigation of a U.S. citizen who is a political opponent?
- Was this episode a factor in your decision to quit?
- What is the damage to U.S. foreign policy if foreign leaders think they can provide dirt on the U.S. president’s political opponents in exchange for favorable acts?
You get the idea just how damaging Bolton’s testimony likely would be. The only question is whether you and the Senate have to wait for the book to come out to hear definitive evidence of Trump’s impeachable conduct.