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Jacob Greber

| Donald Trump is not yet out of the woods.

Just when it seemed the ’s historic trial was headed towards its inevitable conclusion this week or next, a bombshell account from his former national security advisor has thrown up a wild card and left the House reeling.

via apinews.org

Then national security adviser John Bolton listens to US President Donald Trump in 2018. AP

John Bolton’s claims directly challenge Mr Trump’s position that his decision to hold up crucial military aid to the Ukraine in its fight against Russia was unrelated to the President’s desire to pressure the allied country into smearing potential Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The report in The New York Times of Mr Bolton’s account has lit up what was an otherwise grinding impeachment process.

For the first time a direct witness to the President’s most intimate inner circle has offered a version of events that are, taken at face value, damning.


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Over dozens of pages, according to the Times, Mr Bolton describes how the Ukraine affair unfolded across several months leading up to his September departure last year from the national security job.

Mr Bolton’s appearance just as the Mr Trump looked to be heading for the finish line puts renewed pressure on Republican senators to support Democrat demands that they call the former advisor and others to appear.

Democrats have said they also want to hear directly from secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Mr Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.

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Several Republican senators signalled on Monday (Tuesday AEDT) that they would support a fresh round of Senate-issued subpoenas.

“I stated before that I was curious as to what John Bolton might have to say,” said Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican from Alaska and one of four party members who may back Democrats.

Votes on calling for witnesses and fresh administration documents are likely to take place later this week or early next week.

Mr Trump’s defence team – including Kenneth Starr, who headed the investigation that led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment two decades ago – began the second of three days of argument on Monday in favour of exonerating the President on two articles of impeachment that allege he misused the powers of his office and obstructed .

But even before they began, Capitol Hill was gripped by speculation about the significance of the Times revelations about Mr Bolton’s manuscript for a book due to be published in March.

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said: “it’s important to hear from John Bolton for us to make an impartial judgement.”

“I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton.”

One of Mr Trump’s staunchest Senate allies, Lindsey Graham said: “If there’s a need to add to the record, my view is that we’ll completely add to the record…if the Senate needs to secure testimony from John Bolton, then I will say so.”

The prospect of a senate floor appearance by Mr Bolton – a veteran hard-line Washington foreign policy hawk and political warrior – represents a grave threat to Mr Trump and his supporters who have long insisted the Democrat case is based on accounts from second and third-hand witnesses.

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Not only was Mr Bolton at the heart of the administration’s deliberations – his upcoming memoir is pointedly called “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir“, the former advisor left the administration abruptly last September, weeks after the Ukraine scandal erupted.

Mr Trump himself acknowledged last week in Davos: “I don’t know if we left on the best of terms. I would think probably not.”

“You don’t like people testifying when they didn’t leave on good terms, and that was due to me, not due to him.”

The lead Democrat trial manager, congressman Adam Schiff said he was pleased that Republican senators appeared to be reconsidering their opposition to extra witnesses.

“You can’t have a meaningful trial without witnesses and you certainly can’t have one without John Bolton”.

“This witness obviously has such relevant information to shed on the most egregious of all of the charges in the articles of impeachment – and that is that the President of the withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid from ally at war to help secure that nation’s help to help cheat in the next election.”

Jacob Greber writes about American politics, economics and business from our Washington bureau. He was previously our economics correspondent based in Canberra. Connect with Jacob on Twitter. Email Jacob at [email protected]

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