Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said at a lecture in Florida on Monday that he believes John Bolton, who alleges in an unreleased memoir that President Trump told him that he was withholding military aid to Ukraine to force its government to announce an investigation into a political rival, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
“If John Bolton says that in the book I believe John Bolton,” Kelly reportedly said at a lecture in Sarasota. When Kelly took his post in 2017, he was seen by analysts as one of the “adults in the room” to manage Trump. Kelly departed the White House after eighteen months when his relationship with Trump was fractured beyond repair.
“Every single time I was with him ... he always gave the president the unvarnished truth,” the retired general said. “I mean half of Americans think this process is purely political and shouldn’t be happening but since it is happening the majority of Americans would like to hear the whole story.”
“I think if there are people that could contribute to this, either innocence or guilt ... I think they should be heard,” he added.
Whether Trump called for a quid pro quo is the central question of the impeachment trial. Senate Republicans largely resisted Democrats’ calls for witnesses and White House lawyers contend there is no one with direct knowledge of the allegation to call on the stand.
Bolton has ignored House Democrats’ pleas for testimony but has said he’d comply with a subpoena from the Republican-controlled Senate.
Democrats need four senators to cross the aisle to be able to subpoena Bolton. Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins both said they would vote in favor of subpoenaing witnesses. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander previously expressed interest but have not committed to voting with Democrats.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) proposed lawmakers be given access to Bolton’s manuscript and that the former national security advisor should speak publicly. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s most ardent defenders, supported Lankford’s proposal but said that lawmakers should be able to review it in a classified setting where they can “make their own determination.”
Senate minority leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), rejected Graham proposal as “absurd.”
“It’s a book,” Schumer said of Bolton’s manuscript, which is set to publish in March. “There’s no need for it to be read in the SCIF unless you want to hide something.”
President Trump disputed Bolton’s assertion, tweeting that he “NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens.”
“If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” he added.
Trump’s defense team has hinted it would invoke executive privilege to block Bolton from testifying, which is unlikely to hold up in federal court if challenged.