WASHINGTON (CN) — In his still-unreleased book, former national security adviser John Bolton says President Donald Trump asked him to help arrange a meeting between Rudy Giuliani and the new president of Ukraine at the time Trump sought to have Ukraine announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden.
The New York Times reported the new details Friday as Trump’s impeachment trial nears its end, saying the instruction came in a White House meeting that included Giuliani, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Cipollone is part of the defense team seeking to have Trump acquitted in the Senate after his House impeachment last month.
The investigations of Biden and a discredited theory about the 2016 presidential election are at the center of these proceedings, with Trump accused of having conditioned a $391 million military aid package and a coveted White House meeting for Zelensky on Ukraine announcing the probes.
The Times has been reporting the contents of Bolton’s book since Sunday after obtaining details from a manuscript. Its latest article says Zelensky had just been elected in early May when Trump asked Bolton to make a call setting up a meeting between Zelensky and his personal attorney Giuliani.
The House impeached Trump in December on two charges: abuse of power, stemming from allegations that his pressure campaign on a foreign government was aimed at hurting a political rival, and obstruction of Congress.
During the House investigation, Bolton and Mulvaney were among a group of administration officials whom the White House barred from cooperating. Democrats carried out the proceedings without their testimony to avoid drawn-out court fights over ignored subpoenas, while the Republican leaders of the Senate have long maintained that they will not call witnesses.
Though Bolton has said he would testify in the Senate if subpoenaed, a request for his appearance by the Republican-controlled chamber seems unlikely.
Democrats are introducing a motion Friday before the Senate to hear from additional witnesses, but the effort appears likely to fail without four Republican defections.
Senator Susan Collins announced she would support calling additional witnesses in the trial, and reports indicate Utah Senator Mitt Romney leans that way as well, but both Senators Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander said they will not vote for witnesses.
In its Sunday report on Bolton’s manuscript, the Times cited statements from the former ambassador detailing that Trump directly tied his hold on $391 million in military aid to Ukraine country with investigations into the Bidens.
The manuscript has been under review by the White House since December, but the Times report led the administration to issue a formal threat to Bolton’s attorney, Charles Cooper. The letter detailed that some portions of Bolton’s manuscript contained information at the “top-secret level” and ordered that information removed before publication.
“Under federal law and the nondisclosure agreements your client signed as a condition for gaining access to classified information, the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information,” the letter states.
Today’s Times story corroborates the allegations of a letter that House Democrats sent Cipollone before the impeachment trial began, notifying him that evidence indicates he may be a material witness. In an interview with Courthouse News, Georgetown law professor Heidi Feldman asserted that such conduct could put his law license at risk.
“I can imagine a variety of dodges that might be offered to suggest that Cipollone is not in conflict of interest and in breach of his duties of candor to the tribunal,” Feldman said. “But I don’t think that they would be successful.”
As Cipollone exited the Senate chamber on Friday, Courthouse News asked him if he had any reactions to the Times story or whether he may be disbarred. Cipollone walked by the press pen without acknowledging the question.