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Westlake Legal Group > John Bolton

Report: Bolton negotiating with House Dems to testify on Ukraine

Westlake Legal Group b-6 Report: Bolton negotiating with House Dems to testify on Ukraine Ukraine Trump tim morrison The Blog sondland john bolton House deposition democrats Bill Taylor aid

I can already see the Time “Person of the Year” cover with Bolton’s picture on it. Caption: “The Man Who Brought Down a President.”

For extra drama, maybe Bolton will finally reveal in that same issue that he’s the “Anonymous” who was working for the Resistance inside Trump’s administration the whole time.

I kid, but the prospect of a deposition is real. And as noted last night, Bolton figures to be a potentially important witness.

Lawyers for former national security adviser John Bolton have had talks with the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry about a possible deposition, according to a source familiar…

As House members who serve on the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees have been interviewing witnesses in private, some of the committees’ Democrats have said they believe there’s a need for Bolton to testify.

As a Twitter pal said yesterday, I can’t believe he’s going to get Trump impeached just because Trump wouldn’t let him start a war.

There’s news today about another potentially important witness. The figure who came up most often in Bill Taylor’s testimony earlier this week was Tim Morrison, an expert on Russia and Europe who served under Bolton on the National Security Council and who was on the call between Trump and Zelensky on July 25. Morrison is already set to testify. The newsy part, per CNN, is that he’s supposedly going to corroborate Taylor’s bombshell testimony about a quid pro quo — but with a key caveat.

[T]wo sources also tell CNN that Morrison will contend that he didn’t see anything wrong with what the Trump administration did, while one of the sources said there will be “nuance” over what Morrison intends to say.

Taylor testified that he was “alarmed” to learn from Morrison that the Trump administration “conditioned” not only a Trump-Zelensky White House meeting but also the military assistance on the investigations.

Taylor said that Morrison told him about a conversation between Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, and Andriy Yermak, a Zelensky aide. Sondland told Yermak in September that the aid “would not come” until Zelensky “committed to pursue the Burisma investigation,” according to Taylor’s testimony.

I’m not sure it’ll work to Trump’s benefit if Morrison confirms that everything Taylor said is true, up to and including Sondland warning the Ukrainians that they needed to do something on Biden to get their aid, but subjectively he just didn’t see what the big deal was. I guess it depends on why Morrison didn’t think it was a big deal. Does he have reason to believe that Trump wasn’t looped in on what Sondland was doing, in which case he’d be helpful to Trump’s defense? Or is he just sort of “meh” on the president using taxpayer funds to squeeze foreign powers on corruption probes that just so happen to focus on the frontrunner in the other party’s presidential primaries?

Either way, Morrison is notable because of his firsthand knowledge of some of the key events, like the call. It’s fair to knock the whistleblower complaint for hearsay, relaying little more than second-hand information, but that’s what the inquiry was for. To haul in the people who were actually there as the Ukraine business was carried out and hear it from them directly. The whistleblower probably won’t testify at Trump’s trial but Sondland, Taylor, and Morrison will.

In lieu of an exit question, read this other CNN piece addressing one of the mysteries of the Ukraine case: After blocking Ukraine’s military aid throughout the month of August, why did Trump finally relent and hand it over on September 11? In the abstract, that undercuts the idea of a quid pro quo. After all, Ukraine never did publicly commit to reopening the Burisma and CrowdStrike probes until later, after they had the money in hand. Trump forking over the cash in advance is potential evidence that he wasn’t using it for leverage after all. The CNN story argues, though, that all sorts of political grenades about a quid pro quo were starting to go off around the president just before he coughed up the money, which may have spooked him into doing it. Members of Congress were demanding to know why it hadn’t been turned over, with Democrats ready to block Pentagon funding over it; people at OMB were allegedly worried they’d be in legal trouble if the money didn’t go out before September 30; and just two days before, on September 9, the House Oversight Committee opened an investigation into what Trump and Rudy were doing with Ukraine. Whispers about irregularities had also leaked into the press, with WaPo running an editorial about a possible quid pro quo on September 5 under the eye-popping headline, “Trump tries to force Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election.”

Here’s a bit from the CNN piece that I hadn’t heard before, though: “That same week, Mulvaney and other top White House officials first learned about the whistleblower complaint. While White House lawyers had known about the complaint for weeks, news of its existence was starting to spread within the West Wing.” Either Trump first discovered that week that people in the intel bureaucracy were scrutinizing his dealings with Ukraine or he realized that the rest of the world was about to discover it. And so, perhaps, he decided to just get rid of the hot potato by finally handing the aid over. If he was about to be accused of a quid pro quo, best not to have the quid still in hand while awaiting the quo.

The post Report: Bolton negotiating with House Dems to testify on Ukraine appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group b-6-300x153 Report: Bolton negotiating with House Dems to testify on Ukraine Ukraine Trump tim morrison The Blog sondland john bolton House deposition democrats Bill Taylor aid   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Report: Bolton negotiating with House Dems to testify on Ukraine

Westlake Legal Group b-6 Report: Bolton negotiating with House Dems to testify on Ukraine Ukraine Trump tim morrison The Blog sondland john bolton House deposition democrats Bill Taylor aid

I can already see the Time “Person of the Year” cover with Bolton’s picture on it. Caption: “The Man Who Brought Down a President.”

