Whose Witness Is Bolton?

The would-be impeachers had been salivating at the prospect that John Bolton, who President Trump had fired after 17 months as his national security advisor, would lend his undoubted “conservative bona fides” to their campaign to convince Americans that Trump is bad, awful, illegitimate, dangerous, even criminal.

Lately however, they have settled on doing with this potential witness what they have done with the ones who have appeared before them behind closed doors—namely, publicize such anti-Trump messages as they can ascribe to him, scrubbed of any other elements, sharpen it to fit their “narrative,” and leave him and others unable to alter it.

Were Bolton to be a witness in the impeachment hearings, what would he say? More importantly, what would he not say? Odds are, he would be a witness against impeachment, and for all the things for which he had worked over a lifetime—for the things which had gained him those bona fides.

Trump parted ways with Bolton because they had come to disagree. Bolton, never one to mince words, never dissembled his disagreements; nor would it occur to him to gainsay the president’s right to be advised by someone more congenial than himself.

On constitutional grounds, he would frustrate any attempt to have him recount anything that he told the president or that the president had told him, or that anyone else had said about the president. John Bolton the lawyer would refuse to divulge his own thoughts about any person or anything that he chose. He would, however, stress that thoughts and judgments attributed to him in the media are merely the opinions of those making the attributions.

Having thus cleared the decks, he would speak of Trump’s right to deal with foreign nations as he has, and on behalf of presidential supremacy over the bureaucracy. He would then filibuster the would-be impeachers, boring them to tears with lessons on the principles of foreign policy.

He would answer the question of what he thought of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president by citing the 1999 U.S. Ukraine Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, and by stating that the transcript of Trump’s words is consistent with that treaty. Asked about Trump’s alleged pressure on Ukraine through arms contracts etc. to help him politically at home, he would almost surely say something like, “I know of no such pressures—and I would have known had there been any.”

Bolton would deal with questions about Trump’s relationship with North Korea’s dictator—of which he is known to have disapproved, by stating that this was a legacy of a previous set of advisers, and that the difficulties of that relationship are typical of the problems inherent in all arms control negotiations: merely entering them implies confidence that the other side is acting in good faith. Clearly, Kim Jong-un is not doing so any more than the Soviet Union ever did. Trump is always accused of departing from longtime U.S policy. In this case, for better and worse, Trump is fully consistent with it.

Prompted or not, Bolton would use the strongest language to discredit the staff members of the National Security Council, chiefly detailees from the intelligence agencies, the Pentagon, and the State Department, for failing to support the policies of the president—the only person constitutionally authorized to make policy—and indeed who have effectively constituted a cabal to oppose and depose him.

Taking jobs as representatives of the president, as ambassadors and NSC staffers do, and then acting according to what they consider to be “higher loyalties” is simply dishonest. Using such dishonest persons to bolster an attempt to impeach the president on the pretend-ground that their policy preferences are superior to his, is politics of the most contemptible sort.

Bolton would divert questions about his differences with Trump into explanations of foreign policy fundamentals, applicable to all presidents. Do Trump’s copious words discredit America? Fact is, deeds do speak louder than words: Theodore Roosevelt was right in saying that words should be soft, and backed by big sticks.

What about alliances? Isn’t Trump wrecking them? America does not exist to serve alliances. Alliances exist to serve American interests. Turkey, currently ruled by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist party, is formally our ally. But, effectively, Turkey is working against our interests. Trump is certainly not wrecking that alliance. On the other side of the world, Taiwan is not our ally. We don’t even officially recognize Taiwan’s existence. There is a strong argument that much closer relations between the United States and Taiwan would serve our interest in containing China.

Precisely because the Democrats and their kept media realize that John Bolton is unlikely to be a witness to their liking, he is unlikely to be a witness at all.

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About Angelo Codevilla

Angelo M. Codevilla was a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He was professor of international relations at Boston University and the author of several books including To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).

Photo: Yuri Oreshkin\TASS via Getty Images

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