The former US national security adviser, John Bolton, was reportedly so alarmed at a back-channel effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate Donald Trump’s political rivals that he told a senior aide to report it to White House lawyers.
The revelation of Bolton’s involvement in the effort to block a shadow foreign policy aimed at Trump’s political benefit emerged from congressional testimony given by his former aide, Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert in the White House.
Hill, the British-born former senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, spoke to three House committees for 10 hours.
According to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Hill described a sharp exchange on 10 July between Bolton and the US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, about the role played by Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to persuade the Ukrainian government to open investigations into Democrats, including former vice president Joe Biden.
Hill said Bolton instructed her to tell the National Security Council’s attorney that Giuliani was acting in concert with White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, in a rogue operation with legal implications.
“I am not part of whatever drug deal Rudy and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Bolton instructed Hill to tell the NSC lawyer, according to her testimony.
She said that Bolton had told her on an earlier occasion: “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”
Hill also testified on Monday morning before three congressional committees about Trump’s decision, taken despite strenuous objections from aides including herself, to recall the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
The Washington Post reported that she had confronted Sondland over the Giuliani’s activities, which were not coordinated with officials charged with carrying out US foreign policy. Sondland is due to give his version of events on Thursday.
According to Fox News, Hill told congressional investigators that she and other officials went to the national security council lawyer with their concerns that the White House was seeking to prompt Ukraine to open investigations into Trump’s rivals.
Hill’s lawyer had earlier rejected arguments from the president’s attorneys that her testimony on Ukraine was covered by executive privilege.