For extra drama, maybe Bolton will finally reveal in that same issue that he’s the “Anonymous” who was working for the Resistance inside Trump’s administration the whole time.

I kid, but the prospect of a deposition is real. And as noted last night, Bolton figures to be a potentially important witness.

Lawyers for former national security adviser John Bolton have had talks with the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry about a possible deposition, according to a source familiar…

As House members who serve on the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees have been interviewing witnesses in private, some of the committees’ Democrats have said they believe there’s a need for Bolton to testify.

As a Twitter pal said yesterday, I can’t believe he’s going to get Trump impeached just because Trump wouldn’t let him start a war.

There’s news today about another potentially important witness. The figure who came up most often in Bill Taylor’s testimony earlier this week was Tim Morrison, an expert on Russia and Europe who served under Bolton on the National Security Council and who was on the call between Trump and Zelensky on July 25. Morrison is already set to testify. The newsy part, per CNN, is that he’s supposedly going to corroborate Taylor’s bombshell testimony about a quid pro quo — but with a key caveat.

[T]wo sources also tell CNN that Morrison will contend that he didn’t see anything wrong with what the Trump administration did, while one of the sources said there will be “nuance” over what Morrison intends to say.

Taylor testified that he was “alarmed” to learn from Morrison that the Trump administration “conditioned” not only a Trump-Zelensky White House meeting but also the military assistance on the investigations.

Taylor said that Morrison told him about a conversation between Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, and Andriy Yermak, a Zelensky aide. Sondland told Yermak in September that the aid “would not come” until Zelensky “committed to pursue the Burisma investigation,” according to Taylor’s testimony.

I’m not sure it’ll work to Trump’s benefit if Morrison confirms that everything Taylor said is true, up to and including Sondland warning the Ukrainians that they needed to do something on Biden to get their aid, but subjectively he just didn’t see what the big deal was. I guess it depends on why Morrison didn’t think it was a big deal. Does he have reason to believe that Trump wasn’t looped in on what Sondland was doing, in which case he’d be helpful to Trump’s defense? Or is he just sort of “meh” on the president using taxpayer funds to squeeze foreign powers on corruption probes that just so happen to focus on the frontrunner in the other party’s presidential primaries?

Either way, Morrison is notable because of his firsthand knowledge of some of the key events, like the call. It’s fair to knock the whistleblower complaint for hearsay, relaying little more than second-hand information, but that’s what the inquiry was for. To haul in the people who were actually there as the Ukraine business was carried out and hear it from them directly. The whistleblower probably won’t testify at Trump’s trial but Sondland, Taylor, and Morrison will.

In lieu of an exit question, read this other CNN piece addressing one of the mysteries of the Ukraine case: After blocking Ukraine’s military aid throughout the month of August, why did Trump finally relent and hand it over on September 11? In the abstract, that undercuts the idea of a quid pro quo. After all, Ukraine never did publicly commit to reopening the Burisma and CrowdStrike probes until later, after they had the money in hand. Trump forking over the cash in advance is potential evidence that he wasn’t using it for leverage after all. The CNN story argues, though, that all sorts of political grenades about a quid pro quo were starting to go off around the president just before he coughed up the money, which may have spooked him into doing it. Members of Congress were demanding to know why it hadn’t been turned over, with Democrats ready to block Pentagon funding over it; people at OMB were allegedly worried they’d be in legal trouble if the money didn’t go out before September 30; and just two days before, on September 9, the House Oversight Committee opened an investigation into what Trump and Rudy were doing with Ukraine. Whispers about irregularities had also leaked into the press, with WaPo running an editorial about a possible quid pro quo on September 5 under the eye-popping headline, “Trump tries to force Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election.”

Here’s a bit from the CNN piece that I hadn’t heard before, though: “That same week, Mulvaney and other top White House officials first learned about the whistleblower complaint. While White House lawyers had known about the complaint for weeks, news of its existence was starting to spread within the West Wing.” Either Trump first discovered that week that people in the intel bureaucracy were scrutinizing his dealings with Ukraine or he realized that the rest of the world was about to discover it. And so, perhaps, he decided to just get rid of the hot potato by finally handing the aid over. If he was about to be accused of a quid pro quo, best not to have the quid still in hand while awaiting the quo.

The post Report: Bolton negotiating with House Dems to testify on Ukraine appeared first on Hot Air.

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Sure sounds like John Bolton is going to be an important witness on impeachment

Westlake Legal Group jb Sure sounds like John Bolton is going to be an important witness on impeachment witness Ukraine Trump trade The Blog quid pro quo lighthizer john bolton impeachment drug deal democrats

We already knew that from Fiona Hill’s testimony, I suppose. Hill told a House committee last week that Bolton knew enough about irregularities in Ukraine diplomacy to have once said to her, “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” and who instructed her to inform lawyers on the National Security Council, “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up.” Bolton knew something was up. But how much did he know, exactly?

