Donald Trump has denied communicating to former national security adviser John Bolton that he wanted to freeze security aid to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats.
“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” the President tweeted on Monday (Washington time).
“With that being said,” Mr Trump continued, “the … transcripts of my calls with President Zelensky are all the proof that is needed, in addition to the fact that President Zelensky & the Foreign Minister of Ukraine said there was no pressure and no problems.”
Mr Trump later said: “I haven’t seen a manuscript. But I can tell you nothing was ever said to John Bolton, but I have not seen a manuscript. I guess he’s writing a book, I have not seen it.”
…transcripts of my calls with President Zelensky are all the proof that is needed, in addition to the fact that President Zelensky & the Foreign Minister of Ukraine said there was no pressure and no problems. Additionally, I met with President Zelensky at the United Nations…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2020
The President’s denial of claims in an unpublished manuscript by Mr Bolton has not softened pressure on Republicans to call the since-ousted adviser as a witness in Mr Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.
The New York Times reported on a leaked transcript from Mr Bolton’s upcoming book detailing how Mr Trump allegedly told him that $400 million in Ukraine aid was tied to an investigation into his political rivals, including former US vice-president Joe Biden.
A spokesperson for Mr Trump’s National Security Council said Mr Bolton’s book is under “pre-publication review”, and that “no White House personnel outside NSC have reviewed the manuscript”.
The Times‘ report, which did not quote the manuscript but cited multiple people describing Mr Bolton’s account, might undercut a key element of Mr Trump’s defence: That there was no quid pro quo when he asked Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy to investigate Mr Biden and his son Hunter in a July phone call.
Mr Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to oppose Mr Trump in the November 3, 2020, election. His son worked for a Ukrainian energy company while Mr Biden was vice-president.
In a statement, a lawyer for Mr Bolton suggested the Times’ account was accurate and said he had submitted Mr Bolton’s book manuscript to the National Security Council on December 30. Such a move is a standard security review for classified information.
“It is clear, regrettably, from The New York Times article published today that the prepublication review process has been corrupted and that information has been disclosed by persons other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript,” the lawyer, Charles Cooper, said.
The report drew Democratic demands that the Republican-led Senate, which is conducting a trial on whether to remove Mr Trump from office after his December 18 impeachment by the Democratic-led House of Representatives, call Mr Bolton as a witness.
Democrats need to win over at least four Senate Republicans to approve the calling of witnesses. Mr Bolton said this month he was willing to testify in the trial if a Senate subpoena was issued.
The White House, which with Senate Republican leaders has resisted calling witnesses, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the New York Times report, nor did Jay Sekulow, who is helping lead the Republican President’s defence.
“There can be no doubt now that Mr Bolton directly contradicts the heart of the President’s defence and therefore must be called as a witness at the impeachment trial of President Trump,” the seven Democratic House “managers” prosecuting the case against Mr Trump in the Senate said in a statement.
“There is no defensible reason to wait until his book is published, when the information he has to offer is critical to the most important decision Senators must now make – whether to convict the President of impeachable offences,” it added.
Democrats have said they are eager to hear testimony by Mr Bolton, who was involved, as his own lawyer previously said, in “many relevant meetings and conversations” involving issues at the heart of Mr Trump’s impeachment.
Mr Bolton left his post in September after disagreements with the president. Mr Trump said he fired him. Mr Bolton said he quit.