Of course the Senate should subpoena former National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Bolton said Monday he would honor a Senate subpoena in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Bolton had pledged a court fight before, if the House subpoenaed him during its earlier investigation. Why he changed his stance does not matter. Bolton has firsthand knowledge about the president's full role in the Ukraine scandal. He is the only such witness willing to honor anyone's subpoena.
Granted, an impeachment trial has to start before Bolton can be subpoenaed to it. All in good time.
I am no fan of the president, but do not assume Bolton's testimony would be damning. Bolton is a neo-con to the bone. Whatever his disdain for Trump, he could do Republican senators a huge service. He could play down evidence already brought out. He could, for instance, testify he got carried away when he called the administration's skulduggery a "drug deal."
Bolton was the boss of House star witness Fiona Hill. He could undercut her. He could argue, for instance, his reason for changing his mind about testifying is to correct the record. He could make a vote to acquit much easier.
He could. Or he could not.
"I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up" will likely remain the most famous thing Bolton ever said. That quote from July referred to White House errand boys Mick Mulvaney and Gordon Sondland. Mulvaney runs the White House day-to-day operations in the absence of everyone else. Trump managed to run off every responsible adult. Sondland just followed orders and was foolish enough to call the president directly to get them. Mulvaney and Sondland were pawns in Trump's shake-down to get Ukraine's president to smear the president's foremost challenger for re-election.
Bolton left the White House saying he quit. The president insisted he fired Bolton. So I understand why Bolton's new willingness to testify agitates senators anxious to cover up for the president. Calling Bolton would open the door to calling other witnesses, too. Whatever he testifies to would practically demand calling more witnesses, in fact. None of this can be helped.
Call Bolton. Let the chips fall. The Senate will not convict the president under any circumstances. There are few ways left, though, to make their whitewash look like more of a sham. Shutting out Bolton would be the biggest.
Speaking of subpoenas, Joe Biden did something quite dumb recently. He said he would not comply if subpoenaed in the impeachment trial. He quickly backtracked, but he never should have said that.
Biden is right about there being no good reason to subpoena him in the impeachment. But if subpoenaed -- especially when running for president as the candidate who will respect the law and restore accountability -- you go.
Some of the president's most overzealous fans argue Biden should testify. The president says Hunter Biden was up to no good in Ukraine in 2016 and then-Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter's father, protected him. Trump withheld military aid to the Ukraine while demanding Ukraine's president announce an investigation of the Bidens. That is why Trump is being impeached, that and the stonewalling of the investigation. So, the argument goes, perhaps the president had a reason to commit this extortion.
All right. Applying such logic, suppose President Donald Trump stood in the middle of 5th Avenue and shot Hunter Biden. "Wait a minute. Did Hunter have it coming?" would not be a defense in that case, either.
The only issue before the Senate for impeachment is whether President Trump abused his office. The evidence he did is overwhelming, largely self-inflicted and even televised from the White House lawn. The Senate, however, has the right to acquit anyway. So perhaps the president's apologists should stop reminding voters of Trump's motive for a crime they brazenly insist he did not commit.
Beyond all that, Hunter Biden turned 21 years old a long time ago. He turns 50 next month. Anyone who strongly believes Hunter's daddy still bears some responsibility for something a half-century-old man did wrong can vote appropriately.
What the president needs most to defend himself against these allegations is a good, clear, above-board reason for holding up Ukraine's aid for months. There is none. I said that in print Oct. 26. That will always be true, whatever the Senate does.
Commentary on 01/11/2020
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