WaPo has a story out tonight alleging that he knew enough to tell U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer in August that Trump was probably going to reject his recommendation to restore some of Ukraine’s trade privileges. August was a critical month in the Ukraine matter. That’s when Ukrainian officials reportedly finally figured out that their military aid had been delayed, and it’s also when Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker were trying to get Ukraine’s president to release a statement publicly committing to reopening the Burisma and CrowdStrike probes.

Why did Bolton suspect that Trump might want to delay restoration of trade relations with Ukraine too at that moment?

The August exchange between Bolton and Lighthizer over the trade matter represents the first indication that the administration’s suspension of assistance to Ukraine extended beyond the congressionally authorized military aid and security assistance to other government programs. It is not clear whether Trump directed Bolton to intervene over Ukraine’s trade privileges or was even aware of the discussion.

“It was pulled back shortly before it was going to POTUS’ desk,” one administration official said, referring to the Ukraine paperwork and using an acronym for the U.S. president. “Bolton intervened with Lighthizer to block it.”

Bolton’s intervention came as the president was telling White House aides that any assistance for Ukraine depended upon Zelensky publicly stating that his government would investigate Hunter Biden’s role as a board member of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, according to congressional testimony this week by acting U.S. ambassador William B. Taylor Jr…

Taylor testified Tuesday that Bolton was “so irritated” by a linkage between “investigations” and a proposed meeting between Trump and Zelensky that he had shut down a July 10 White House Ukraine policy gathering and told National Security Council staffers there “that they should have nothing to do with domestic politics.”

There could be an innocent explanation for not restoring Ukraine’s trade privileges at the time, with a source telling WaPo that there had been a delay due to a routine “country review process.” It seems odd, though, that an official as high-ranking as the National Security Advisor would make a point of warning the trade representative not to bother trying to restore Ukraine’s privileges for a reason as mundane as that, to the point where Lighthizer eventually withdrew his recommendation. The claim from Taylor about Bolton being “irritated” about the “investigations” is tantalizing context: Exactly how much did John Bolton know about an illicit quid pro quo involving state business and “domestic politics”?

And where does this leave Trump’s justifications for delaying Ukraine’s military aid? At various times he’s claimed that he withheld the aid because he wanted to make sure Europe gave its fair share of aid too and because he feared that the aid would be misappropriated due to foreign corruption. The fact that trade privileges were being withheld at the same time points to a more comprehensive reluctance to reward Ukraine with any new largesse from the United States, including in matters where concerns about corruption and Europe’s behavior weren’t as strong. So maybe there’s a different explanation that connects the two.

In any case, the key question is what Bolton knew, or thought he knew, to make him so skeptical that the trade request would be denied. It’s hard to imagine that Trump put him up to talking to Lighthizer or kept him in the loop about what was going on with Giuliani, Burisma, and CrowdStrike. After all, the story of Bolton’s final few months in office as NSA was of him being left *out* of the loop on certain major foreign policy matters. That’s why he ended up quitting; he’d lost influence. Why the hell would Trump would have involved him in the Ukraine matter if he was unwilling to involve him on, say, Iran and North Korea? Maybe Bolton doesn’t know all that much about what was going on.

But by the same token, given his disgruntlement, maybe Bolton will be perfectly happy to share what he does know with Democrats instead of clamming up as a good soldier for Trump. And of course it’s possible that he knows plenty about Ukraine despite Trump not looping him in. If the whistleblower was able to glean a basic picture of what was happening from chatting with witnesses, surely the National Security Advisor was able.

We’re clearly building to a season finale in our real-life reality show in which John Bolton buries Trump with his Ukraine testimony, or at least tries to. In lieu of an exit question, here’s Trump’s new White House press secretary affirming to “Fox & Friends” this morning that Never Trumpers are “human scum,” just like the president tweeted yesterday. I think, after Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, he finally found a spokesrobot who’s fully in sync with the tone of his White House. Meanwhile, if you can spare the time, I recommend reading this piece by law prof Philip Zelikow published a few days ago about what House Democrats might eventually charge Trump with in the articles of impeachment. Everyone believes it’ll be some generic “abuse of power” accusation but Zelikow makes a strong case that they can and should charge him with bribery. That’d be risky for Dems since then they’d have to prove the elements of an actual statutory crime, but it has the great advantage of being a crime that’s specifically named in the Constitution as proper grounds for impeachment. Senate Republicans couldn’t acquit Trump on grounds that what he’s done is “bad but not impeachable.” Bribery *is* impeachable, per Article II. The GOP would need to acquit him on the facts. And a battle for public opinion on the facts could be hard to win, especially if Bolton knows things and is willing to disclose them.

The post Sure sounds like John Bolton is going to be an important witness on impeachment appeared first on Hot Air.

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Leftists Suddenly Love John Bolton As He Becomes the Great Hope of the Resistance

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S. National security adviser John Bolton during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Hell has officially frozen over.

John Bolton, once derided as possessing an evil only second to Dick Cheney, now finds himself in a rather odd position. Namely, he’s becoming the great hope of the resistance, as details are emerging that he opposed Giuliani’s machinations with Ukraine.

