Bolton = smoking gun

Honestly, if we didn’t already have a smoking gun, we had hot shell casings, ballistics evidence, fingerprints on the gun, etc.  Greg Sargent on how Bolton’s account pretty much demolishes all the remaining Republican defenses (not they were more than a transparent shower curtain in the place of dry wall, anyway):

But now we have Bolton prepared to testify that Trump himself directly confirmed this link to him, wrecking the “hearsay” defense. If Bolton were lying, you’d think Trump would want him to testify under oath, since Bolton’s account is set to appear in a book. Unless the game is to prevent his testimony to the Senate before the vote on Trump’s fate.

Separately, the transcript just does show Trump using the power of his office to pressure Zelensky. Trump cannot make this disappear through disinformation. And so, his actual claim is that there’s nothing wrong with having done this.

“The White House counsel has tremendous reach inside any White House, especially this one,” Price told me. “It’s within the purview of the White House counsel to review records in the possession of the executive office of the president. It’s almost certain he would have sought the manuscript.”

Jack Goldsmith, a White House lawyer under former president George W. Bush, adds that such manuscripts generally are internally circulated “widely.”

So it’s very likely the White House knows exactly how Bolton would further incriminate Trump — and that this is exactly why Trump doesn’t want him to testify….

At this point, of course, this really is the position of many Trump defenders. But there is no longer any denying that any GOP senator who goes along with this is willfully and knowingly carrying Trump’s coverup to completion.

When it comes to hearing new witnesses and evidence, GOP senators have no arguments left. And no one is obliged to pretend there’s a shred of legitimacy to whatever excuses they do offer.

And Jonathan Bernstein on how the greatest political impact may be on the fact that Trump has so clearly hung Republican senators out to dry:

And then, Sunday night, it fell apart. The New York Times reported that former National Security Adviser John Bolton has written in his upcoming book that Trump made explicit the quid pro quo that his lawyers are denying: that Trump told him directly that he wanted to keep the military aid frozen until the Ukrainian government agreed to help with investigations of Democrats. Not only that, but apparently the White House has had Bolton’s manuscript all month. Trump’s team knew this was coming.

While I certainly don’t expect the president’s support in Congress to collapse, it’s impossible not to see close parallels to the “smoking gun” tape that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency in 1974. That tape, proving that Nixon ordered his staff to have the Central Intelligence Agency block the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry into the Watergate scandal and released to Congress and the public after the House Judiciary Committee had passed articles of impeachment, was so devastating for Nixon not so much because it was proof of his crimes; plenty of proof of plenty of crimes had long since been placed in the record. Instead, it became the moment when conservative Republicans realized that Nixon had deliberately set them up with false arguments even though Nixon knew that the evidence, if released, would undermine those arguments and make them look like liars and fools. [emphases mine]

That is exactly what appears to have happened with the Bolton book. Trump knew that Bolton’s testimony and supporting notes, if they ever surfaced, would undermine the claims of his supporters. In some ways, it’s not quite as strong as Nixon’s smoking gun, since there’s no tape (as far as we know!) furnishing absolute proof of what Trump said to Bolton. But in some ways, it’s worse. Nixon knew what was on the tapes, but until the Supreme Court ruled against him he might at least have hoped that he could keep them secret. Apparently in the Trump case, at least some people in the White House have known for weeks that Bolton was going to release this book, and yet they still encouraged their allies to say things that were about to be shown to be false.

So far, it appears that Republican politicians would rather look like liars and fools — following ever-less-plausible White House lines, perhaps hoping that no one notices — than dare to oppose Trump and his still-loyal allies in the Republican-aligned media. Maybe they’ll all stay on message, even after this episode. Some of them, I’m sure, are either such blind partisans or so far inside the conservative information feedback loop that they may not even notice. But I have to believe that, whatever they do about it, a lot of Republican politicians are feeling more uncomfortable than ever.

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