In their trial brief, the president’s lawyers wrote: “Not a single witness with actual knowledge ever testified that the president suggested any connection between announcing investigations and security assistance. Assumptions, presumptions and speculation based on hearsay are all that House Democrats can rely on to spin their tale of a quid pro quo.”
The House managers prosecuting Mr. Trump said that underestimated the strength of their evidence, but either way, Mr. Bolton’s recollection is clearly a firsthand account, not a presumption — which at least some in the White House knew at the time the brief was filed and the presentation was made on the Senate floor over the weekend.
Mr. Bolton has been one of the most intriguing figures in the Ukraine matter for weeks, ever since other former officials testified that he opposed the pressure campaign, calling it a “drug deal” he wanted no part of and warning that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer organizing the pressure, was a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.” Mr. Bolton told aides to report the pressure campaign to a White House lawyer.
Mr. Bolton has remained publicly silent other than to deny leaking his book and blaming its disclosure on the White House. House Democrats requested his testimony during their hearings last month, but they ultimately did not subpoena him, reasoning that a court fight would only prolong the investigative process for months.
Once the House impeached Mr. Trump and the case reached the Senate, Mr. Bolton announced that he would testify if subpoenaed. But Senate Republicans voted against subpoenaing him at the start of the trial, putting off a final decision until after arguments are complete, which could come later this week.
Another witness sought by the House managers, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, has already publicly confirmed to reporters that Mr. Trump suspended the security aid in part to get Ukraine to investigate a conspiracy theory involving Democrats during the 2016 election campaign, although he later issued a statement retracting his comment.
His lawyer issued another statement on Monday denying that Mr. Mulvaney ever talked with Mr. Trump or anyone else about a link between aid and investigations, even though the acting chief of staff previously said the exact opposite on camera. “That’s why we held up the aid,” he said in October.