This sent blue-checkmark journos and left-wing agitators rushing to latch onto what Bolton had reportedly said.

The editorializing by the Times that Bolton was “so alarmed” is fairly typical. What we know is that he wasn’t comfortable with Giuliani’s actions so he sent someone to check with White House lawyers on the legal aspects. That seems like a rather smart thing to do on his part. That’s not really scandalous, as it would have been Bolton’s job as a primary advisor to ensure there wouldn’t be blow-black. Even if Bolton was “alarmed” about Giuliani, and that’s a perfectly reasonable position to take, what is that supposed to add up to besides a guy’s opinion?

Further, what exactly does this mean in terms of impeachment or quantifying any supposed quid pro quo? Absolutely nothing. The fact that people were concerned, much like when dealing with the whistle-blower report itself, is not indicative of anything. Adam Schiff is spinning his wheels and he knows it. The transcript is out there. No further evidence has emerged (although they’ve desperately tried to pass some off) that points to any corroboration of corruption in the call. Ukraine did not know the aid was on hold and Trump never brought it up or threatened it. It’s really that simple.

We can argue all day whether discussing Biden was morally improper. It’s beside the point and a distraction. You don’t impeach a President a year before an election based on opinions of such matters. Where’s the high crime and misdemeanor here? It’s not there and no amount of interviews is going to suddenly produce it. The source document is out there and we know what it says.

As to the left suddenly embracing John Bolton, it’s hilarious in its own right. Bolton has been painted as a warmonger, human rights abuser, and awful human being by the Democrats for almost two decades. Now they want to look to him to provide fodder for their witch hunt? I have a feeling Bolton, even with his disagreements with Trump, isn’t going to be interested in playing that game.

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Enjoying the read? Please visit my archive and check out some of my latest articles.

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The post Leftists Suddenly Love John Bolton As He Becomes the Great Hope of the Resistance appeared first on RedState.

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An Official Was “Visibly Shaken” and “Frightened” About the Trump-Ukraine Call and It Exposes Something

Westlake Legal Group AS An Official Was “Visibly Shaken” and “Frightened” About the Trump-Ukraine Call and It Exposes Something whistle-blower Visibly Shaken. Frightening Ukraine Call Trump-Ukraine Politics Nancy Pelosi Laughable john bolton Joe Biden impeachment Front Page Stories Front Page Featured Story donald trump democrats Allow Media Exception adam schiff

If you are starting to feel like the waters are so muddy at this point that it’s hard to even grasp what exactly the Democrats are doing on Trump-Ukraine, you aren’t the only one. After Trump released the transcript without a fight, it essentially blew up their script. Like the Kavanaugh hearings, Schiff and company clearly expected to be able to slow roll out multiple “whistle-blowers” in order to build a narrative of there simply being too much smoke to not be a fire.

With the transcript out though, we’ve all read it. We know what is there and what’s not, which is why a story yesterday (which was first covered by Nick Arama here at RedState) left me scratching my head.

The whistleblower said that he made a record of the conversation he had with a White House official concerning the call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.”

The memo describes the official as saying the call was ‘crazy,’ ‘frightening,’ and ‘completely lacking in substance related to national security.’”

Had the transcript not been released, this would have been gold for Democrats. Much like the Mueller leaks, such a memo on its own completely lacks context and provides no actual evidence about whether the “official” in this case was honestly describing what happened.

The problem? We have the transcript.

Anyone that reads what’s in that call and is “visibly shaken” probably should go curl into the fetal position and just hang out a while. Further, it seems to me that it’s pretty scary that such people are actually in charge of large parts of our national security apparatus. This is an official that’s expected to stand up to China and Russia, but they are physically affected by a phone call that can only be described as mundane at best? At this point, if you are reading this, you’ve likely read the transcript. What exactly is in there that is “frightening?” Trump only mentions Biden in a passive way, never making a demand, making no threats, and not bringing up aid at all. Perhaps you think that’s bad, but objectively, it’s simply not what it was first described to be.

Of course, some are rooting for this official to be something more than he/she probably is.

If this is John Bolton saying this stuff, then Trump 100% did the right thing by getting rid of him. But I don’t believe that. Bolton may have had his differences with the President given his hawkish nature, but he certainly has more mental fortitude than a preteen girl. Or at least I’d hope he does.

But here’s what this all shows us. As I said in the beginning of this piece, the Democrat strategy on the matter was completely blown up when Trump released the transcript. They really expected to push out multiple complaints and memos, all painting a dire picture, without having to actually show their work. Now that we have the call, all these second and third hand accounts are falling flat. It was the Kavanaugh playbook all over again, except they can’t successfully run it now.

No doubt, there will be more “whistle-blowers” that come forward, all represented by this partisan law group that pays them for their complaints, but who cares? We have the call. This is why you are seeing Democrats shift to obstruction arguments and being scared to death to actually vote on impeachment. Trump called their bluff and they are scrambling.

————————————————

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The post An Official Was “Visibly Shaken” and “Frightened” About the Trump-Ukraine Call and It Exposes Something appeared first on RedState.

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Was John Bolton a source for the whistleblower?

