Trump Will Have Hard Time Blocking Potential Bolton Trial Testimony

President Donald Trump would have a tough time blocking John Bolton’s testimony in his U.S. Senate impeachment trial by invoking the legal doctrine called executive privilege if his former national security adviser is subpoenaed as a witness, according to legal experts.

The Republican-controlled Senate has not yet decided whether to allow any witnesses or new evidence in the trial that will determine whether the Republican president is removed from office after being impeached on Dec. 18 by the Democratic-led House of Representatives on two charges.

Bolton refused to cooperate with the House inquiry but made a surprise announcement on Jan. 6 that he would be willing to testify in the Senate trial if subpoenaed to do so.

Democrats have said they are eager to hear testimony by Bolton, who was involved, as his own lawyer said, in “many relevant meetings and conversations” involving issues at the heart of Trump’s impeachment. The House accused Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress arising from his request that Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and called the impeachment an “attempted coup.”

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

Trump has indicated he may seek to use executive privilege to prevent Bolton from testifying. Under this doctrine, a president is able to keep certain communications private, particularly those implicating national security, if disclosing them would undermine executive branch functions.

Legal experts said Trump’s executive privilege claim would be weak.

Bolton’s testimony is “clearly critical to issues before the Senate, and that outweighs any privilege that applies,” said Michael Stern, a former lawyer for the House when the chamber was controlled by Republicans.

Mark Rozell, a constitutional scholar who wrote a book about executive privilege, said he believes Bolton could be questioned without revealing sensitive national security information.

“To me, it looks like the president is just trying to protect himself,” said Rozell, dean of George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government in Virginia.


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 1974 case involving a judicial subpoena to then-President Richard Nixon that a president’s need for confidentiality must be balanced against Congress’s need for testimony or documents. Nixon that year resigned as president in the Watergate corruption scandal.

Legal experts said the Senate’s right to evidence is particularly strong when it is considering whether to remove a president as opposed to conducting routine executive branch oversight.

Testimony in the House impeachment inquiry revealed that Bolton objected to an effort by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others to pressure Ukraine outside of regular diplomatic channels. “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this,” Bolton said, according to a witness in the House investigation, referring to U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

The Senate is expected to vote on whether to call witnesses after hearing opening arguments from House Democrats making the case against Trump and the lawyers defending the president. In a 100-seat chamber with 53 Republicans, Democrats would need four Republicans to join them to win any vote to call witnesses.

Asked about invoking executive privilege if Bolton were to be subpoenaed, Trump told Laura Ingraham of Fox News on Jan 10: “I think you have to – for the sake of the office.”

Trump, speaking in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday, said Bolton’s testimony would pose national security concerns.

“He knows some of my thoughts. He knows what I think about leaders. What happens if he reveals what I think about a certain leader, and it’s not very positive and I have to deal on behalf of the country?” the president asked.

Andrew Kent, a constitutional law professor at Fordham University in New York, said there is a strong argument that executive privilege does not apply to impeachment whatsoever.

A claim by Trump that executive privilege applies to Bolton could be ruled upon by Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, Kent said. Senate rules allow Roberts, who has typically avoided perceived partisanship, to instead let the senators decide, Kent added.

Trump could also file a lawsuit and ask a federal judge to block Bolton from testifying, Stern said, but that maneuver would likely anger the Republican senators who voted to hear from Bolton.

“He won’t win, legally, and it could backfire politically,” Stern said, referring to Trump. “Once the majority of senators have said they want to hear from Bolton, going to court is just going to rub senators the wrong way.”

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Will Dunham)


  1. >WellHungChad<

    It seems there are a lot of people who missed the remark made by Rep. Al Green (D-TX) when he said in May 2019: "I'm concerned that if we do not impeach this president, he will get reelected." Other D'RATS have echoed that same concern (actually they're worried because they have no one who can beat him).

    1. James, even NoNads Nadler stated publicly that, “we can’t rely on the next election to fix our problem.”

      When I heard that, my first question was, “who’s ‘we’ and ‘our’ ?”

      He must have had a mouse in his pocket when he said it.

  2. I’m laughing out loud at lefty Rueters claim that,

    “ Trump Will Have Hard Time Blocking Potential Bolton Trial Testimony”

    All he has to do is forbid Bolton to testify and this all will be stalled for months. He’s shaking the Bolton testimony out there in front of the Dims as a piece of bait. The more he tempts them, the more they want it!! How about Bolton for THREE Dim witnesses? Let’s have Quid Pro Joe, Hunter B, and Adam Schitt up there on the perjury chair!

    Ever read “Art of the Deal”? Of course not! You basement dwelling, do nothing, idiots have no clue!

  3. SyPhylis: the answer is in the transcript of the call to Ukraine. Have you read it?

    “Do you understand ENGLISH MF’er?”

