Bolton was no pa­triot on im­peach­ment

He with­held as­ton­ish­ing amounts of in­for­ma­tion


Last week, we wit­nessed the reemer­gence of John Bolton, the pres­i­dent’s for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, and the re­lease of his book. In it, Bolton de­scribes his per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences with Don­ald Trump and his great alarm at Trump’s in­com­pe­tence, his dan­ger­ous sub­or­di­na­tion of our na­tional se­cu­rity to his own per­sonal in­ter­ests, and his fun­da­men­tal in­de­cency.

In short, Bolton is telling Amer­i­cans what we al­ready know. That the pres­i­dent is ex­actly what he ap­pears to be: petty, self-serv­ing, ig­no­rant and ut­terly sup­pli­cant to au­to­crats in China, Turkey, North Korea and Rus­sia.

We proved dur­ing the im­peach­ment trial that Trump with­held hun­dreds of millions in mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine to co­erce that coun­try into an­nounc­ing a sham in­ves­ti­ga­tion of his po­lit­i­cal ri­val. Bolton con­firms our case and pro­vides ad­di­tional ev­i­dence of that fla­grant abuse of power by pro­vid­ing a first­hand ac­count of how Trump con­firmed this il­licit quid pro quo dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion they had. More­over, Bolton also cor­rob­o­rates the tes­ti­mony of Gor­don Sond­land, the for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to the Euro­pean Union, who tes­ti­fied that “ev­ery­one was in the loop.” In­deed they were, in­clud­ing the sec­re­tary of State, the De­fense sec­re­tary and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr.

But Bolton does more than that. Dur­ing the trial, I raised a hy­po­thet­i­cal ques­tion about China in­ter­ven­ing in our elec­tion and whether Trump would re­sist such in­ter­fer­ence — or of­fer China a bet­ter trade deal, in­stead. As it turns out, this was no hy­po­thet­i­cal. Bolton de­tails how Trump sought re­elec­tion help from China, at one point beg­ging Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping for as­sis­tance and ap­par­ently of­fer­ing trade con­ces­sions to get it.

Ac­cord­ing to Bolton, Trump also un­der­mined the val­ues of our coun­try by telling Xi that not only was it ap­pro­pri­ate for the Chi­nese leader to im­prison millions of Uighurs in de­ten­tion camps, but also that it was the right thing to do. This is a stun­ning be­trayal of ev­ery­thing Amer­ica stands for and can only be un­der­stood in the con­text of Trump’s des­per­a­tion to se­cure China’s help for his re­elec­tion.

With­hold­ing de­tails for profit

No won­der, too, that while a new virus was threat­en­ing the health of our cit­i­zens, Pres­i­dent Trump con­tin­ued singing China’s praises while know­ing that China was con­ceal­ing im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion about the virus’ spread.

Most damn­ing, though, is Bolton’s con­fir­ma­tion of our cen­tral charge dur­ing Trump’s im­peach­ment — that the coun­try could not trust Trump to do what’s right for the United States but only what was right for Don­ald Trump. As Bolton wrote: “I am hard-pressed to iden­tify any sig­nif­i­cant Trump de­ci­sion dur­ing my ten­ure that wasn’t driven by re­elec­tion cal­cu­la­tions.”

Given his damn­ing por­trait of a dan­ger­ously out-of-con­trol U.S. pres­i­dent, and the as­ton­ish­ing de­gree to which Bolton pos­sessed ev­i­dence di­rectly rel­e­vant to our im­peach­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion, what are we to make of his de­ci­sion to with­hold this in­for­ma­tion un­til he could profit from it? Only this, that Bolton is no pa­triot. To the same ex­tent and in the same de­gree in which he con­demns Trump, Bolton in­dicts him­self for putting profit above pa­tri­o­tism.

Thank­fully, there were true pa­tri­ots on Bolton’s staff and else­where in the gov­ern­ment that told Congress what they knew when asked by the House to tes­tify about Trump’s cor­rupt scheme. They did the right thing, some­times at sig­nif­i­cant per­sonal and pro­fes­sional cost. Army Lt. Col. Alexan­der Vind­man has faced a re­tal­ia­tory fir­ing from the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and now could be de­nied a pro­mo­tion be­cause he told the truth. Be­cause in his in­deli­ble words, “This is Amer­ica . ... And here, right mat­ters.”

Unimag­in­able dam­age done

Bolton had his op­por­tu­nity to join Vind­man, Fiona Hill, Tim Mor­ri­son, Marie Yo­vanovitch, Bill Tay­lor and many oth­ers who dis­played great courage in tes­ti­fy­ing. But he re­fused. Re­peat­edly.

And though it feels like a life­time ago, it has hardly been five months that I asked the Se­nate this rhetor­i­cal ques­tion about Trump — “How much dam­age can he do be­tween now and the next elec­tion? A lot. A lot of dam­age.”

Over 125,000 Amer­i­cans are now dead from COVID-19. Tens of millions are un­em­ployed. Dur­ing a time of na­tional reck­on­ing over sys­temic racism, Trump does noth­ing but sow di­vi­sion and use the levers of his power to at­tack his en­e­mies. And it’s only June.

When our history is writ­ten, Trump will be judged harshly, as will those Repub­li­can sen­a­tors who re­fused to stand up to him in the face of such graphic ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing and un­fit­ness. But nei­ther will it be kind to Bolton, who had a chance to make a dif­fer­ence and chose to make a profit in­stead. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chair­man of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, led the Trump im­peach­ment trial. WANT TO COM­MENT? Have Your Say at let­ters@us­ato­, @us­ato­day­opin­ion on Twit­ter and face­­ato­day­opin­ion. Com­ments are edited for length and clar­ity. Con­tent sub­mit­ted to USA TO­DAY may ap­pear in print, dig­i­tal or other forms. For let­ters, in­clude name, ad­dress and phone num­ber. Let­ters may be mailed to 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, VA, 22108.

Rep. Adam Schiff chairs the House in­tel­li­gence panel.

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