A top House Democrat said Wednesday that former national security adviser John Bolton tipped him off months ago about the ouster of a former U.S. diplomat to Ukraine.
In a statement sent out shortly before the Senate's impeachment trial resumed on Wednesday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) issued a statement saying that Bolton got in touch with him in September and said to look into the removal of Marie Yovanovitch as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
"President Trump is wrong that John Bolton didn't say anything about the Trump-Ukraine Scandal at the time the President fired him," Engel's statement revealed. "He said something to me."
Engel explained that his staff reached out to Bolton on Sept. 19, shortly after he departed his job at the White House, at Engel's request, explaining that the two "have a cordial and respectful relationship and I wanted to thank him for his service." At the time, Engel said that Bolton's ouster was proof that the administration's foreign policy was "in complete disarray."
When Bolton returned Engel's call on Sept. 23, the statement said, "Ambassador Bolton suggested to me — unprompted — that the committee look into the recall of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. He strongly implied that something improper had occurred around her removal as our top diplomat in Kyiv."
Engel's statement added that he didn't say anything publicly about it because it was a private conversation, "but because this detail was relevant to the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight Committees' investigation into this matter, I informed my investigative colleagues. It was one of the reasons we wished to hear from Ambassador Bolton, under oath, in a formal setting."
The question of President Trump's motives for recalling Yovanovitch from her post in Ukraine became one of the many focal points of the House's impeachment investigation last year, with Democrats contending it was a part of an administration pressure campaign to get Ukrainian officials to look into allegations of corruption involving the Bidens. Yovanovitch herself appeared as a witness both during the closed-door and public hearing portions of the House's probe.
A Sept. 23 phone call between Bolton and Engel would have put their conversation just a day ahead of the announcement of "an official impeachment inquiry" by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
"Ambassador Bolton has made clear over the last few months that he has more to say on this issue," Engel said. "And now that the President has called his credibility into question, it's important to set the record straight."
Engel's statement came as allegations about the withholding of Ukraine aid contained in Bolton's forthcoming book have sparked a re-intensified debate about whether or not to call Bolton as an impeachment trial witness. While things still remain in flux on the testimony question, multiple Hill Republicans have dismissed the impact that Bolton's testimony might have on the overall case.
But whether Engel's statement will have any bearing on Senate Republicans' overall willingness to draw out the length of the trial with more testimony remains to be seen.
"This is hardly groundbreaking or relevant," Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) — one of the House Republicans on President Trump's impeachment team — tweeted in the wake of Engel's statement. "The more noteworthy item is that this is magically coming out 127 days into this impeachment process —on the eve of President Trump being acquitted, as Democrats rapidly lose momentum. You can smell their desperation."
Hardly groundbreaking or relevant. The more noteworthy item is that this is magically coming out 127 days into thi… https://t.co/roFqAfhboY— Mark Meadows (@Mark Meadows)1580320469.0
When asked whether he was concerned about whether the new information would motivate his GOP colleagues to call for Bolton's testimony, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) told reporters "I don't think so. That particularly? I doubt it." He added that "I think if they want to, they will."