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Having speculated wildly about this very scenario yesterday, I feel obliged to pass along someone else’s slightly better informed wild speculation on the same topic.

This may not even count as “wild,” come to think of it. Cockburn makes it sound here like his source has reason to believe that *Trump* sees Bolton’s hand in all this.

Did the ‘Stache help expose a scandal that could conceivably end Trump’s presidency? I’m guessing “no,” but…

One veteran political consultant in Washington tells Cockburn that Trump is afraid Bolton is the mastermind behind all the damaging leaks on his secret dealings with the Ukrainians; the whistleblower’s Deep Throat, if you will. This, he believes, is why Trump’s cheerleader in the Senate, Lindsay Graham, keeps asking who was feeding the CIA whistleblower who came forward with details of a call between Trump and the Ukrainian president (in which Trump asked for dirt on the Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden). Graham tweeted: ‘It is imperative we find out which White House official talked to the whistleblower and why. Why didn’t they lodge the complaint?’ The price of Graham’s support, the political consultant thought, would be an eventual military strike on Iran.

He went on: ‘Watch Bolton’s role in all this. If he is in mix then Trump has real problems. I hear that Trump was obsessed with Bolton when he [Trump] was in New York. When Trump says the real whistleblower is a spy and should be treated as such, he’s threatening Bolton. Bolton would not play his game in Korea, Iran, Russia or Ukraine. This is Trump’s Achilles heel.’ All of this is pure speculation but interesting speculation nonetheless. The next time Bolton pops up to make a speech criticizing his old boss, perhaps someone should ask him if he was aware of contents of the call with the Ukrainian president back in July – and if he was, did he do anything about it?

Logically, if Bolton were feeding the whistleblower information, you would expect the two to have been in proximity — i.e., you’d expect the whistleblower to work in the field of national security and to have White House access, just like the National Security Advisor. If so, the topic of Trump’s call with Zelensky might have conceivably come up between them in the course of official business. Or, if Bolton were feeding information to the whistleblower surreptitiously in hopes of seeing it reported to Congress, the fact that they worked in the same place in the same field would have given them an “innocent” reason to converse frequently, without anyone becoming suspicious at the time.

As it turns out, if you believe the New York Times, the whistleblower does work in national security and was stationed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for some period of time. He’s a CIA officer and was “detailed to work at the White House at one point,” the paper claimed. Hmmmm!

We have means and opportunity, then. But what about motive? The whistleblower complaint was submitted to the ICIG by August 12. Bolton wasn’t fired until September 10. If Bolton is a source, why’d he stay on the job knowing/expecting that the complaint would eventually land in Democrats’ hands and the resulting investigation would sniff him out as a source? It’s easy to imagine the ‘Stache seeking revenge on Trump with damaging leaks after his termination. But while he was still NSA?

On the other hand, he had been marginalized in his role by the president by mid-August and even sporadically humiliated by him, like when he was sent to Mongolia while Trump met Kim Jong Un at the DMZ. It’s not hard to imagine him bearing Trump a grudge while he still held his position in the West Wing. Maybe Bolton was whispering to the whistleblower about Ukraine not knowing or expecting what the guy might do with the information; maybe he thought he’d simply leak it to the media instead of filing a formal complaint that would trigger a Democratic investigation that risked sniffing Bolton out as a source. Once Bolton realized that he would probably be outed, maybe that was his cue to finally “resign” as NSA and bail out before things got hairy.

One question, though. How much direct contact would the National Security Advisor have with a random CIA officer detailed to the White House? Bear in mind that Bolton was known for not bothering much with traditional natsec mechanisms like the National Security Council, in which case his opportunities to interact with junior intel people in the building were probably even more limited than most NSAs’ were. If you want to believe Bolton’s a source, you need to explain how he arrives at the decision to share potentially explosive dirt about presidential misconduct with some dude who normally doesn’t even work inside the building. Did Bolton know the whistleblower before the guy arrived at the White House? Why would he have trusted him enough to leak to him?

My strong suspicion is that he had no involvement in the whistleblower process, or certainly no direct involvement. Maybe something happened where Bolton told a deputy what Trump said to Zelensky, the deputy told his own deputy, and that deputy told the whistleblower. I don’t think Bolton intended for anything to be revealed — although I also wouldn’t put it past him to start corroborating details for the media about what went on with Ukraine now that he’s unemployed again. Bolton and Mike Pompeo have been on the outs for months and lo and behold we found out yesterday that Pompeo was on the call with Trump and Zelensky on July 25. How’d the press nail that fact down? I wonder.

Here’s Bolton yesterday making his disagreements with Trump’s North Korea policy plain.

The post Was John Bolton a source for the whistleblower? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Game on, again: US, North Korea to restart nuke talks

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Donald Trump wanted another summit with Kim Jong-un. John Bolton wanted to crack down on Pyongyang, while North Korea wanted Bolton out. Looks like two of the three got what they wanted:

North Korea and the United States will resume negotiations Saturday, marking the first official talks between the two sides since President Trump met Kim Jong in June, the North Korean government announced Tuesday.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said the two countries “agreed to hold a working-level discussion on October 5th, following a preliminary contact on the 4th,” according to a statement carried by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency.

