Was The Bolton Leak Too Perfect? The Senate Grapples With The First Perry Mason Moment Of A Presidential Impeachment

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Below is my column in the Washington Post on the still unfolding drama surrounding the leaked contents of the book by former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Here is the column:

It was the seeming Perry Mason moment of President Trump’s impeachment trial. Just after the White House team presented its defense denying any quid pro quo over Ukrainian aid, former national security adviser John Bolton jumped up from the gallery to scream, “He did it!” Not really, but close.

A few hours after the start of the president’s defense, details from Bolton’s forthcoming book leaked, including his account of Trump asserting that $391 million in military aid would be withheld until Ukraine announced investigations into the 2016 election and the Bidens. If that seems a tad contrived for either an episode or an impeachment, that is because it is. In responding to a defense built around Trump’s insistence that his call was “perfect,” this leak was perfect to a fault. Perfect timing. Perfect content. It was so perfect that there is little doubt that the Senate is being played.

The leak happened at the exact time that it would inflict the most damage on the defense and throw the trial into disarray. It occurred hours after the White House team gave opening statements that seriously undermined critical points made by the House managers, including the assertions that Trump never previously raised corruption in other countries or that this type of hold on aid was uncommon. It felt like the sudden discovery of a gun near the victim at the scene of a police shooting.

That does not mean the leak will not succeed. The disclosure about Bolton’s book could well make the difference in securing the four Republican votes needed to obtain witnesses. But it could also succeed too well if it leads senators to plunge into the unknown of calling witnesses such as former vice president Joe Biden or his son Hunter. There are already indications that the leak may have secured the four votes for witnesses, while even Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) has said the Senate may need to subpoena the book draft itself.

The fact is that the story remains damaging on its face. It reaffirms not just that Bolton has relevant evidence but also that his testimony could significantly strengthen the nexus between the demand for investigations and the hold on aid. It could contradict statements made by Trump and cited by his legal team angrily denying any such connection. It would also change the account of Bolton denouncing the “drug deal” being “cooked up” by Rudolph W. Giuliani and, for the first time, make Trump the chef in chief.AD

As damaging as that leak may prove, though, it is not on its face devastating for the defense. The leak falls short of answering key questions that would likely have to be pursued in testimony. For example, Trump allegedly told Bolton that he wanted to “continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens,” the New York Times reported.

That still leaves the question of intent. Trump has never denied asking for the investigations, but insisted that they were meant to deal with his concerns over ongoing corruption in Ukraine. Moreover, the first of the two investigations could not be a basis for impeachment. Trump asked for assistance in investigating allegations into the 2016 election — matters that were currently being investigated by U.S. Attorney John Durham. It is the Biden investigation that raises legitimate questions, but it comes down again to a question of intent. Finally, the leak refers to the freeze on the funds but does not indicate that Trump was prepared to hold the aid past the deadline at the end of September. (It was released on September 11th.).

The suspicions over the timing of the leak are magnified by the fact that Bolton could have been subpoenaed by the House and compelled to testify. Bolton has hardly been subtle about his knowledge or desire to testify. Indeed, he has been virtually wearing a sandwich board reading “Subpoena me” outside the Capitol for months. When the House refused to issue such a subpoena, Bolton continued to tease his knowledge, including a tweet reading, “For the backstory, stay tuned…….. .”

Despite the earlier failure to call Bolton or subpoena his book, the House built up expectations with veiled references to a leak or “gotcha” story to pressure senators to allow witnesses. We didn’t have to wait for the book and indeed we did not have to wait long all — just for the start of the defense case.

Bolton’s attorney has denied the reporting of the Times that Bolton circulated the draft for weeks among “close associates.” He instead blamed the “corrupted” process of preclearance review at the White House. Whoever it was, the leak was delivered with lethal effect.

