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The timing of the John Bolton book leak could not be worse for Trump’s legal team

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

[Regarding this story: Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says]

Months after not being called to testify at the impeachment trial, John Bolton drops a bomb in a book that previews what his testimony would be if called.

In that book, he confirms the House’s core allegations and then some. Per the Times, Bolton writes that Trump “wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens.”


Bolton actually provided the White House with this draft a few weeks ago, meaning that the White House (and presumably its lawyers) knew this would eventually emerge.

To say that this undercuts the White House’s impeachment defense is a huge understatement. Whether this changes the political calculus for more than three Republican senators remains to be seen.

Just thinking out loud about what’s next, I wonder how this fits in with Trump’s blanket assertion of executive privilege on Bolton’s testimony. Did the White House lawyers review it and make any determination? Or were they just sitting on this since late December? If they were silent, does that silence constitute a waiver?

I think the White House lawyers are going to be livid and try to make this into a leak investigation (but good luck with that since Bolton is pinning it on the White House), but they’re going to have a tough time getting the toothpaste back into the tube. Senators answer to voters and there was already broad support to hear Bolton testify before anyone knew that his testimony would directly implicate Trump.

It would be very interesting to review what, if anything, Trump’s trial lawyers said before the Senate that is contrary to whatever’s in Bolton’s book, presuming they reviewed it. If you’re Trump’s lawyers, you look bad if you didn’t review something that you absolutely needed to review in order to preserve executive privilege; and if you did review it and made assertions that contradict what you knew, well, that’s a different sort of unethical.

And the 11th hour Bolton book leak is intriguing, since the timing of it seems orchestrated to cause maximum damage not only to the White House’s case but the White House’s lawyers.

SATURDAY: White House lawyers began their defense, arguing that there should be no additional witnesses called.

SUNDAY (late): Contents of Bolton’s book leaked in New York Times story, strongly supporting the House’s core allegations against Trump.

TODAY: White House lawyers — all who (must) have actual knowledge of Bolton’s allegations — resume their defense that there should be no additional witnesses.

Recall that a big part of Schiff’s argument to the GOP senators was that it would all come out sooner or later, at which point those senators are going to have to answer for why they didn’t opt for “sooner.”

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