But that doesn’t mean explosive new witnesses aren’t coming.
Congressional Democrats are talking about slapping subpoenas on at least two of the most incendiary potential witnesses against Trump skipped over by the Senate: John Bolton, President Trump’s former national security advisor, and Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
And there’s little to stop House Democrats from doing that, setting the stage for spectacular televised hearings within months of the 2020 election, even after Senate Republicans nixed the idea.
“The Senate should do their job. If they won’t, we are not ruling out other ways to continue to bring to light and stop the president’s corruption,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, texted VICE News. “There’s no lack of courage in the House.”
Sworn congressional testimony from Bolton and Parnas on Trump and Ukraine could hand Democrats powerful new raw material for attack ads in the 2020 election against GOP senators, and bolster their case that the Senate just staged the cover-up of the century. The ads almost write themselves: This Senate Republican voted against witnesses — but just look what the guy had to say.
The House impeached Trump in December for abusing his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and for blocking the congressional investigation into what happened.
House Democrats haven’t officially decided to hold more Ukraine hearings yet. House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff tap-danced around a question about Bolton from CBS last weekend. But other Democrats who spoke to VICE News in the halls of Congress this week as impeachment drew to a close sounded a lot more enthusiastic about the idea.
“I mean, you’ve got to hear from Bolton,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut told VICE News. “We need to hear from him under oath. Parnas has another important story to tell as well.”
Bolton and Parnas both claim to be important eyewitnesses to what really went down. Bolton served at Trump’s elbow in the White House until September as the Ukraine saga was playing out. Parnas says he pressured Ukraine’s leaders to announce a Biden investigation on behalf of Giuliani and Trump, and top members of Trump’s team were “in the loop.”
Yet both men also represent tricky witnesses for Democrats, in their own way.
Bolton, an ultra-conservative Yale-trained lawyer, initially refused to testify before the House last fall. He signaled he’d fight a subpoena in court — so Democrats never sent him one, for fear of slowing down their drive to impeachment.
Bolton changed his tune when the Senate trial kicked off in January, announcing he’d appear if the GOP-controlled upper chamber subpoenaed him. Now it’s unclear whether he’d flip again and fight a subpoena from House Democrats if one arrives.
But resisting would put Bolton in the awkward position of refusing to speak about a subject he’s addressed at length, in his forthcoming book, scheduled to come out in March and already available for pre-order on Amazon.
“The Room Where It Happened” reportedly includes fresh and damning details about Trump’s personal role in the scandal. Bolton recounts how Trump explicitly said he wanted to continue a freeze on vital military aid to Ukraine, a nation locked in a brutal war with Russia-backed separatists, until Ukraine announced the investigations Trump wanted, according to The New York Times.
Trump even asked Bolton “to help with his pressure campaign to extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials,” by arranging for Ukraine’s president to meet with Giuliani, the Times wrote. Other impeachment witnesses have described Bolton as alarmed by what he saw in Trump’s White House, and quoted him as calling Giuliani a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”
If Bolton wants to testify, there’s still another wildcard: Trump.