Still, it may prove too clever by half. The manipulation of the trial with a carefully placed leak will not sit well with some senators. Senators play others; they do not like to be played. The leak makes it more difficult for key senators (who were moving away from voting for witnesses) to bring the trial to an early close.AD

However, it also makes it less likely that senators will be inclined to support the Democrats in their effort to block witnesses sought by the White House team, including not just Hunter Biden but possibly the whistleblower. In other words, the fallback position for some senators would be a mutually assured destruction option: allow both sides to lay waste to each other and leave it to the public to pick through the ruins.

Jonathan Turley is the chair of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and served as the last lead counsel in an impeachment trial before the Senate in defense of Judge Thomas Porteous. He also serves as legal analyst for both CBS and BBC.

82 thoughts on “Was The Bolton Leak Too Perfect? The Senate Grapples With The First Perry Mason Moment Of A Presidential Impeachment”

  1. Here’s a little dittie going out to that Wicked Witch of the West who wants everyone ag’in her disbarred or dismembered.

    “I get a little sentimental
    When I’ve had one or two
    And that tear in my eye
    Was the salt and the lime
    Not the memory of you walkin'”:

  2. or, as often is the case in the publishing world, perfectly timed to create interest in and increase BOOK $ALE$…

  3. Read the comments down to Older Comments and now I’m going to take a leak.

  4. The freedom loving corruption free government of Ukraine is a safeguard against an invasion of Europe by Russia. The whole idea of influence peddling going on there is laughable. Ukraine doesn’t operate that way. Trump’s defense is obviously a sham and the harm he did immeasurable.

    I’m going to buy Bolton’s book as fast as I can. He’s always been so insightful about foreign policy matters, particularly the middle east.

      1. Who would have thought Trump could turn peace loving, anti-nuke, Left-wing nuts into “Nuke em till they glow”, BLM (Bombs Lives Matter) anarchists

        Hail Trump for radicalizing the Left into old regime Republicans.

        4 more years!

          1. Olly, they were after Trump no matter what. He beat them while being an outsider that threatened their insider positions. That Trump is so successful scares them even more and makes them react in a worse fashion. Had the economy faltered as the left guaranteed it would (that was the hope of the left) they would still have disliked him but probably wouldn’t have been so crazy and probably wouldn’t have impeached him.

            The left’s lust for power is greater than their love for this country.

            1. Allan,
              Both parties want to be in power, that’s normal. What they’ll do to get in power and what they’ll do with that power is what President Trump has exposed. Both parties are still not to be trusted. But as a purist on natural rights, the Democrat party has moved ideologically to a place where they are now openly threatening the very foundation of this republic.

                1. I agree JR, that it has been chipped away at. But what we’ve seen recently is an effort to completely destroy what remains. As Mark said, the American people aren’t to be tested. The Democrat party leadership hasn’t figured out that while they may have turned hard left, the American people don’t turn as quickly, especially if they see that turn as anathema to everything they value.

  5. Well then, we just have to guess at which side’s witnesses will do the most damage to the other. I would be willing to have a LONNNGGG list of GOP witnesses in exchange for whomever they DEMS want to call. Let’s take this thing to the end so whomever loses will NEVER pull this crap again. Start with Joe, (I’d skip Hunter as he seems kind of lost anyway), and I’d keep the 4 candidates in their chairs for weeks, and weeks, and more weeks. Make them wish they’d thought of what the downside is before demanding witnesses. Weeks and weeks, and did I say weeks? Yes.

  6. Looks to me like Trump wins either way. Sounds to me like this is going to the broken play mudpit where Trump likes it. I can’t believe that Mr. Mustache isn’t in on this–if he is called, it ensures the crazy story of Ukraine from 2009 on is finally going to make it into the spotlight and recorded. I’m sure that will dwarf any impeachment issues. Interesting.

        1. That’s why the Babylon Bee is essential, Mr. Schulte.
          It not only covers current events, but it also gives accurate predictions.

