First, this could shed light on whether — or how badly — the declassification process has been corrupted on Trump’s behalf.
In the book, Bolton recounts that Trump pressed Xi for China to buy agricultural products to help his reelection. Bolton also says explicitly that he didn’t include Trump’s exact words to Xi because the classification review blocked inclusion of them.
Yet Vanity Fair reports that an unredacted portion shows Trump saying to Xi, “Make sure I win,” and adding, “I will probably win anyway, so don’t hurt my farms,” and, “Buy a lot of soybeans and wheat and make sure we win.”
But that report doesn’t come (openly, anyway) from Bolton. It would be useful to hear this from Bolton himself. There may be other such examples of the review blocking revelations. Indeed, Bolton’s own epilogue reportedly says that in several cases, “I was prevented from conveying information that I thought was not properly classifiable.”
What’s more, the process itself appears to have been highly problematic. The New York Times reports that hours before the Justice Department asked a judge to block publication, top department lawyers and the White House counsel were still not sure whether to take that step.
But, the Times reports, Trump “was making clear that he wanted an aggressive response — even suggesting that Mr. Bolton should face criminal charges.” That use of government power to try to bury criticism of Trump raises further questions about what happened with the declassification process, which also appears to have been used to try to carry out Trump’s desire to see the book buried.
By all indications, Bolton’s book was reviewed extensively by a career National Security Council official, who then signed off on it, before political appointees intervened, leading to an impasse that led Bolton to finally move forward himself.
We should hear from Bolton about this. He can tell us more, under oath, about how that first half of the process went, potentially fleshing out just how scrupulously it had been reviewed by the career official, which could make the 11th-hour intervention appear more suspect.
And by the way, House Democrats could then theoretically use this testimony to try to grill senior Trump officials about their handling of this, though that might not succeed.
I haven’t read the book. But news accounts about it point to other lines of inquiry. Bolton reportedly confirms Trump did explicitly say military aid to Ukraine shouldn’t be released until his demand for dirt on Joe Biden was met, for which he was impeached. Bolton should tell the country more about this, directly, under oath.
Bolton also writes that Trump came closer to pulling out of NATO than previously known. This opens the door for Congress to focus on just how big a continuing threat Trump truly poses to the Western alliance, and what others inside the administration thought about this, something it would also be useful to hear directly from Bolton about. What would Trump’s reelection mean for the alliance?
A big theme of Bolton’s book appears to be the degree to which Trump serially treated his own interests as basically indistinguishable from the national interest. Jeff Hauser, the founder of the Revolving Door Project, points out that this larger overarching fact itself argues for hearing from Bolton.
“What Bolton can do that few others can is explain how Trump’s economic entanglements with China, Saudia Arabia, and the Trump Organization’s properties across the globe caused him to shift American foreign policy to serve his own economic interests,” Hauser told me.
“Nothing can convey the impact of Trump’s corruption as viscerally as high-profile televised testimony from a living, breathing person in whom Trump had once placed such enormous trust,” Hauser added.
Bolton should also answer for his own conduct under oath. It’s appalling that he is getting away with bashing Democrats for failing to impeach Trump over other abuses when he himself refused to testify during the impeachment inquiry. Bolton should face a grilling on this. Demand his testimony, Democrats.