Thursday was the day that former national security advisor John Bolton was scheduled to appear before the House impeachment inquiry … and he didn’t appear. Bolton’s attorney had previously made it apparent that the combative former NSC chief would “respond” to a subpoena, but he had also indicated to House staff that if Bolton received an subpoena, he would go to court to seek a clear ruling on his ability to testify. So the House did not issue a subpoena.
Instead, as reported by The Washington Post, Bolton’s appearance now hangs on a federal court ruling that says congressional subpoenas top unenforceable orders from the White House. Most likely, this ruling will come first in an outstanding case involving former White House attorney Don McGahn. The only question is whether the ruling will come in time to make Bolton a prominent witness in an impeachment process that could move to the Senate before the end of the year.
It’s clear that Bolton was deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal, and completely aware of the efforts underway to extort investigations connected with the 2016 election and Joe Biden in exchange for releasing already approved military assistance. Bolton even abruptly ended a meeting held in his office after becoming upset over Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s clumsy attempts to force a Ukrainian official to announce investigations that were clearly intended to provide a political advantage for Trump. He also advised members of his staff on how to handle complaints about Trump’s actions in Ukraine.
Bolton’s “abrupt departure” from the White House on September 10 was not at the time connected to the actions in Ukraine. But it’s not clear that his departure was almost exactly at the same time Congress was raising fresh concerns over Trump continuing to block the release of military assistance and followed complaints from multiple members of the NSC over Trump’s call to President Zelensky and the security threat represented by the actions of Rudy Giuliani and others.
Should the ruling come down quickly, Bolton is likely to be a star witness in the public phase of the impeachment inquiry. And if nothing else, the tweets between Bolton and Trump should be fantastic.