Schiff calls on Bolton to testify and slams Republicans

John Bolton seen in Minsk in August, when he was still Donald Trump’s national security adviser. Photograph: Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images

House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff blasted former national security adviser John Bolton on Sunday, for failing to appear for testimony in the impeachment inquiry while teasing a forthcoming memoir.

Bolton “wanted to wait for a book instead of telling the American people what he knew”, Schiff told CNN’s State of the Union, drawing a contrast between Bolton and his former deputy, Fiona Hill, who appeared before the committee on Thursday.

“The obligation right now to show the courage Dr Hill did,” Schiff said. “She made the decision that this is the right thing to do. John Bolton should make the same decision.”

Bolton, who has said he had conversations with Trump and others relevant to the investigation, has resisted testifying, warning the committee through a lawyer that he will bring a lawsuit if subpoenaed for testimony.

While he said he would prefer for witnesses such as Bolton and secretary of state Mike Pompeo to answer the committee’s questions, Schiff warned that moving the impeachment process forward was “urgent”, in order to prevent Trump tampering in the 2020 election.

“There is a sense of urgency when you have a president who is threatening the integrity of our elections that we need to act now,” he said. “If there is not deterrent … we can darn well be sure this president will commit even more egregious acts in the months ahead.”

Republicans’ top six impeachment falsehoods

1 Trump is an anti-corruption champion

Republicans argue that Trump asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and the gas company Burisma out of a concern about corruption in Ukraine. But that seems to be the single example, in his presidency and from his life, of Trump wanting to fight corruption.

Indeed, from the casino business to New York real estate to national politics, Trump has thrived where corruption thrives. He does not have a problem with corrupt regimes – he openly admires them. He also has a long track record of personal corruption, from running a fraudulent university and charity organization to keeping separate tax records for creditors and the Internal Revenue Service, to installing family members in key government posts, to profiting off the presidency, including through a hotel he has now put on the market. He also tried to steer a contract to host the G7 summit to his own resort. And he is a habitual liar.

2 The witnesses are a cabal

Republicans argue that the witnesses in the impeachment inquiry are “anonymous and unelected bureaucrats” and “Never Trumpers” who were angered to be sidelined under an unconventional president. But the witnesses, whose names were printed on the placards they testified behind, were mostly Trump appointees with long track records in both Republican and Democratic administrations.

It is Trump’s own people who are coming forward, at risk to their careers and under threats to their safety, to say what happened (if, admittedly, not everyone was willing to face those risks). And while certain witnesses, such as the former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and former national security council adviser Fiona Hill, did find themselves shut out by the Ukraine scheme, two of the witnesses, the diplomats Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker, were spearheading the scheme, according to testimony, with Sondland eager to take credit and Volker less so.

3 The Ukraine scheme was a foreign policy

Republicans argue that the 25 July phone call with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and other diplomatic activity at which the witnesses recoiled simply represented a legitimate new direction in foreign policy under Trump. But that exaggerates the motivations and scope of Trump’s narrow interest – investigating Biden and an elections conspiracy theory – in an apparent effort to bring what Trump was doing under the umbrella of his immense presidential powers. Do those powers include the ability to task diplomats to help him win the next election? What’s the difference between that and “l’état, c’est moi”?

Hill drew the distinction plainly, calling the Ukraine scheme “a domestic political errand”, not “national security foreign policy”, and saying: “Those two things had just diverged.”

4 Trump saying ‘no quid pro quo’ is exculpatory

Republicans including the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, argue that because Trump said the words “no quid pro quo” on the phone to Sondland, the Ukraine scheme did not exist. But misconduct cannot be undone by saying “there was no misconduct”.

Also relevant: this particular statement from Trump came late in the game, on 7 September, after diplomats and Rudy Giuliani had been working for at least five months to consummate the scheme, after Trump asked Zelenskiy directly for a “favor” – and after it became known that a whistleblower complaint was hanging over the president’s head.

5 No evidence of a Ukraine scheme

Republicans argue that the hearings produced no evidence that Trump ever conditioned a White House meeting or military aid for Ukraine on an announcement of investigations he wanted. But evidence presented in the hearings of such a scheme was substantial, and internally consistent.

The evidence included public statements by Giuliani, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and the Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson; text messages and emails provided by Sondland; testimony by Hill: “It became very clear the White House meeting itself was being predicated on other issues, namely investigations and the questions about the election interference in 2016”; testimony by state department aide David Holmes: “Of course the president is pressing for a Biden investigation before he’ll do these things the Ukrainians want … everyone by that point agreed. It was obvious what the president was pressing for”; testimony by Sondland: “Was there a quid pro quo? … The answer is yes”; and, of course, the summary of the 25 July call as released by the White House.

6 The whistleblower is missing

Republicans argue that the impeachment inquiry was fatally flawed because the intelligence committee chairman, Adam Schiff, refused to call as a witness the whistleblower whose August complaint set off the impeachment proceedings. Schiff in turn has accused Republicans of trying to intimidate or harm the whistleblower as payback for the complaint, and as a resort to character assassination, given their inability to argue the substance.

In any case, the Democrats did not rely on the whistleblower complaint, instead summoning witnesses and obtaining (a few) documents that happened to comport with the complaint while indicating a much greater scope of misconduct and adding a lot of detail.

Source: Various articles in The Guardian newspaper.





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