WASHINGTON • Senate Republicans are suddenly facing intense new pressure to call witnesses in Mr Donald Trump's impeachment trial after allegations that the President had told his then national security adviser John Bolton in August he wanted to continue freezing aid to Ukraine until its government investigated a political rival.
According to an unpublished manuscript by Mr Bolton, Mr Trump had told him last August that he wanted to continue freezing US$391 million (S$531 million) in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats, including former vice-president Joe Biden and his son.
The President's statement as described by Mr Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defence: that the holdup in aid was separate from Mr Trump's requests that Ukraine announce a probe into his perceived enemies.
Mr Bolton's explosive account of the matter at the centre of Mr Trump's impeachment trial, the third in American history, was included in drafts of a manuscript he has circulated in recent weeks to close associates. He also sent a draft to the White House, in a standard review process for some current and former administration officials who write books.
Multiple people described Mr Bolton's account of the Ukraine affair to The New York Times. The book presents an outline of what Mr Bolton might testify to if he is called as a witness in the Senate impeachment trial, the people said.
"We ought to not only have John Bolton testify, but we ought to see what he wrote down in his notes at the time," Lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff told CNN yesterday.
House managers will ask for Mr Bolton's notes to be produced as evidence. "These are contemporaneous," Mr Schiff said. "These notes took place while the events were happening, while they were fresh in his mind. Those, in many respects, are more important than the manuscript."
In a statement on Sunday, the impeachment managers said the Senate needs to call Mr Bolton as a witness immediately. "The President knows how devastating his testimony would be, and, according to the report, the White House has had a draft of his manuscript for review. President Trump's cover-up must come to an end," they said.
Mr Trump's lawyers were set to resume their defence of the President when the Senate reconvened yesterday afternoon. By the end of the week, the Senate could be voting on whether to subpoena more witnesses, as demanded by Democrats, including Mr Bolton.
"John Bolton has the evidence," Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter. He also urged at least "four Senate Republicans" to join the Democrats in allowing for witnesses to appear before the trial.
Mr Trump denied the allegations on Twitter. "I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book," he tweeted.
Mr Trump told reporters last week he did not want Mr Bolton to testify, citing national security.
Ms Sarah Tinsley, a Bolton spokesman, declined to comment on the accuracy of the report regarding the former ambassador's manuscript, which is a memoir about his time in the Trump White House. "The ambassador transmitted a hard-copy draft of his manuscript to the White House for pre-publication review by the National Security Council," she said.
"The ambassador has not passed the manuscript to anyone else, only the NSC," she added.
The White House could use the pre-publication review process to delay or even kill the book's publication or omit key passages.