WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Monday denied ever telling his former national security adviser, John Bolton, that military aid to Ukraine would be conditioned on Kyiv’s announcing a corruption investigation into Democratic presidential hopeful and former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens,” Trump said in one of several Twitter posts regarding media reports that Bolton’s claims in the draft of a book he intends to publish.
“In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” added Trump, whose impeachment trial is under way in the Senate with charges linked to the Ukraine situation filed by House Democrats.
Democrats have charged Trump with abuse of power for allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and with obstruction of Congress for prohibiting testimony from administration officials or the release of any requested documents that could shed light on the matter.
Democrats in Congress have asked that Bolton be subpoenaed to testify before the Senate, where the trial is taking place. Some weeks ago, Bolton had said that he would consult with his attorneys about whether or not he would honor a subpoena to testify, but more recently he has said that he would be willing to do so.
According to what Bolton has written in the draft text of his upcoming book about his service in the Trump administration, elements of which have been leaked to The New York Times, Trump told Bolton in August 2019 that “he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped him with investigations” into Democrats, including the Bidens.
Hunter Biden had held a seat on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
In his tweets on Monday, Trump insisted that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had denied that he felt any pressure from the US to start a Biden investigation and, in fact, Trump ultimately released the aid he had withheld “without any conditions or investigations - and far ahead of schedule.”
The aid was released shortly after a whistleblower from one of the US intelligence agencies filed a complaint about the withholding of aid, and Democrats say that Trump only released it because he “got caught” withholding it illegally.
The leaking of the extract from Bolton’s book could increase pressure on Republican Senate leaders to meet the Democrats’ demand for sworn testimony from Bolton and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, another official whom Trump prohibited from testifying during the House impeachment investigation.
Trump has justified his refusal to allow his closest officials to provide testimony by claiming that it is a matter of national security, and he insisted in another tweet that the House, which is controlled by the Democrats, “never even asked John Bolton to testify.”
“It is up to them, not up to the Senate!” the president added, and GOP Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is resisting allowing any testimony from additional witnesses.
Trump’s defense team has argued during the Senate trial so far that the government officials who did testify during the House impeachment investigation and said that the president conditioned military aid to Ukraine and a coveted White House meeting for Zelensky on Kyiv’s cooperation with a Biden probe were people who never actually heard the president say he had imposed such a condition.
Deputy White House Counsel Michael Purpura stated during the defense’s opening argument on Saturday that, “Not a single witness testified that the president himself said that there was any connection between any investigations and security assistance, a presidential meeting or anything else.”
But Bolton directly contradicts this claim in his manuscript, saying that Trump told him directly in his capacity as national security adviser that he wanted the aid withheld and refused to give Zelensky a meeting until Ukraine launched a Biden investigation, according to The New York Times.