Former national security adviser John Bolton has become a central figure in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump and the debate over whether senators should subpoena additional witnesses.
After Bolton failed to appear voluntarily before a House impeachment hearing in November, his lawyer Charles Cooper told the investigating committees that his client was “personally involved” in meetings relevant to the inquiry into whether Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine for political reasons.
On Sunday, news outlets reported that a manuscript for Bolton's upcoming book says Trump explicitly told Bolton he did not want to release the aid until Ukraine helped with investigations related to the 2016 election and Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden.
Because Bolton's reported claim would contradict the president who has insisted the decision to delay the aid was rooted in concerns about corruption, not politics, the news about his book sharply intensified Democrats' demand that he be called to testify.
So who is the man who Democrats say could provide “explosive” information in the impeachment trial?
Bolton's bombshell book: What we know about John Bolton's allegations about Trump and Ukraine
A fierce and fiery hawk
Bolton, 71, is a Yale graduate, lawyer and diplomat who served as President George W. Bush's ambassador to the United Nations.
He has long advocated an aggressive U.S. foreign policy and the use of American military might, including the right to strike first against potential threats. He was a strong proponent of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and still believes toppling Saddam Hussein was the right move, despite the failure to find weapons of mass destruction and the costly occupation.
After leaving the Bush administration, Bolton espoused his hawkish views as a columnist and Fox News commentator. In that role, he called for preemptive military action against Iran and North Korea.
In 2015, he wrote an op-ed that ran in The New York Times titled, “To stop Iran's Bomb, Bomb Iran.” And in a 2018 piece in The Wall Street Journal that ran just before he was tapped to become Trump's next national security adviser, he argued it was “perfectly legitimate” for the U.S. to strike North Korea first to take out the threat posed by its nuclear weapons.
He also founded the John Bolton PAC and John Bolton Super PAC, which aimed to make national security concerns an election issue.
Bolton appointment: New national security adviser heralds a more aggressive Trump foreign policy
Clashes with Trump on foreign policy
Bolton was tapped to replace outgoing national security adviser H.R. McMaster in March 2018. And from the beginning, the hawkish Bolton clashed with Trump, who sought to disengage the U.S. from military conflicts rather than beginning new ones.
The president and his national security adviser disagreed on a number of key issues, including peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan, withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and negotiations with North Korea. He also wanted Trump to take more aggressive action against Iran and Venezuela.
The Trump-Bolton breakup was inevitable: Disagreements over Iran, North Korea and more
An acrimonious departure
Trump said he fired Bolton on Sept. 10 because he “disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions.”
But minutes later, Bolton tweeted that he had offered his resignation the night before and Trump had told him, “Let's talk about it tomorrow.” And he texted several journalists saying, “Let's be clear I resigned.”
Washington Post reporter Robert Costa said Bolton told him, “I will have my say in due course. But I have given you the facts on the resignation. My sole concern is US national security.”
‘Let's be clear, I resigned': John Bolton contradicts Donald Trump on whether he was fired
Since leaving the Trump White House
After leaving the Trump administration, Bolton returned to his work at the head of his political action committees and announced he would be donating $10,000 to five Republican incumbent reelection campaigns for 2020.
After he failed to appear for the House impeachment inquiry in November, Bolton said he would not honor a subpoena unless he was ordered to by a court. Democrats said they did not want to mire the process in a lengthy legal battle and decided not to subpoena him, even after former aides testified he had decried the alleged attempt to leverage military aid to Ukraine as a “drug deal.”
On Nov. 22, Bolton, who had not tweeted since he disputed the nature of his White House departure, announced that he had “liberated” his Twitter account after being denied access by the White House.
“Out of fear of what I may say?” he wondered.
On Jan. 6, Bolton said in a statement that because it did not appear the legal issues surrounding his testimony would be resolved before the impeachment trial, he decided, “if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify.”
Things to know: 5 facts about John Bolton
Contributing: John Fritze, David Jackson, Michael Collins, Deirdre Shesgreen, Rebecca Morin and Savannah Behrmann
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