Bolton Presses White House in Standoff Over Ukraine Chapter

(Bloomberg) -- John Bolton’s lawyer said he’s still waiting to hear back from the White House after asking last week to expedite the classification review of the Ukraine portion of his client’s book in case he’s called to testify in the Senate impeachment trial.

John R. Bolton wearing glasses and looking at the camera: Trump Team Wraps Up Impeachment Defense With Bolton Testimony in Question © Bloomberg Trump Team Wraps Up Impeachment Defense With Bolton Testimony in Question

Attorney Chuck Cooper on Wednesday released a Jan. 24 email that told the National Security Council, “Given that Ambassador Bolton could be called to testify as early as next week, it is imperative that we have the results of your review of that chapter as soon as possible.”

President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser has emerged as a central figure in the Senate trial after reports that he had written a draft manuscript alleging that the president had told him directly that he wanted military aid to Ukraine withheld unless the country publicly announced an investigation into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Since those reports, Trump and his defense team have tried to discredit the former senior aide. Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin on Wednesday said Bolton was “disgruntled” and “wouldn’t have nice things to say about the president” after being ousted in September.

Earlier: Bombshell Bolton Report Pressures GOP on Impeachment Witnesses

Philbin also said the White House counsel’s office had been notified by the NSC that it was reviewing the book to ensure it didn’t contain classified material.

Asked Thursday on Fox News whether the Trump administration is trying to stop Bolton’s manuscript from being published, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said: “Absolutely not,” and that the review isn’t a “political decision.”

In a Jan. 23 letter released on Wednesday, the NSC’s senior director for records, access and information security management, Ellen J. Knight, indicated the White House was seeking to block publication of Bolton’s book in current form.

“The manuscript appears to contain significant amounts of classified information,” Knight said. “The manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information.” She said it remains under review and and that they’d seek to “more forward as expeditiously as possible.”

Gallery by photo services

Cooper said he has “received no response whatsoever” regarding specific concerns with Bolton’s chapter on Ukraine since his Jan. 24 email in response to Knight’s letter. “We do not believe that any of that information could reasonably be considered classified,” Cooper said in the email.

Trump himself laid into Bolton in a Twitter thread Wednesday morning. The president said Bolton “begged” him for a job, and that he got it despite warnings to Trump not to hire him. “If I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now,” Trump said, adding Bolton wrote a “nasty & untrue book” containing classified information. “Who would do this?”

Bolton’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

It’s not yet clear whether enough Republicans would agree to call Bolton to testify. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday it’s an uphill fight to get enough Republicans to agree to call witnesses.

Here’s the Story on Impeachment, Trump and Ukraine: QuickTake

Regardless, Bolton’s previous comments were fueling the conflict between Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, said Bolton had privately urged Democrats to probe the administration’s handling of Ukraine shortly after his departure from the White House.

The Republican Party, however, pointed to an August 2019 interview in which Bolton described “warm and cordial calls” between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Trump tweeted the video, saying only: “GAME OVER!”

(Updates with White House spokesman’s comments in sixth paragraph.)

--With assistance from Jordan Fabian.

To contact the reporter on this story: Josh Wingrove in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at [email protected], Joshua Gallu, Justin Blum

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?2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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