As the Trump administration's extortion of Ukraine came into clearer focus earlier this year, former national security adviser John Bolton pointedly told a top aide he didn't want any part of the "drug deal" that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other Trump allies were cooking up. So the news that Mulvaney is now trying to a join a key impeachment lawsuit filed by Bolton's former deputy has Bolton a tad testy, according to the Washington Post. Bolton allies say he was "flabbergasted" by Mulvaney's surprise bid on Friday to intrude on the lawsuit that could decide whether several top Trump officials testify in the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. On Monday, both the deputy, Charles Kupperman, and House Democrats told the court that Mulvaney should be prevented from joining the suit.
Bolton and Mulvaney have played opposing roles in the Ukraine scandal enveloping the White House according to the impeachment testimony released to date. While Mulvaney was reportedly instrumental in placing a "hold" on $400 million in security aid to Ukraine, Bolton allegedly viewed efforts to pressure the U.S. ally into investigating Trump's political rivals as inappropriate and tried to stem the push.
Bolton and Mulvaney appear to be at cross purposes once again as they eye a lawsuit in which former deputy national security adviser Kupperman seeks a ruling on whether he should ignore a congressional subpoena for his testimony at the direction of the White House. Allies of Bolton, who is represented by the same lawyer as Kupperman, have suggested that Bolton stands ready to testify before Congress in the impeachment inquiry if a judge rules that the congressional subpoena takes precedence over the White House directive.
In fact, Bolton almost appears to be chomping at the bit to do so as long as he has the legal cover of a court ruling. His attorney, Charles Cooper, sent a letter to congressional investigators disclosed on Friday teasing the notion that Bolton could provide fresh insights on "many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far." The letter appeared to be an attempt to entice Democrats into continuing to seek testimony from the former officials after the committees withdrew their subpoena of Kupperman, saying they would simply look to a separate case seeking the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn that is further along in the process.
UPDATE: Mulvaney withdrew his request to join the suit Monday. He will now simply follow Trump’s orders and ignore the congressional subpoena, which seems to be what he wanted to do all along under the cover of a court ruling.
"We are dismayed that the committees have chosen not to join us" in seeking a resolution from the courts, Cooper wrote to House Democrats. "Dr. Kupperman stands ready, as does Ambassador Bolton, to testify if the Judiciary resolves the conflict in favor of the Legislative Branch's position respecting such authority," he added.
Mulvaney, however, appears to be seeking the cover of a court ruling to defy the congressional subpoena. Interestingly, he also hired private representation rather than simply allowing White House lawyers to speak on his behalf as a current Trump official.
Despite the fact that House lawyers withdrew their subpoena of Kupperman, the federal judge in the case refused to dismiss the suit in which he had scheduled a hearing for Dec. 10. House lawyers decided that was too long to wait, with House Intelligence chair Adam Schiff saying the suit was only serving to "delay, deny, obstruct." But with Mulvaney's latest legal maneuvering and three critical pieces of testimony hanging in the balance, House Democrats may choose to reevaluate their legal and political strategy.