“I expect the working-level talks to accelerate positive developments in DPRK-U.S. relations,” Choe said, using the initials of her country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “Our representatives are ready to attend the working-level talks with the United States.”

Is it a coincidence that this sudden warmth follows just three weeks after Bolton got ousted as national security adviser? Couldn’t possibly be a coincidence. Pyongyang complained loud and long about Bolton’s presence in the mix of the diplomatic and security discussions, even more than they have complained about Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. Trump won’t part with his closest Cabinet official, but Bolton was expendable — a relatively cheap price to get North Korea back to the table.

Ten days ago, North Korea made its pleasure at the change known, hinting that the change would facilitate a restart:

North Korea’s new envoy to nuclear talks with the United States on Friday welcomed the ouster of President Trump’s former National Security Adviser, John R. Bolton, and the president’s suggestion that Washington would use a “new method” in negotiating with the North.

The envoy, Kim Myong-gil, hailed Mr. Trump’s “wise political decision” to approach North Korea-United States relations “from a more practical point of view” now that “a nasty troublemaker” — an apparent reference to Mr. Bolton — was out.

The decision to seek a new method was “the manifestation of the political perception and disposition peculiar to President Trump, which no preceding U.S. chief executives even wanted to think of nor were able to do,” Mr. Kim said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday.

One could call Bolton’s dismissal a quid pro quo in that sense, certainly diplomatically legitimate but still not necessarily wise. North Korea had apparently decided it wouldn’t negotiate with Bolton still around, in part because of the “Libya option” favored by Bolton, in which Pyongyang would have to totally surrender all its nuclear-weapons components before seeing any sanctions relief. That’s not much of a deal from their perspective, especially seeing how Moammar Qaddafi ended up in relation to US and Western forces. It’s not a coincidence either that Trump publicly belittled Bolton’s “Libya option” after firing him. If quid pro quo is too politically loaded a term these days, call it a prerequisite instead, or perhaps a password for entrée to a new round of talks.

Basically, the range for a deal has improved for North Korea, although not necessarily to any great effect. Yesterday, Bolton made his feelings publicly known about Trump’s diplomatic pas de deux with Kim and the likelihood they will honor any result without a boot on their neck. Bolton insisted that the US had not seen any benefit from Trump’s engagement, and that only a credible military threat would part Kim from his nuclear weapons program. Furthermore, Bolton hinted that Trump had lost the thread of what the talks were supposed to accomplish, although he never directly referenced his former boss:

Without mentioning Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Bolton said he wanted to “speak in unvarnished terms about the threat posed by North Korea,” and made it clear that he thought the president’s outreach to Mr. Kim had benefited only one side. And while Mr. Trump has made a deal with Mr. Kim one of his signature foreign policy goals, Mr. Bolton asserted that there had been no gains with his approach.

“The strategic decision Kim Jong-un is operating through is that he will do whatever he can to keep a deliverable nuclear weapons capability and to develop and enhance it further,” Mr. Bolton said during an appearance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Under current circumstances, he will never give up the nuclear weapons voluntarily.” …

Stopping nuclear proliferation in the Korean Peninsula is where the United States needs “to focus our attention,” Mr. Bolton said, “not can we get another summit with Kim Jong-un or what the state of staff-level negotiations are to achieve a commitment from North Korea it will never honor.”

Ouch. It’s not easy to dismiss Bolton on this point, too. So far Trump has gotten some photo ops and an end to nuclear tests out of Kim, the latter of which might have been necessitated by the collapse of their testing field at Punggye-Ri early last year anyway. They also have halted their longer range ballistic missile tests, although they have restarted short-range tests and are proceeding to work on ballistic-launch capability from submarines, a frightening game-changer. None of those concessions are significant enough to have increased the safety margins for the US and our allies, and all of them can be nearly instantly reversed, even if North Korea was inclined to honor agreements, which they aren’t.

The gladhanding might be worthwhile as a change in tone, but that’s not the necessity. At some point, all of the cheeriness between Kim and Trump has to pay off in rolling back their nuclear program significantly and permanently. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time. This time around Trump needs results, and now he has a chance to prove Bolton wrong by getting them — or right by failing to do so.

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Trump picks Bolton replacement, announces new Iran sanctions

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Mike Pompeo can cancel the order of additional letterhead. Donald Trump has chosen to promote from within for his new national security adviser and to let Pompeo run things from his perch at State. Trump made the announcement on Twitter, natch:

Robert O’Brien had landed on observers’ short lists for likely candidates to replace John Bolton, who left the national security adviser position last week. It’s a solid choice in that sense, one of continuity rather than a “team of rivals” pick as Bolton arguably was. He has a lengthy track record of service in the diplomatic arena, having worked under Bolton at the UN during the Bush administration but also with Secretaries Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton during the Obama administration. In this administration, he’s mostly known for his A$AP Rocky shuttle diplomacy, but O’Brien has much more substance than that.

