Donald Trump has been materially damaged by his Impeachment following John Bolton’s revelations about the president’s direct role in the Ukraine scandal, and it only looks to get worse for the GOP in the weeks and months ahead.
Even if the GOP-dominated Senate acquits the president, the political damage it’s suffered will spell disaster for the party.
Trump and his minions have tried mightily to obfuscate, cover-up and lie their way out of the scandal by hitting on the lack of direct evidence of the president’s involvement.
At the same time, the administration has refused to release any documents or make any aides available to testify. Despite the hypocrisy, it appeared to give GOP senators just enough cover to acquit the president.
But Bolton’s revelations are a game changer.
Not only does he directly implicate Trump in the quid pro quo at the heart of the scandal, but he also puts near insurmountable pressure on the Senate to call him as a witness.
According to a draft of Bolton’s upcoming book, Trump told the national security adviser in August he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into his leading political rival Joe Biden.
Bolton also implicated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr and provided key insights into the firing of the Ukrainian Ambassador, according to The New York Times, which first broke the story.
Pompeo reportedly acknowledged privately no basis existed that the ambassador was corrupt as alleged by president’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
After the president’s July phone call with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, Bolton said he expressed concerns to Barr about Giuliani’s activities.
Bolton said Giuliani was pursuing a shadow Ukraine policy at the president’s behest and said Trump had specifically mentioned him. Barr, however, has claimed he only learned about the call in mid-August, and not from Bolton.
Acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, was present for at least one phone call between the president and Giuliani when the ambassador was discussed, according to Bolton’s manuscript.
For his part, Trump denied Bolton’s account, in a Tweet:
“I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book. With that being said, the…”
But the president’s denial rang hollow, especially in the face of his history of lies and misstatements while in office.
Beyond that, Bolton writes that the Ukraine affair unfolded over several months and continued up until he left the White House last September.
He signaled earlier this month his willingness to testify before the Senate, if subpoenaed.
The pressure to call him, and possibly other administration officials to testify has been magnified by his revelations.
Trump’s denials make it all the more imperative to get Bolton on the record and under oath under penalty of perjury.
Some Senate Republicans say they were blindsided by the Bolton revelations; the administration reportedly received a copy on Dec. 30, but did not share it.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said today (Jan. 27) that it’s “increasingly likely” Republicans in the Senate will vote in favor of calling Bolton as an impeachment witness.
“I think it’s important for us to hear from John Bolton for us to be able to make an impartial judgment,” Romney told reporters. He also said he had spoken to other GOP senators about the subject, but declined to say whom, according to multiple reports.
Other Republicans have adopted the president’s line that Bolton is just fabricating or exaggerating facts to sell books.
But on the key question of whether Trump tried to enlist a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election, the evidence is now undisputable.
On that score, Trump has brought the GOP to the brink of self-destruction.
If Republicans vote on party lines to acquit Trump without calling witnesses or viewing documents, they’ll be accused of a cover-up, especially if more revelations come to light leading up to the elections.
The loss of credibility will hand election opponents a ready argument for their removal at the ballot box, one that will be hard to argue against.
In addition, they’ll cement a dangerous precedent that will allow future presidents to use the same stonewalling tactics to cover-up future, potentially impeachable offenses.
If Bolton testifies, he’ll likely cement the House’s case against the president. In that situation, Republicans would be wise to cut their losses and vote to remove the president.
It will not be the end of the world; far from it. It will give the GOP the chance to reclaim the moral high ground going into the elections and beyond.
It will also give Vice President Mike Pence, as the newly appointed president, time to rebuild the administration’s credibility and heal the divisiveness Trump has sown across the world.
Republicans will also be able to demonstrate the party’s support for the principles that underlie our democracy and constitution.
One thing is certain; with Trump, they’re playing with a losing hand that will only get worse with each new revelation, policy misstep or abuse of power.
Sweeping demographic changes, Trump’s mismanagement, tariff wars, misguided economic policies and general unpopularity already almost guarantee he will be one-term president–regardless of impeachment’s outcome.
If the GOP remains closely tied to him, it could be damaged for a generation or more.
If only 18- to 40-year-olds had voted in the 2016 election, Trump would have lost Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to a CNN voter analysis.
An estimated 10,000 new millennial voters are turning 18 every day this year alone, and they lean overwhelmingly Democratic.
Democrats not only took over the House during the mid-term elections, the party also flipped seven governorships, six state legislative chambers and more than 300 state House and Senate seats.
Trump’s actions, since then, have done nothing to ease voter outrage. To the contrary, he’s only made matters worse.
“I know that President Trump will go down as the first one-term President of this century, and almost certainly the last Republican President for a generation – and maybe longer,” says Brett Aitken Managing Director of Stansberry Research, a private publishing and investment research company in Baltimore.
“History shows it could banish not just President Trump, but his entire Republican Party, from power for the next 20 years or more.”