What the New Bolton-Engel Breaking News Really Means, And Why It Matters

on April 9, 2018 in Washington, DC.
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 09: National Security Advisor John Bolton (R), listens to U.S. President Donald Trump as he speaks about the FBI raid at lawyer Michael Cohen's office, while receiving a briefing from senior mi... WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 09: National Security Advisor John Bolton (R), listens to U.S. President Donald Trump as he speaks about the FBI raid at lawyer Michael Cohen's office, while receiving a briefing from senior military leaders regarding Syria, in the Cabinet Room, on April 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. The FBI raided the office of Michael Cohen on Monday as part of the ongoing investigation into the president's administration. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) MORE LESS

We’ve just had breaking news in an announcement from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel. He says that on Sept. 23, he spoke to John Bolton and Bolton “suggest[ed] to me — unprompted — that the committee look into the recall of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.” This was just as the original Ukraine story was breaking and shortly after Bolton was either fired or resigned his position on Sept. 10. This obviously adds to the drama over Bolton’s potential testimony and upcoming book. But it’s not the most important part of this.

It was less than a week earlier that the first reports confirmed that the whistleblower complaint — which was being withheld from Congress — was about the actions of President Trump. Go back to this Sept. 18 article in The Washington Post, which I believe was the first to confirm this. But note the sourcing.

The whistleblower complaint that has triggered a tense showdown between the U.S. intelligence community and Congress involves President Trump’s communications with a foreign leader, according to two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The identity of these two officials was a point of immense speculation at the time. Logically, though not certainly, the “former” officials would have to be recent departures to be able to know this information. (Bolton left the White House just as the story was breaking on Sept. 10.) Bolton was always a logical guess as one of those two sources.

The fact that he had this conversation with Engel on Sept. 23 makes that supposition much more likely. We don’t know he was one of the Post’s sources. But this news really confirms what has long been suspected without public proof: that Bolton has had a clear hand driving this whole scandal forward from the beginning. Or at least since his ouster or resignation on Sept. 10.

Here’s the Engel statement …

To make a point which is probably obvious explicit. If you’re someone in Bolton’s position, the best way to drive the story forward is in discussions with reporters. Talking to people on the Hill makes sense too. But it’s more perilous and less deniable.

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