New details likely to emerge on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine
President Trump survived his impeachment trial, but new details about his dealings with Ukraine still could emerge as the president seeks reelection.
Most notable is whether John Bolton, Trump’s former national security advisor, can back up his reported claim in an unpublished memoir that the president told him he was withholding military aid for Ukraine in an effort to get its leaders to investigate a 2020 Democratic candidate, the key allegation in the impeachment case.
Details from Bolton’s manuscript leaked during the Senate trial, and White House officials said they would seek redactions of what they claim is classified information in it. Bolton denies that he reveals any classified data, but the fight could easily delay the book’s release, scheduled for mid-March.
Other information could emerge through public records lawsuits.
The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based nonprofit newsroom, has gone to court to get unredacted versions of two dozen emails from the Office of Management and Budget that include details on Trump’s order to freeze $391 million in security aid for Ukraine last summer.
The administration said the emails involve “presidential decision-making about the scope, duration and purpose of the hold on military assistance to Ukraine,” all key issues in the impeachment trial.
Democrats alleged that Trump withheld the money in an effort to press Ukraine’s new president to investigate Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while Biden was U.S. vice president.
Another potential problem for Trump looms just before the November election.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Soviet-born businessmen who worked with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, to dig up dirt on Biden in Ukraine, are scheduled to stand trial on campaign finance charges in New York on Oct. 5.
Since their indictment, Parnas has appeared to turn on Trump, granting media interviews and providing material to House Democrats, including a recording of a conversation with Trump about Ukraine.
The trial could provide an unflattering view on how two donors made their way into Trump’s inner circle, generating unwelcome headlines as the presidential campaign enters its final stretch.
Bolton refused to testify to the Democratic-led House impeachment inquiry last fall, but he later offered to testify to the Republican-led Senate if he were subpoenaed.
After Republicans voted to block new witnesses at the Senate trial, Democrats asked Bolton whether he would submit an affidavit under oath instead.
“He refused,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) said Wednesday on MSNBC. “So for whatever reason, he apparently was willing to testify before the Senate, but, apart from that, seems intent on saving it for his book. He’ll have to answer for that.”
Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a close Trump ally, said Bolton’s book and other new information won’t matter given the impeachment case that Democrats already presented.
“We know essentially what happened,” he said. “Somebody can supply more details about that, but there’s no new facts.”
It’s unclear how much Democrats will push to expand the record now that the trial is over.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said Democrats would continue holding oversight hearings on the Trump administration, but there are “no plans right now” to issue a House subpoena to Bolton.
“We have some cases in court now,” she told reporters Thursday. “If there are others we see as an opportunity, we’ll make a judgment at that time, but we have no plans right now.”
Charles Cooper, Bolton’s lawyer, did not respond to emails.
Bolton submitted his manuscript to the White House for review on Dec. 30. The government has a deadline of 30 working days to review such books, though lawyers said reviews typically take months, especially if a manuscript contains classified information.
In a letter to Cooper on Jan. 23, a White House official warned that the book contained “significant amounts” of top secret information, but did not say how long the review would take.
Lawyers who handle pre-publication review cases said Bolton has three options.
He can wait for completion of the government review and then sue if he disagrees with the results, but that could delay publication even further.
He could release the book, but government lawyers could take him to court and seize his royalties.
Or he could file a lawsuit on 1st Amendment grounds, arguing the government is taking unreasonably long to scrub the book for classified material.
Mark Zaid, an attorney who works on national security cases, said Bolton’s best option would be to sue the Trump administration to speed up the process and ensure a judge can weigh in.
“There are probably lots of discussions taking place behind the scenes,” said Zaid, who also works with government whistleblowers. He represents the intelligence official whose complaint about Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president led to the impeachment case.
Republicans have made clear that they are more interested in helping Trump build a case against Biden than in exhuming the Ukraine scandal.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) sent a letter to the Secret Service on Wednesday, the same day Trump was acquitted, asking for records that could show whether Hunter Biden “used government-sponsored travel to help conduct private business.”
The senators have reportedly received other records from the Treasury Department, leading to concerns from Democrats that administration officials are willing to comply with Republican requests while ignoring other oversight efforts.
Times staff writers Noah Bierman, Del Quentin Wilber and Sarah D. Wire contributed to this report.
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