congress

Top Intel lawyer says Bolton subpoena decision likely coming in 'next couple of weeks'

“I suspect that there will be some resolution to that over the next couple of weeks," Daniel Goldman says.

John Bolton

A top lawyer on the House Intelligence Committee said Thursday that a decision about whether to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton will probably be made "over the next couple of weeks."

Daniel Goldman, the veteran prosecutor who questioned witnesses in the committee's public impeachment hearings in November, said “I suspect that there will be some resolution to that over the next couple of weeks.” He spoke during a Thursday morning interview with former federal prosecutor Preet Bharara, who now hosts the podcast "Stay Tuned with Preet."

Bolton is a central witness to allegations that President Donald Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals. That allegation formed the basis of the House's decision to impeach Trump in December, which resulted in last week's acquittal by the Senate. But a forthcoming book by Bolton is expected to describe interactions with Trump in which Bolton claims the president told him he was withholding military aid from Ukraine until the country assisted with the politically motivated probes.

House leaders have given little indication they intend to continue pursuing the Ukraine matter now that the Senate has voted to acquit Trump, almost entirely along party lines. Goldman emphasized that he wasn't sure what the outcome of the Bolton discussions would be, but his comments suggest the question is still under active consideration and could be resolved in short order.

Democrats, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), have been skeptical about seeking Bolton's testimony because he has already refused multiple opportunities to tell his story to investigators and had previously indicated he would fight a House subpoena in court. Bolton did say he would testify during the Senate’s impeachment trial if subpoenaed, but Senate Republicans ultimately decided against calling witnesses.

Goldman's interview also undercut suggestions by Trump's critics that the record of his July 25 call with Ukraine's president — a central piece of evidence in the House's case — was incomplete or omitted damaging information.

"I think that's been overblown a little bit," Goldman said, noting that witnesses described the call summary as nearly entirely accurate. One omission was of the word "Burisma," the Ukrainian energy company where former Vice President Joe Biden's son sat on the board, which the House contended was code for Trump's demand to investigate his presidential rival. The second, Goldman noted, was a minor reference to a video.

Some Democrats suggested much more had been left out, noting that the 30-minute duration of the call didn't appear to match up with the length of the transcript. But Goldman suggested that too was unconcerning.

"Remember that you've got translations going back and forth. So, Zelensky spoke primarily in Ukrainian, so there was a fair amount of translation," Goldman said.

"It doubles the time?" Bharara replied

"It doubles the time, exactly," Goldman said.

Goldman spent much of the interview describing his personal recollection of the Ukraine investigation — from his vantage point when Republicans stormed the House's secure hearing room causing an hours-long delay in one of the witness depositions, to the superstitious haircut he got before the impeachment trial.

Goldman also offered a window into some of the strategy House prosecutors deployed in the Senate impeachment trial. He said the House managers opted to use 21 hours of time to lay out their case in part because many senators were "popping in, popping out" of the chamber so would likely need refreshers.

"We obviously didn't need that much time if we were speaking to a captive jury that was sitting there, forced to sit there and listened to everything," he said.

"The other part is that we wanted to tell the story in multiple different ways," Goldman said, adding, " Chairman Schiff had an introduction of about two hours' long, which was a short summary of the case, relatively short. We did a factual narrative or a chronological argument, I should say, explaining how the story unfolded and at every step of the way ... Then, we attacked the analysis, the argument where why was this an abuse of power and what were the aspects of it that were an abuse of power? Most importantly, we took on a lot of the defenses in the context of making the argument."

Goldman also said he expected Chief Justice John Roberts to play more of a role in the trial than he did. He said House prosecutors raised early concerns during the trial that Trump's team might introduce evidence into the trial that the House had subpoenaed for but never received.

"There was no real mechanism as there is in court to limit it so we wanted to get out in front of it and we teed it up through the parliamentarian just to say this might come up, just so he's prepared," Goldman said. "I think he was prepared to respond if that came about. For the most part, I think that there's very little role for the Chief Justice to play in an impeachment trial because the Senate can overrule everything."

Goldman also downplayed the House's long, slow march toward impeachment that began with the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report in April.

Though top House Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Schiff did not embrace the prospect of an impeachment inquiry based on Mueller's findings — primarily that Trump repeatedly attempted to obstruct his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election — well more than half of House Democrats were seeking an impeachment inquiry by early September based on Mueller's report and July 24 public testimony, and before the Ukraine scandal erupted. Pelosi authorized the Judiciary Committee to go to court to sue for documents and testimony as part of an "impeachment investigation" based on the Mueller findings as well.

But Goldman said there was little energy for impeachment before the Ukraine news broke into the open.

"Fair to say there was no great momentum in favor of impeachment based on the Mueller report," Bharara said.

"That was clear," Goldman responded.