World

Bolton knew of Trump’s Ukraine intentions

By AAP Newswire

US President Donald Trump told a then-top aide in August he wanted to freeze security aid to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

Trump's statement was described in an unpublished manuscript by former White House national security adviser John Bolton, the Times said in a report that could raise pressure on Republicans to call Bolton as a witness in Trump's Senate impeachment trial.

The report, which did not quote the manuscript but cited multiple people describing Bolton's account, may undercut a key element of Trump's defence: that there was no quid pro quo when he asked Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden in a July phone call.

Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to oppose Trump in the Nov. 3 election. His son worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while Biden was vice president.

In a statement, an attorney for Bolton suggested that the Times' account was accurate and said he had submitted Bolton's book manuscript to the National Security Council on December 30, a standard security review for classified information.

"It is clear, regrettably, from The New York Times article published today that the prepublication review process has been corrupted and that information has been disclosed by persons other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript," the attorney, Charles Cooper, said.

The report drew Democratic demands that the Republican-led Senate, which is conducting a trial on whether to remove Trump from office after his Dec. 18 impeachment by the Democratic-led House of Representatives, call Bolton as a witness.

Democrats need to win over at least four Senate Republicans to approve the calling of witnesses. Bolton said this month he was willing to testify in the trial if a Senate subpoena was issued.

Lawyers for Trump are scheduled on Monday to resume their defence in the impeachment trial stemming from his dealings with Ukraine. A showdown vote on calling witnesses could loom later in the week.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and calls the impeachment process a sham. The White House, which with Senate Republican leaders has resisted calling witnesses, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the New York Times report, nor did Jay Sekulow, who is helping lead the Republican president's defence.

"There can be no doubt now that Mr. Bolton directly contradicts the heart of the President's defence and therefore must be called as a witness at the impeachment trial of President Trump," the seven Democratic House "managers" prosecuting the case against Trump in the Senate said in a statement.

"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 offences," it added.

Democrats have said they are eager to hear testimony by Bolton, who was involved, as his own lawyer previously said, in "many relevant meetings and conversations" involving issues at the heart of Trump's impeachment.

Bolton left his post in September after disagreements with the president. Trump said he fired him. Bolton said he quit.