That expertise will no doubt make Capitol Hill more comfortable with the direction of foreign policy under Trump. One has to wonder how it will play with both the MAGA non-interventionists and the GOP’s still-significant Bolton-friendly crowd, however. This looks more like a middle-of-the-road establishment pick than the kind of out-of-the-box thinking both sides wanted from Trump (in very different ways, of course). O’Brien might be cut from the same mold as Bolton, but one would suspect he wouldn’t have lasted long with the Obama administration if he was. He’s certainly not going to bring a Rand Paul approach, either.

It also seems at first blush to be an extension of Pompeo’s influence rather than an expression of Trump’s own vision. O’Brien doesn’t have the resumé of someone bringing in his own constituency to the job in the way that Bolton did, or for that matter H.R. McMaster did. While O’Brien has a significant track record at State, he’s not been setting policy there. If this is an extension of Pompeo’s authority, then perhaps O’Brien is meant to be a conduit for Kellyanne Conway’s suggestion that Pompeo fill both roles. This might be the next best thing.

At any rate, O’Brien will need to hit the ground running on his newly expanded portfolio. Trump has to decide between the Boltonist and Paulist options with Iran after the bombing of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure. For now, Trump is taking the more cautious route of expanding sanctions:

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin said the most urgent order of business for Pompeo will be to discuss the installation of better air defenses around the Saudis’ oil facilities, which have suddenly proven vulnerable to attack.

U.S. intelligence agencies were caught flatfooted, never expecting Iran would be so bold as to attack Saudi Arabia directly. A U.S. official told CBS News the U.S. has identified the exact locations in southern Iran from which the drones and cruise missiles were launched at Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.

It’s not yet clear what form that expansion will have, nor whether this is the extent of the public US response. Equally unclear, at least for now, is what influence O’Brien will really have on the answers to those questions.

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War and peace – with Iran, Trump-style

For Donald Trump, politics is personal.  Hence his G7 invitation to Vladimir Putin; his meeting with Kim Jong Un; even his take on Boris Johnson, which was as follows: “They’re saying Britain Trump. They call him Britain Trump. People are saying that’s a good thing. They like me over there, that’s what they wanted. That’s what they need.”

Which is not to say that he has no consistent policies at all.  He does: or rather, perhaps, he has attitudes, prejudices, reflexes.  One of these is to keep the United States out of wars abroad, or at least conflicts in which ground troops are committed: America First has succeeded neo-conservatism.

This isn’t to say that Trump won’t take military action abroad – he will.  But it tends to be undertaken either through proxies, as against ISIS, or via ordnance: consider his deployment of a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb in Afghanistan two years ago.  Theodore Roosevelt summed up his foreign policy as: “Speak softly but carry a big stick”.  Trump’s is: “Do diplomacy via Twitter, and carry the mother of all bombs”.

Iran is being hit hard by sanctions, and will be watching Trump closely.  On the one hand, it has seen him tear up Barack Obama’s nuclear deal and turn the sanctions screw.  On the other, it will have watched him declare that he has “good feelings” about a possible successor deal of his own, and there has been talk of a Jong-On type summit with Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s President.  After all, Trump sees himself as master of the Art of the Deal.

Furthermore, he has recently sacked John Bolton, a veteran of the neo-con years, who the President brought back as his National Security Adviser.  Trump came to distrust Bolton’s martial approach to Iran (and elsewhere).  In June, he backed off an airstrike against Iran as “not proportionate”, having been told that it would leave 150 dead, after declaring that America was “cocked and loaded for action”.

Iran’s asymetric drone attack against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia should be viewed against the context of this background.  Power in the country is peculiarly distributed: it is very for outsiders to work out exactly how much power is held by Rouhani; by Ali Khamenei, the country’s Supreme Leader; by the Majlis, military, clergy or the Revolutionary Guard at any one time.

The consensus at present is that the last is in the driving seat.  The attack may have been intended to help head off an American-Iranian rapprochment, complete with Trump-Rouhani summit; or it may actually have been crafted to help achieve the opposite, by reminding America of the consequences of war in the Gulf – including a destabilising rise in the oil price.  Or the truth may lie in between; there is no way of knowing.

All we can be sure of is that those sanctions are indeed hurting, that America has been turning the screw, and that Iran is striking out – whether through detaining western citizens or seizing British ships.  Trump is stepping back and letting the Saudis decide the scale of response to this latest Iranian ploy, or so it seems.

The President will be damned for whatever he does.  If America intervenes directly, he will be denounced as a warmonger; if he makes diplomatic overtures to Tehran, he will be condemned as an appeaser.  If he pursues his present course, he will be damned as a hands-off President who is prepared to let the region burn.

You may be alarmed by Trump conducting foreign policy by Twitter, deplore the frequency of his Apprentice-style firings, and worry about the intertwining of personal and political.  But there has been a queer core of prudence, even restraint, in the President’s foreign policy to date.  When it comes to his next steps on Iran, almost anything could happen.

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Kellyanne Conway: How about Pompeo for nat-sec adviser?

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Isn’t he already? For all intents and purposes, you betcha. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has steadily moved closer to Donald Trump over the last two-plus years on the direction of national security and foreign policy as others, such as James Mattis and John Kelly, have hit the exits. Bolton’s bolting leaves Pompeo as Trump’s last man standing:

The departure of John Bolton as national security adviser puts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the driver’s seat for the administration’s foreign policy debates.

