U.S. President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton changed his tune on how he felt about the commander-in-chief’s July 25 call with his Ukrainian counterpart after he was fired from his White House post.
While Bolton claims he resigned in early September 2019, Trump said he fired him.
On August 27, 2019, Bolton described Trump’s July 25 phone conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) as “very warm and cordial calls” and acknowledged that corruption poses a significant problem for Ukraine.
However, Bolton’s story changed after Trump allegedly fired him.
Bolton now claims he was concerned about the contents of the July 25 conversation between Trump and Zelensky. The phone call is at the heart of the impeachment and ongoing Senate trial to remove or acquit Trump.
A “whistleblower” complaint accuses Trump of engaging in a quid pro quo in which he coerced Zelensky during the call to investigate corruption allegations against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, as well as potential 2016 election interference on behalf of the Democrats, all in exchange for U.S. aid. The complaint triggered the impeachment probe. Trump ultimately became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached, courtesy of the Democrat majority in the House. No Republicans voted to impeach him.
Trump’s defense team, the president himself, and Zelensky have denied the “whistleblower’s” claims. Moreover, the Trump administration released the aid to Ukraine in September 2019 without the Eastern European country having to do anything in return.
Citing an unpublished manuscript of an upcoming book by Bolton, the New York Times reported that the former White House official wrote that Trump told him he was freezing the aid to push Ukraine to launch the investigations.
Trump denies Bolton’s assertion, and the White House has threatened to block the publication of his book unless he removes classified information.
The Times, citing the manuscript, also reported that Bolton raised concerns about the July 25 Trump-Zelensky call, noting:
Bolton also said that after the president’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine, he raised with Attorney General William Barr his concerns about [Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy] Giuliani, who was pursuing a shadow Ukraine policy encouraged by the president, and told Barr that the president had mentioned him on the call. A spokeswoman for Barr denied that he learned of the call from Bolton; the Justice Department has said he learned about it only in mid-August.
While testifying behind-closed-doors during the House Democrat’s partisan impeachment inquiry, Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor alleged on October 22 that Bolton was opposed to the July 25 call, according to transcripts of his testimony released in November.
Taylor’s testimony suggesting a change of heart by Bolton regarding his position on the July 25 call came after Trump said he fired the former national security adviser.
“Ambassador Bolton was not interested in having — did not want to have the call because he thought it was going to be a disaster,” Taylor testified. “He thought that there could be some talk of investigations, or worse, on the call.”
“Turned out he was right,” he added. “So he didn’t want to have the call.”
During his interview with RFE/RL, however, Bolton had nothing but praise for Trump’s call with Zelensky, Sean Davis, co-founder of the Federalist, acknowledged via Twitter on Wednesday.
Bolton told the news outlet back in August:
[Zelensky] and President Trump have already spoken twice [in April and July 2019]. The president called to congratulate President Zelensky on his election and on his success on the parliamentary election. They were very warm and cordial calls. … The success of Ukraine maintaining its freedom, its system of representative government, a free-market economy free of corruption, and dealing with the problems of the Donbass and the Crimea are high priorities here obviously and high priorities for the United States as well.
Democrats have argued that Trump’s call for an investigation into White House hopeful Joe Biden amounts to an attempt to interfere in the 2020 presidential elections. Officials from inside and outside the Obama administration and news outlets, however, have suggested that Trump’s concerns about corruption linked to Joe and Hunter Biden have merit.