WASHINGTON (CN) – After months of avoiding a House subpoena for testimony in President Donald Trump’s impeachment, Ambassador John Bolton said Monday he will stop fighting in court if the Republican-controlled Senate follows suit.
“I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify,” Bolton said at the end of a potentially game-changing, four-paragraph statement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has rejected multiple requests from his Democratic counterpart Chuck Schumer for Bolton’s testimony in a list of four witnesses sought at trial.
The other three are White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, his adviser Robert Blair, and Michael Duffey, the associate director Office of Management and Budget who relayed a hold order on $391 million in military aid meant to help Ukraine in its war with Russia.
Bolton’s testimony had been expected to be among the most explosive and colorful of the quartet.
Former National Security Council official Fiona Hill testified that Bolton abruptly ended a White House meeting with Ukrainian officials after ex-Ambassador Gordon Sondland brought up the subject of investigating Trump’s political opponent.
Shortly after that July 10 meeting, Bolton told Hill: “You go and tell [National Security Council adviser] Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up.”
Hill also testified that Bolton describe Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani as a “hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up.”
The House of Representatives never issued a formal subpoena to Bolton, who originally told Congress that he would wait for the courts to decide whether his deputy Charles Kupperman could be compelled to testify in the impeachment inquiry.
In an unprecedented defiance of congressional oversight, President Trump categorically directed his executive branch not to cooperate with the House’s proceeding, and 12 of his current or former officials refused to testify. Trump’s blanket ban on witness testimony ultimately led House Democrats to include an article of impeachment for obstruction of Congress.
The White House’s position also prompted a blistering federal court ruling that ordered the testimony of White House counsel Don McGahn.
“Indeed, absolute testimonial immunity for senior-level White House aides appears to be a fiction that has been fastidiously maintained over time through the force of sheer repetition,” U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote in November. Jackson’s ruling is being appealed.
Now that Trump has been impeached and the House has withdrawn its subpoena against Kupperman, Bolton said there is not time for the courts to resolve a separation-of-powers issue before a Senate trial.
“The House has concluded its Constitutional responsibility by adopting Articles of Impeachment related to the Ukraine matter,” Bolton said. “It now falls to the Senate to fulfill its constitutional obligation to try impeachments, and it does not appear possible that a final judicial resolution of the still-unanswered constitutional questions can be obtained before the Senate acts.”
Celebrating the announcement, Senate Minority Leader Schumer said in a statement: “Momentum for uncovering the truth in a Senate trial continues.”
“John Bolton correctly acknowledged that he needs to comply with a Senate subpoena to compel his testimony, if issued,” Schumer continued. “It is now up to four Senate Republicans to support bringing in Mr. Bolton, and the other three witnesses, as well as the key documents we have requested to ensure all the evidence is presented at the onset of a Senate trial.”
Bolton’s anouncement ratchets up pressure on Leader McConnell and Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, who signaled their intention in December to preclude evidence-gathering at trial and to vote against Trump’s removal from office based on the House’s record. To foil that strategy, Democrats need four Republicans to break ranks.
“Given that Mr. Bolton’s lawyers have stated he has new relevant information to share, if any Senate Republican opposes issuing subpoenas to the four witnesses and documents we have requested they would make absolutely clear they are participating in a cover up,” Schumer added.
Representatives for McConnell did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.