John Bolton, Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, said on Monday he was willing to testify in the president’s Senate impeachment trial if subpoenaed.
His change of stance came as Republican leaders in the Senate face pressure from House Democrats to allow key witnesses such as Mr Bolton to appear in the trial, which will weigh charges that the president abused his power and obstructed Congress.
Mr Bolton resisted testifying before the House inquiry that led to the impeachment late last year. Mr Bolton told House investigators that, if subpoenaed, he would go to court for a decision on whether he had to comply or follow orders from the White House not to give testimony.
“I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify,” Mr Bolton said in a statement.
Minority Democrats would need to persuade four Republican senators to break with the president to win a majority in favour of ordering Mr Bolton to testify.
Mr Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House for abuse of power in his dealings with Ukraine and obstruction of Congress.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, has so far refused to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate in an attempt to pressure Republicans to call certain witnesses for the trial.
Witnesses in the House impeachment investigation said Mr Trump had pushed Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to announce an investigation of Joe Biden, a potential rival in the 2020 US election, in return for a White House meeting and the release of military aid Congress had approved.
Fiona Hill, a former top Russia expert on the National Security Council, testified that Mr Bolton had called efforts to obtain a public statement from Mr Zelensky a “drug deal” that Mr Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and the US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, were “cooking up”.
She told the House intelligence committee that Mr Bolton had wanted no part of the scheme. Mr Bolton left the White House in early September, shortly before the details of the campaign to force the Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden became public.
Mr Trump, in a series of tweets on Monday before Mr Bolton’s announcement, said the impeachment was a “great Scam” and that there was “NO PRESSURE” applied to Mr Zelensky. “It is a con game by the Dems to help with the Election!” he tweeted.
Republicans have a 53-47 seat majority in the Senate, allowing them to decide the rules and format of Mr Trump’s trial. While a conviction, which requires a two-thirds majority, is unlikely, Democrats are hoping to peel off four Republicans to side with them on simple majority votes regarding witnesses and document demands for the hearings.
Chuck Schumer, who leads the Democrats in the Senate, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that there was “a decent chance that four Republicans will join us.”