WASHINGTON -- President Trump's impeachment trial was going his way until former national security adviser John Bolton revealed that Trump told him last August that he would delay military aid to Ukraine until it conducted an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
The story, broken by The New York Times, is in a new book by Bolton, titled "The Room Where It Happened," which is due to be published March 17.
Until this story was published, the president had insisted he had done nothing wrong when he had talked to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and that there was no effort on Trump's part to apply pressure on Zelensky to dig up dirt on one of Trump's likely rivals in the 2020 presidential election.
Before the revelation in Bolton's book, Trump, and his defenders in the Senate, insisted he was innocent of any and all charges in the articles of impeachment by the House. And, for a time, it was was questionable whether the GOP-controlled Senate would vote to call witnesses.
As "the president's lawyers were defending his actions toward Ukraine on the Senate floor ... Trump aides and allies were privately girding for the growing possibility that multiple witnesses will be allowed to appear," The Washington Post reported earlier this week.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone "has privately insisted to senators and allies that the White House did not know Bolton was going to make such an accusation in the book," the Post reported. Notably, Bolton's manuscript "was submitted to the National Security Council in late December as part of a routine pre-publication review process."
Why someone at the NSC did not alert the White House remains a mystery. It was common knowledge that Bolton and Trump did not get along, and the fact that Bolton had written a tell-all book about the president should have immediately raised warning signs in the West Wing.
"Details that became public last Sunday from Bolton's unpublished book manuscript suggest that he could provide direct evidence that Trump sought to deny security assistance to Ukraine until officials in Kyiv announced investigations into political opponents, including the Bidens. That linkage is at the heart of House Democrats' case that Trump abused his power in holding up the Ukraine aid for his personal political benefit and then obstructed Congress' subsequent investigation," the Post observed this week.
It's hard to overstate the powerful impact that Bolton's book could have on the outcome of Trump's impeachment trial.
In a joint statement, the seven House impeachment managers called the Bolton announcement "explosive."
Moreover, the former national security adviser has already announced that he would testify before the Senate, if he is subpoenaed.
"The Senate trial must seek the full truth and Mr. Bolton has vital information to provide," the House managers said in their statement Sunday. "There is no defensible reason to wait until his book is published, when the information he has to offer is critical to the most important decision senators must now make -- whether to convict the president of impeachable offenses."
Many Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, want the Senate to avoid witnesses. But four Republicans say they want witnesses, including Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.
"John Bolton has the evidence," Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a tweet. "It's up to four Senate Republicans to ensure that John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney and the others with direct knowledge of President Trump's actions testify in the Senate trial." Trump has needlessly made a lot of political enemies in the nation's capital throughout his presidency.
"This is a wrathful and vindictive president," Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., said on Sunday's "Meet the Press." "Look at the president's tweets about me today, saying that I should 'pay a price.'"
"Do you take that as a threat?" Chuck Todd, the host of the NBC show, asked.
"I think it's intended to be," Schiff replied.