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Report Revives Democrats' Call For Bolton To Testify In Senate Trial

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We got a note last night from the office of a Republican senator. He was scheduled to be on today's program but asked to postpone because he expected he would be asked about former National Security Adviser John Bolton, which is a fair question, his office said, but the senator wants more details before commenting. That postponement by a juror in the president's trial suggests the importance of news we learned last night. John Bolton is writing a memoir of his time in President Trump's White House. The New York Times first reported on the contents of Bolton's manuscript. It says Bolton was in the room when President Trump explicitly said he wanted military aid to Ukraine blocked until he got investigations into his political rivals, including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Bolton's lawyer confirms the manuscript leaked. And NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez is here. Hey there, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: How are you?

INSKEEP: So Republicans want a little more time to think over this development. Do Democrats know what they think of it now?

ORDOÑEZ: They definitely know that this is an explosive revelation, and that's in their words. You know, they are hoping that this will certainly bolster their argument for calling Bolton as a witness. They say it directly undercuts President Trump and his team's central argument that he did nothing wrong. The stories you kind of pointed out are accounts from multiple people - none of them are named but who had seen drafts of the book. We did get a statement from Bolton's lawyer, Charles Cooper, I want to add. And he did not take issue with The Times' reporting. He said he had given a copy of the manuscript to the White House for a standard security review. And he said basically that the article shows that the review process was corrupted. I do want to note that President Trump is firing back. In a trio of tweets, he said he never told Bolton the aid was tied to investigations, and if Bolton is saying this, then he's just trying to sell books.

INSKEEP: There's a detail that's pretty important here I want to ask about, Franco. Bolton's lawyer says he gave the manuscript to the White House on December 30, which is weeks ago. Just on Saturday, the president's lawyers were before the United States Senate arguing that there was no connection or no effort to get Joe Biden investigated with this aid. They did not admit that there was a connection between withholding military aid and getting the investigations. At the time they said that before the United States Senate, it appears they had in hand John Bolton's manuscript, proving that that was false.

ORDOÑEZ: That's what appears, yes.

INSKEEP: So what do they do about that now?

ORDOÑEZ: I think what - I mean, I think that's what the big question is. I mean, that really throws a lot of things up in the air today. As you pointed out, some Republican jurors want more information. They want to know what's going on, and they're taking a little bit of a step back from their public speaking to see what's going on. I mean, this could have an impact or it could - you know, we shall see.

INSKEEP: So we will be following that even as the White House would like us to pay attention to some other news events. There's some counterprogramming this week, isn't there?

ORDOÑEZ: Yes. I mean, this is actually a big week for the White House. He's - President Trump is meeting today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and separately with Netanyahu's political rival, Benny Gantz. That's at the same time or around the same that Trump is soon to release his Middle East peace plan. On Wednesday, he's going to have a ceremony to sign the much anticipated trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. And he's got two campaign rallies this week.

INSKEEP: And what are you hearing from Republican strategists about whether this works?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, they are saying this is good counterprogramming. I talked to Ryan Williams. He's a Republican strategist. He said the challenge is whether Trump can stick to the script without getting pulled into the impeachment drama.

RYAN WILLIAMS: He needs to remain disciplined. Everybody needs to be singing from the same song sheet in order to drive a message. And if the president is tweeting or talking about something else, he's undercutting the message that his advisers and his administration are trying to drive.

ORDOÑEZ: I mean, look. His busy schedule offers him an opportunity to promote issues that are important to him and his Republican base. But not surprisingly, critics are accusing him of trying to distract from impeachment.

INSKEEP: I guess we should mention the president tweeted more than 140 times in a single day the other day. Franco, thanks so much.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Franco Ordoñez. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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