With his chief rival for influence with the president suddenly out of the picture, Pompeo will have more autonomy and freedom to operate without being blocked by his polar opposite in style and temperament.

Why not, then, make it official? Kellyanne Conway tells Fox News Channel‘s Martha MacCallum that Trump has five others under consideration for nat-sec adviser, but Pompeo would be “five-plus.” And it wouldn’t be unprecedented, an argument Conway appeared very prepared to make this morning:

Watch the latest video at foxnews.com

“It wouldn’t be unprecedented,” Conway told Fox News, referring to Henry Kissinger’s occupation of both offices for two years under former Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

“Under that scenario, I would call that five-plus, as the number of candidates,” she continued. “But clearly, [the] secretary of state has the president’s ear and his trust, and has been making great strides in implementing the president’s agenda around the globe, and he will continue to be a very important, strong voice here as America’s top diplomat.”

Conway suggested that even if Pompeo does not assume leadership of the National Security Council from his perch at the State Department, he will play an outsized role advising the president on the selection of the administration’s fourth national security adviser.

“I believe that Secretary of State Pompeo is doing an excellent job over at State, and that he will, of course, have input into who the next NSC head is, as well,” she said. “But there are many people of diverse backgrounds, all solid candidates, I know first-hand the president is considering for that position.”

Is a Nixon/Ford precedent really all that politically beneficial? It does exist, though, and there’s no particular bar against it, although it does mean that the Senate has more influence over nat-sec direction by dint of its oversight of Secretaries of State. That might be cheery news for Senate Republicans concerned that the next person to fill Bolton’s role could end up being Rand Paul. In fact, I’d be surprised if Paul wasn’t under consideration for the job, given his frequent input to Trump already and Trump’s informal assignment of the Iran portfolio to Paul.

In fact, the rift among the GOP foreign-policy factions has erupted into the open after Bolton’s departure, with Paul on one pole and practically everyone else on the other. Liz Cheney has taken the lead in challenging Paul, and it’s getting ugly:

Fox News’s Steve Hilton denounced her and said her father, former vice president Dick Cheney, was “literally” responsible for “millions of deaths.” Two Republican state House members in Cheney’s home state of Wyoming authored a Washington Examiner op-ed calling on Cheney to “stop carping at Trump for rejecting endless war.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who could be Cheney’s Senate colleague in the relatively near future, lifted that op-ed up Wednesday and said, “I agree! Why do some neocons continue to advocate for endless wars?” Cheney shot back, “I stand with @realDonaldTrump and our men and women in uniform who will never surrender to terrorists, unlike @RandPaul, who seems to have forgotten that today is 9/11,” she said.

Paul’s chief political strategist, Doug Stafford, followed that up by tweeting at Cheney, “Actually, @realDonaldTrump loves @RandPaul and I’m pretty sure they both think your family is a bunch of chickenhawk warmongers who personally benefited from the military industrial complex and are responsible for thousands of lost lives and trillions of lost dollars.”

If there’s a better metaphor for the GOP’s current foreign policy transformation and crossroads, it’s tough to do better than a Paul scion feuding with a Cheney scion. But as Bolton’s excommunication and recent developments show, it’s clearly the Paul-ite, non-interventionist approach that is ascendant in the Trump administration.

That’s actually not clear at all, although it’s one of a few different currents at play. Trump can’t seem to make up his mind whether he wants a hardline approach to national security or go the full, Paulite non-interventionist route. Pompeo may be the best man to bridge that gap at the moment, but Trump needs to pick a strategy and stick with it, as I argue in my column for The Week:

One could propose that Trump’s reliance on the generals, as well as Bolton’s hiring, was intended to build the oft-claimed “team of rivals” around a president, but that doesn’t fit Trump’s temperament or instincts. It looked more like an attempt to knit all Republican factions together in the same administration to show that they can co-exist within a broad coalition. Unfortunately, Bolton’s exit — and that of other key national security team members — suggests the opposite is true.

This disconnect will force a day of reckoning on national security and foreign policy between Trump and GOP leadership, almost certainly sooner rather than later. Mattis has been circumspect about his relationship with Trump in public, but his new memoir on leadership and foreign policy stresses the values of teamwork and alliances, both of which Trump’s instincts discount. Bolton will likely be more vocal and direct about his conflicts with Trump on policy, even without a memoir to sell.

The debate that arises will test Republicans’ ability to overlook Trump’s non-interventionist impulses at a time when Trump needs as much party loyalty as possible. As his re-election bid approaches, Trump might need to make more of an effort to find middle ground with his party’s desire to project American power around the world, or risk losing too many allies at home to keep those peace efforts going.

If combining the roles under Pompeo can quell the Cheney-Paul tension in the GOP, then perhaps it’s the smart move. If Trump does decide to choose a separate nat-sec adviser, that candidate should be aware that Pompeo’s got the inside track with Trump, and that Trump’s mercurial approach to strategy will make even a subsidiary advisory position difficult at best.

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