Bolton belatedly confirms Trump's Ukraine quid pro quo, defends not testifying in impeachment

John Bolton
(Image credit: Screenshot/Twitter/ABC News)

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton confirmed the central charge of the House impeachment case against President Trump, telling ABC News' Martha Raddatz in an interview broadcast Sunday night that Trump "directly linked" security assistance to Ukraine "with the investigation" of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Raddatz noted that Trump's impeachment lawyers said there was no first-hand evidence for this quid pro quo, and asked why Bolton did not speak up earlier — either when asked by House Democrats to testify or despite Senate Republicans refusing to compel his testimony in Trump's trial. Bolton said his testimony wouldn't have changed any Republican votes, argued that speaking up now is more damaging to Trump, and elaborated on his claim in his forthcoming book that Democrats impeached Trump incorrectly.

"I didn't think the Democrats had the wit or the political understanding or the reach to change what, for them, was an exercise in arousing their own base, so that they could say, 'We impeached Donald Trump,'" Bolton said. "They pushed the Republicans in the House into unanimous opposition to their view. And they essentially did the same thing to Republicans in the Senate." He told Raddatz that what Trump did with Ukraine was probably an impeachable offense, and he told USA Today he "probably would have" voted to convict Trump if he were a senator, though "honestly, we still don't know everything there is to know about Ukraine."

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) charged Bolton "chose royalty over patriotism" and was "arrogant" to refuse to testify before the House, but she said several Senate Republicans have told her Bolton's testimony would not have changed their vote. When asked about Trump's recent spate of disparaging words, Bolton quipped to USA Today: "You know, whoever hired Bolton should get fired."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.