WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton has said he is willing to testify in the expected Senate impeachment trial of the President, a surprise development that could potentially strengthen the case that Mr Trump should be removed from office.
As a top White House aide who witnessed many of the events that prompted the House of Representatives to impeach Mr Trump last month, Mr Bolton could provide new evidence about the President's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
Other witnesses during the House impeachment investigation testified that Mr Bolton strongly objected to an effort by Mr Trump's personal lawyer, Mr Rudy Giuliani, to pressure Kiev outside of regular diplomatic channels, with one saying Mr Bolton referred to the arrangement as a "drug deal".
Mr Bolton's lawyer said last November that he could shed new light on White House discussions, but Mr Bolton refused to participate in the House impeachment inquiry while the Trump administration and Congress battled in court for access to witnesses and documentary evidence.
Mr Bolton said on Monday he was now willing to cooperate after a judge dismissed the case last week. "If the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify," he said in a statement.
He declined further comment.
Democrats seized on Mr Bolton's announcement, saying it bolstered their argument that he and three current administration officials should testify when the Senate begins its impeachment trial.
"If any Senate Republican opposes issuing subpoenas to the four witnesses and documents we have requested, (he) would make absolutely clear (he was) participating in a cover-up," said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
Mr Trump's fellow Republicans have resisted that idea, instead seeking a quick trial based on the evidence collected in the House that could lead to the President's expected acquittal before the 2020 presidential election campaign heats up.
Conservatives such as Mr Richard Shelby expressed no interest in hearing from Mr Bolton, while the more moderate Mr Mitt Romney said he would like to hear from the former high-ranking White House official, when asked by CNN.
The White House could try to block Mr Bolton from testifying.
That dispute would probably be resolved by US Chief Justice John Roberts, who will preside over the Senate trial, or senators themselves, rather than in court, said Washington lawyer Ross Garber.