        2. Nice one Paul. That seems to be more truth than satire.
          I am surprised that it looks as though they are not going to allow witnesses. Hoping another repub defects so it can all be laid bare. But–we know it will take down all those dems, and probably Graham as well…

  7. Contrary to popular belief, Perry Mason wasn’t always able to achieve those “Perry Mason moments.” In fact, there were times when his courtroom tactics leaved much to be desired, as in this particular case:

  8. The NYT says: “President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens.”

    I “wanted to” stay in bed this morning, but I didn’t.

    From the NYT: “In his August 2019 discussion with Mr. Bolton, the president appeared focused on the theories Mr. Giuliani had shared with him, replying to Mr. Bolton’s question that he preferred sending no assistance to Ukraine until officials had turned over all materials they had about the Russia investigation that related to Mr. Biden and supporters of Mrs. Clinton in Ukraine.”

    I also would have “preferred” to stay in bed this morning, but I didn’t.

  9. There are legal channels to investigate corruption in Ukraine. Withholding aid appropriated by Congress, which is a crime, is not among them. Obtaining an investigation could have been done via diplomatic channels, the DOJ, the FBI or requests to their foreign counterparts. Ukraine is an ally, but we all know this is just made up. If Trump has done nothing wrong, then bring on the witnesses and documents RELEVANT to charges, such as Bolton, Mulvaney and Pompeo. Threatening to call Hunter Biden, the whistleblower or Adam Schiff is so Trumpian, petty, vindictive and un-American. Nothing the whistleblower reported has been proven untrue. By federal law, he is to be protected from retaliation.

    Republicans and Trump supporters are scared to death of Bolton, because they know that his testimony would prove Trump is a liar, as if anyone anywhere believes anything he has to say. Letting Trump’s conduct stand only opens the door to more abuses of power, both by him and future Presidents, and would undermine check on the Executive laid out in the Constitution. How sad it is to think that anyone calling him or herself a patriot under oath to protect and defend the Constitution would even consider denying witness testimony for these serious charges.

    1. Bolton’s words interpreted by an anonymous source that repeated it to Sherman which is then repeated to Raw Story. The chain is very weak but even so Bolton is known to be a hothead even by friends of his yet you find this report newsworthy?

      1. I just thought the “over the top” headline spoke for itself, and it’s utterly predictable conduct by Bolton.
        Mind you, Trump has to take responsibility for hiring this guy. He was warned. Don’t know what he was thinking.

        1. Steve, there were good reasons for hiring Bolton. PCS provided at least part of the reason. There were good reasons for firing Bolton.

          The anonymous comment made wasn’t worth very much but gets a lot more press than more important issues.

          1. “there were good reasons for hiring Bolton”
            Very few if any in my view. The comment by Bolton is of some use because it shows the hyperbole he is willing to engage in.

            1. Steve, Bolton is a polarizing individual and one whose advice I would seek to widen my knowledge and possibly see problems unknown to me. Sometimes they can be melded into more agreeable positions even though I disagree with his strong interventionist policies. In my own businesses I seek out a wide berth of opinions just to make sure I am covering all the bases.

              Like Paul, I think one of the reasons he was hired was to change the view of US foreign policy from one of meek, weak responses to a nation that does not wish to be interventionist but will strike. That makes the nation more unpredictable and in my opinion leads to less confrontation.

  10. Communists Will Do Anything For Power

    “For although the act condemns the doer, the end may justify him…”

    – Niccolò Machiavelli

    “The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.”

    – Leon Trotsky

    Communists will do anything to impose the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Democrats, progressives, liberals and socialists are communists-in-waiting and, therefore, communists. Article 1, Section 8 and the 5th Amendment deny taxation for “individual welfare” and regulation beyond money, land and naval forces and the flow of commerce, causing the entire American welfare state to be unconstitutional. Any and all forms of central planning, control of the means of production (i.e. regulation), redistribution of wealth and social engineering are immutably antithetical and unconstitutional. Charity is industry conducted in the free markets of the private sector and industries privately self-regulate at the risk of litigation. Petitioning the government for redress of grievances does justify the antithetical and unconstitutional imposition of communist principles. Private and competitive free markets are always the solution; collectivist government is always the problem.

    Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto 59 years after the adoption of the Constitution because none of the principles of the Communist Manifesto were in the Constitution. Had the principles of the Communist Manifesto been in the Constitution, Karl Marx would have had no reason to write the Communist Manifesto. The principles of the Communist Manifesto were not in the Constitution then and the principles of the Communist Manifesto are not in the Constitution now.

    When will free and free enterprising Americans wake up and take back their country; take back the asylum that the inmates have taken over? Ben Franklin was fully awake in 1787 when he admonished the nascent Americans against what we now know as communism, “…IF YOU CAN KEEP IT.”

    “At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Franklin was queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation. In the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention, a lady asked Dr. Franklin “Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy.” Franklin replied, “A republic . . . if you can keep it.”

    – WWTFT

  11. Bolton Leak was timed by the Dem’s and NY Times and suspect the Leak was via NSC or its possible the anti Trump Crowd/Bolton. It is interesting it was 3 days after the NSC told Bolton he can’t publish the book until he deletes certain info.

    The Dem’s don’t really want witnesses for it will expose Schiff as a Liar and a Fraud, it will expose the Biden’s, Kerry Family, and other Dem’s were getting $$$$ from the Ukraine, also Pelosi’s son is get $$$ from the Ukraine.

    Romney is the Dem’s Trojan Horse and he has failed, O Connell have the votes. This three ring circus comes to and end and 3 or 4 Dem’s join the Republicans and acquitting Trump.

    Romney is going to be a one term Senator, for his anti Trump hatred, Bolton is finished within the Republican party except for the never Trumpers which he is a card carrying member.

    1. Agreed. They can’t imagine the grief they’re going to get if witnesses are called…for example, Adam Schiff’s campaign was financed in part by a Ukrainian arms dealer. Why? Biden not the only one selling influence. And then there is Pelosi’s son working for a Ukrainian gas company. What I don’t understand is why the damm GOP doesn’t bring out the big artillery and slam these greedy posers. Get mad dammit.



  12. Democrats don’t know how to govern. They only know how to run smear campaigns in their quest for power. They have become the party of lies and corruption in cahoots with the Press. The list of their lies too extensive to mark anywhere but we all know who those liars are and who is covering up for them.

    1. If they are successful, we can look forward to this being par for the course from here on out. They will fight every effort to stop voter fraud. They will fight every Republican president ever elected from here on out, constantly investigating them, impeaching them, and implanting moles.

      Republican candidates running for president in 2024 and forward: put together your team of trusted people now. You will be surrounded by career suits who will pretend to be trustworthy, while trying to assassinate you by a death from a thousand cuts. Don’t trust anyone.

      The divided widens.

      1. Karen: we know you are a starry-eyed Fox disciple, but ask yourself: did Democrats fight either of the Bushes, Reagan or Ford, or try to get them impeached, even when W lied about the WMDs, resulting in a war that’s still not really over?

        Wanna know why there are so many leaks in the Trump administration? Because he’s a total crook, has no clue as to what he’s doing, he violates the law, he lies constantly, he’s petty and vindictive, he won’t listen to anyone and does stupid, irresponsible things. Just to cleanse your palate, why not read “A Very Stable Genius”, just released, and refer to the bibliography.

  13. It has been confirmed that Ukraine was not strong armed in any way. Even Bolton himself was on camera declaring the call was warm and cordial. More than one ambassador confirmed that Ukraine was not aware of any quid pro quo.

    So it doesn’t matter what Bolton says, nor does it matter if he is telling the truth or composing. It doesn’t matter if Trump wished he could, thought about it, ruminated about it, sang in the shower about it, or what. If he didn’t coerce Ukraine, then it doesn’t matter what Bolton says. It’s like trying someone for murder, when the victim is unharmed, because some guy says that he committed murder. It makes no sense. How can you claim that you are withholding aid until Ukraine does something, if you never tell Ukraine what the deal is?

    And, oh, look, another leak.

