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AP fact check: Trump misstates Bolton record

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump stated falsely Monday that House Democrats never called his former national security adviser to testify in their impeachment inquiry. Actually they did.

Trump’s tweet about John Bolton came as the Senate entered the second week of the impeachment trial, where his defense team stretched the facts on Trump’s effort to get Ukraine to investigate Democrats.

Senators were grappling with a fresh disclosure that Bolton claims to have been told directly by the president that aid to Ukraine should be held up until the country agreed to cooperate in an investigation of Trump’s political rivals.

Here’s a look at some recent statements where truth came up short:


“The Democrat controlled House never even asked John Bolton to testify. It is up to them, not up to the Senate!”Tweet.

The facts

That’s false in its entirety. House Democrats did ask Bolton to testify, and he declined. He did not show up for his deposition. Trump is also incorrect in suggesting impeachment witnesses are the sole province of the House.

House Democrats decided not to pursue a subpoena compelling Bolton to testify in the House proceedings because he threatened to sue, which could have meant an extended court fight. Afterward, however, Bolton signaled his willingness to testify at the Senate trial if he’s subpoenaed.

The Senate trial has yet to resolve if any witnesses will be called, much less who. It is empowered to do so if it chooses, contrary to Trump’s suggestion that “it is up to” the House only.

Bolton’s behind-the-scenes account is in the manuscript of his coming book. It intensified calls from Democrats to make him a witness because it contradicts key assertions by Trump and his defense team’s argument that there is no evidence the president conditioned aid to Ukraine on an investigation of his political rivals.

Trump Lawyer Jay Sekulow:

Referring to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s leader: “Asking a foreign leader to get to the bottom of issues of corruption is not a violation of an oath.” — Monday’s trial argument.

The facts

Trump made no such request in the phone call. And beyond the phone call, there’s scant if any evidence that Trump cared about Ukraine’s history of systemic corruption unless it might involve Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden. Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company when his father was vice president.

In the call, according to the rough transcript released by the White House, Trump repeatedly pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens and a groundless conspiracy theory that Ukrainians tried to help Democrats win the 2016 election. He didn’t mention Ukrainian corruption.

Trump delayed military aid to Ukraine despite a Pentagon review that found the country had made sufficient progress in cleaning up its legacy of corruption to merit the aid that Congress had approved.

Trump Lawyer Jay Sekulow:

“It was President Zelenskiy who said no pressure.” — Monday’s trial argument.

The facts

True, but the statement skirts important context.

In and around the July 25 phone call, Zelenskiy was deferential to Trump as his country, menaced by Russia, tried to keep U.S. military aid flowing. Even so, Ukrainian officials felt pressure for months to do Trump’s bidding, and Zelenskiy himself eventually complained about Trump’s dealings with him.

The Associated Press reported that in May, even before taking office, Zelenskiy knew that vital military support might depend on whether he agreed to investigate Democrats as Trump was demanding.

After the July 25 call, Zelenskiy said he had no problem with Trump’s comments on the call. But by then, Ukrainian officials were wondering why the aid was being held up. And in October, while insisting “there was no pressure or blackmail from the U.S.,” he criticized Trump for blocking the aid and for casting his country as corrupt.

“If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us,” he told Time. “I think that’s just about fairness.”

Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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