08:53 GMT30 November 2020
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    On Friday, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney filed a motion to join a lawsuit that seeks to clarify whether or not senior administration officials are allowed to testify in the Democrats’ ongoing impeachment inquiry into the president.

    Mick Mulvaney’s attempt to join the subpoena powers lawsuit was an ‘unwelcome surprise’ for former National Security Advisor John Bolton and his colleagues, with the former Trump associates ‘taken aback’ by the move, the Washington Post has reported, citing people said to be familiar with their views.

    Bolton had earlier indicated that he would be prepared to testify in the Democrats’ probe if a federal judge rules that a congressional subpoena supersedes a White House order not to comply with the impeachment inquiry. The suit was filed by Bolton’s former assistant Charles Kupperman, who briefly served as Bolton’s successor before Trump appointed current National Security Advisor Robert C O’Brien.

    According to WaPo’s sources, Bolton and Kupperman were both ‘flabbergasted’ by Mulvaney’s request because they believed him to be one of the key White House officials allegedly trying to convince the Ukrainian government to restart a criminal investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son over his alleged corrupt dealings in Ukraine between 2014 and 2019.

    House Democrats accuse Trump of engaging in illegal ‘quid pro quo’ behaviour by trying to convince Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to restart the criminal probe into Hunter Biden, and allegedly threatening to withhold $400 million in military aid if Kiev refuses. The claim is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry against the president, launched by the Democrat-held House of Representatives in September. Trump denies any wrongdoing, and claims that the probe is a “witch hunt” aimed at illegally removing him from office. Shortly after the impeachment probe was announced, the Justice Department released a transcript of the Trump-Zelensky conversation. The president has since referred to the call as “perfect”, and said that the transcript proved that he did nothing wrong.

    Screengrab / whitehouse.gov
    Excerpt from transcript of the Trump-Zelensky phone call.

    Bolton, who was called to testify in the impeachment inquiry last month, previously described the alleged quid pro quo behaviour by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and acting White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney as a “drug deal”, and said that he was “not part” of that effort.

    Mulvaney joined the suit on Friday, hours after failing to appear at his scheduled impeachment inquiry hearings. Like Mr. Kupperman, Mulvaney argues that he cannot simultaneously follow the instructions of President Trump, who has told him and others not to testify, and of the House Democrats, who threaten to hold him in contempt if he fails to comply.

    Bolton, a prominent neoconservative and one of the architects of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, was tapped to serve as Trump’s national security advisor in 2018. An avid supporter of US military intervention around the world, Bolton has promoted regime change operations in Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria and Libya, and called on Washington and its allies to beef up efforts to ‘contain’ China and Russia militarily. He left his post in September, with Trump saying he fired him. Bolton maintains that he resigned of his own accord amid reports that the two men had clashed on a range of issues, from Iran and Afghanistan to North Korea.

    On Sunday, AP reported that Bolton had signed a $2 million book deal with Simon & Schuster, with the book's title and its release date yet to be revealed.


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