    This is the Deep State. The unelected who work behind the scenes to run the country, and push it where it wants to go. If you control intelligence information, you can control the decisions that elected officials or courts would logically make. (Comey and the FBI agent who altered the CIA email). If you control government agencies, you can push regulations in the way you want (CA’s CARB that outlawed large vehicles prior to 2010 without any vote, because it’s an unelected board.) And if you don’t agree with the Constitutional right of the President to set foreign policy, then you damage him in any way you can until you get the country back on the path you wanted, as an unelected official unanswerable to the people.

    It’s intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that there was a legitimate reason to investigate Joe Biden. So the Democrats are desperately trying to get the American people to get distracted, and look in another direction.

    Look how far they’ve gone, protecting Joe Biden from justice.

    It is unethical to gain access to a Presidential Administration, and then write a salacious tell all while that President is still in office, undermining their ability to do their job. That wasn’t done. That friend of ours who crewed for AF1 didn’t gossip about the Presidents he served to the newspapers while they were in office, or even after. He told us long years after those Presidents were out of office, or had passed.

    I cannot imagine gaining access to a famous person’s household, and then revealing anything embarrassing you could find to the news. Or, in the case of the President, constantly trying to damage his Administration and ability to run the country. What is wrong with people? It’s like someone in the office pretending to be your friend, all the while whispering anything damaging about you they can find to the boss and your peers.

    1. Karen, “the American People” 1. mostly voted for Hillary; 2. have not approved of Trump, for an historic period of time and by an historic margin; 3. want him gone; and 4. by a 75% margin, want to hear witnesses. The Democrats are not trying to distract the American People. That’s what the Republicans are trying to do by pivoting to accuse Joe Biden and his son of bad conduct, trying to out the whistleblower, threatening to drag out the trial to try to force Adam Schiff, the whistleblower and others to testify, making nonsensical claims about nonexistent privilege and trying to delay release of Bolton’s book. Trump’s the one on trial, not the Bidens.

      You still don’t seem able to grasp the facts about what Trump did. You speak of people in government “unanswerable to the people”. The Constitution put Congress first–Article I. It has the right and obligation to serve as a check on the Executive, but Trump has no respect for either the American people or the representatives they elected. Trump ignores subpoenas, commands witnesses not to cooperate, tries to leverage aid to an ally for political gain, lies about that, but still people like you believe there is a mysterious “Deep State” that’s really in charge and trying to thwart him. You are a prime example of the difference between a thinker and a disciple. Whatever flotsam Fox puts out, you’ll believe it.

      1. Karen, “the American People” 1. mostly voted for Hillary;

        They didn’t. You might try getting one sentence out without uttering a howler.

        1. She won the popular vote by a 3 million vote margin, so she was the choice of most Americans for President. Interestingly, the first time Nancy Pelosi met Trump, the first words out of his mouth were a lie. He told her that the Democrats had allowed 3 to 5 million illegals vote without registering, and so he really won the popular vote. Nancy’s response was along the lines of: “we’re not going to be able to work together if you’re going to lie about the facts”. From the book “A Very Stable Genius”.

          1. you cant do math obviously. when you say most that means a majority of all. not a plurality of actual voters. she may have got more of the popular vote than DJT but she did NOT have a majority of all featherless bipeds in the USA voting for her.

            wiki says she got 65.8 million. i got news for you: the population of the USA is 327 million. so 65/327 is not even close to MOST

            quit lying!

            and then there is the electoral college. you know how that works, but you keep ignoring it.

            if anybody’s doing the Russian propaganda work of delegitimizing American elections, it’s YOU

            I Happen to like the Russians. But i prefer our system to theirs. And I don’t say our electoral system is illegitimate. I think it’s fantastic. But that’s precisely what American rivals will chirp out like so many birds of a feather when they want to discredit us… oh the electoral college is so unfair… blah blah blah… Natch, you’re with them!

            You want to call people un-American be careful because you may not be ready for where that will lead.

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