    Do you NOT understand The Constitution and Separation of powers? Obama played that card 19 times and was never challenged on it. Was HE obstructing Congress? (I laugh when I write that because the Democrats in the House of Representatives is NOT Congress!)

  4. ST, the Dims knew that executive privilege would Trump their call for WH witnesses request. The precedent has already been set by SCOTUS and would be upheld. It would also take months to get their decision. By then, Trump would already have been re-elected. The Dims HAD to rush this through before the election. They bet on suckering the Senate into entertaining witnesses and so far have lost. Without more witnesses, they have nothing; likely with any witnesses they want, they’d have nothing but a lot of national security would likely be done!

    Personally, I think Trump should give them Bolton as a witness and force Biden to testify! Bolton will blow up in their face and Biden will be forced to tell us about all of his illicit activities ( read Peter Sweitzer’s book).

    1. WHC, interesting that my original comment is missing. IJR censors at work and why I only spend MINUTES here.

      Bringing witnesses will HURT the Dims. Think about the Bidens, Schitt, or the “whistleblower” subpoenaed.

      The Dims wanted to rush this through because their Golden Boy, Gropin’ Joe, is imperiled. That’s EXACTLY WHY I want testimony and witnesses.

  5. I do not understand the R House Reps, R Senators, or Trump’s defense team not wanting to call Pompeo. Pompeo has on at least 2 occasions publicly stated that the testimony “got it wrong.” If Pompeo can offer exculpatory evidence, WHY are the R’s in either chamber NOT leaning on Trump to have Pompeo testify under oath as to WHAT it is all 12 witnesses “got it wrong”? Under oath testimony of 12 witnesses trumps a public denial of a politician with a signed NDA wanting to remain Sec of State. Has anyone heard an explanation of WHY he is not on the witness list? Are we suppose to wait for the Pompeo book which will obviously come out much later than Bolton’s?

    1. Phil,

      It’s easy to believe that you do not understand, Period.

  6. “To me, it looks like the president is just trying to protect himself.” Mark Rozell

    Ya think? He had been doing that publicly ever since the whistleblower rightfully blew his whistle.

    1. So…you expect others to act like you and have a convenient jar of sex lube?

  7. You are an idiot baal paul. You lie every bit as good as shiff face. You have no idea what you are talking about.

  8. Bolton should not be allowed to testify as he is a hostile witness. Look at his personal file. He was fired. “You can’t fire me, I quit,” is a firing.

  9. I’d love him to tell the absolute truth but Bolton’s love for the “New World Order” of continuous war for profitability of the elitists and his hatred for Trump will give him the platform to lie with little immediately prepared facts to silence or disproved him with the correct and truthful evidence (as if the media would present it).
    Once a lie is spoken, few will hear the corrections.

  10. I disagree – minority party DemonKKKrats in the Senate should be allowed the exact same number of their witnesses to be called as the minority party Republicans were permitted in the House… ZERO!

    1. Greg: take a time to think. Who was the one who denied any of the witnesses to testify? Could it be..(I can’t go back to that old show: “Satan?” But you know who.

  11. Funny, or not: those Trump believers ( can you imagine that) disregard the fact that Trump, himself, (no surprise) commanded his troops to not comply with their subpoenas. He must have something to hide (just ask Melania) C’mon people! Do you love America, or what?? I don’t care if his pants are up or down, bowing before a lying racist womanizer as the leader of your country should give you pause.

  12. House Dims: We have a solid, airtight case.
    Senate Dims: We need more evidence/testimony.

    Let’s have those subpoenas issued BY BOTH SIDES. I’d like to see both Bidens, Schiff, and the mythical “whistleblower” on the stand.

    1. WHAT is the material evidence you perceive the Bidens, Schiff, and the Whistleblower can offer? You do understand THIS is the IMPEACHMENT TRIAL of Donald John Trump, not a cable news piece. The jurors HAVE the whisteblower’s complaint and Trump appointed ICIG Atkinson’s letter with his findings of “a credible” and “urgent” concern and the subsequent testimony. This is not a TV interview where both political parties discuss the issues they believe are important to them—IT IS AN IMPEACHMENT TRIAL of Donald John Trump. If the DOJ had charges they could file against any of the 4 American citizens you mentioned, the Barr or Sessions DOJ would have filed them.

  13. Then why didn’t those that want to hear from Bolton subpoena him? They admitted it yesterday. This is about the 2020 election. They are trying to steal the American vote before we even vote. Dems are a disgrace. Funny side note, even Feinstein left chamber early. She didn’t do as a jury is to do, leave when testimony is done. She got up and left. That’s the case they have. She’s the Dems top rep on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    1. The chairman of the Senate Judicial Committee also left the chamber for 30 minutes. Sen Blackburn gave Laura Ingram an interview DURING the impeachment proceedings. You forgot to mention Blackburn and Graham.

    2. You think Dems are a disgrace? Look in the mirror, Sherri, (if it doesn’t crack) and see whether you are an America patriot, or not. You may be surprised.

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