Dear Ambassador Bolton,
As the House prepares to send impeachment articles to the Senate, I’m writing to implore you to tell your story. Now. Before it’s too late.
We don’t know what you have to say regarding your time as Donald J. Trump’s national security adviser. What we do know is that your lawyers teased that you know about “many relevant meetings and conversations” connected to the Ukraine shakedown story. Additionally, we know that Fiona Hill, former Russia expert at the National Security Council, testified that you referred to Rudy Giuliani as a “hand grenade” who was “going to blow up everyone,” and that you declared, "I am not part of whatever drug deal [Gordon] Sondland and [Mick] Mulvaney are cooking up."
This seems to suggest that you were aware of some nefarious things going on in the administration—things that could potentially incriminate Trump and/or some of his associates. Or maybe what you know would look bad, but it would actually exculpate some of them. Regardless, the point is that you seem to know something that would help shed light on a scandal that has loomed over our politics for five months, and has culminated with the impeachment of the President of the United States of America.
Throughout all of this, you have played coy. In the past, you have suggested that you would be willing to testify about your story, but only if a court ruled that you should ignore the White House’s objections. This was your stance until the House voted to impeach the president. Then, almost immediately (after “careful consideration and study”) you switched positions, saying that you would testify if the Senate were to subpoena your testimony.
It is unclear why your standard for agreeing to testify shifted. If your standard had remained consistent, I might at least respect the principle. But your evolving standard suggests that you are attempting to move the goal posts so that they will remain close enough to entice us, but not so close as to actually be attainable. In an era where statesmen have preferred the spoils of showmen, your behavior is one more depressing sign that everyone is in this for themselves, rather than for the nation.
Let’s be honest, you know full well that a Senate that is controlled by Republicans (who don’t want to call any witnesses, much less a bombshell witness) will never call your bluff.
In this regard, you can have your cake and eat it, too—you can say you were willing to testify, generate publicity, yet never have to actually testify. Among other things, it’s a great way to hedge your bets. If Trump becomes Richard Nixon, you are one of the good guys who always wanted to testify. If Trump is Reagan, you get to retain your standing within the conservative movement.
This is not to minimize the difficulty involved in what I am asking you to do. As an aspiring conservative writer, I learned the hard way the influence of Fox News, and how getting on their naughty list can stunt a career. In this milieu, being honest about what you know is tantamount to leaving the conservative movement. And leaving it means losing your identity, lifelong friends, and a network of business opportunities. I can understand why someone at your level and your age might not want to alienate people you have spent a lifetime courting—or turning off the spigot of Fox News hits, conservative think tank work, speaking gigs, and lucrative book deals. It’s a big deal.
For this reason, I would have understood it if you had simply decided to remain quiet. Yet, you chose to hint that you wanted to testify—that you had something important to say. Indeed, conventional wisdom suggests that your whole Hamlet routine is all about garnering buzz for your forthcoming book. Why else would you and your lawyers continue popping up to show us some leg?
While turning star witness could only boost your profile in the mainstream media, your smart bet—financially—is probably to play this cat and mouse game with us. It’s hard to sell a tell-all book when you’ve already spilled your guts on the stand. Or maybe you know you can land on that No. 1 bestseller spot by churning out a hagiographic Trumpy tome, solely on the back of Hannity appearances? Either way, it is hard to see this as noble or admirable. Is this why you got involved in public life? Is this what you have dedicated your career to… book sales?
With all due respect, sir, it comes down to whether you want to do the right thing for John Bolton or the right thing for the nation. This is your defining moment. In my opinion, we have the right to know if our president is a crook. Conversely, if this president is being railroaded, now is the time to say so.
You are uniquely positioned as someone who (a) has firsthand knowledge of the situation, and (b) as someone who—because of your status as a conservative Republican whose political philosophy long predates the rise of Trumpism—has credibility with Republican senators (and their constituents).
Ultimately, it boils down to this: If you have something really important to tell the American people, then just say it. Say it this week—before the Senate votes. The time to hesitate is through.
Otherwise, shut up about it.