President Trump’s former national security adviser knows about “many relevant meetings and conversations” connected to a pressure campaign on Ukraine that House impeachment investigators have not yet been informed of, his lawyer told lawmakers on Friday.
The lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, tucked the tantalizing assertion into a letter to the chief House lawyer in response to committee chairmen who have sought Mr. Bolton’s testimony in their impeachment inquiry but expressed unwillingness to go to court to get an order compelling it.
Mr. Cooper did not elaborate on what meetings or conversations he was referring to, leaving it to House Democrats to guess at what he might know.
But the hints about what Mr. Bolton might be able to add came as new details emerged from the impeachment inquiry about how an effort by Mr. Trump’s allies to use the United States’ relationship with Ukraine to accomplish the president’s political goals opened a bitter rift inside the White House.
According to testimony made public on Friday, the push, spearheaded in large part by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, pitted Mr. Bolton, who sought repeatedly to resist it, against Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff who senior officials said may have played a central role in carrying it out.
Mr. Mulvaney himself failed to appear on Friday for a scheduled deposition in the inquiry, a day after Mr. Bolton. Their absences underscored dilemmas impeachment investigators face as they wrap up weeks of private fact-finding and look toward public hearings beginning next week. They are closing in on an ever more elaborate account by administration witnesses of how the pressure campaign on Ukraine unfolded, but have been unable to obtain the firsthand testimony of those closest to the president.
Transcripts of testimony by Fiona Hill, the former senior director for Russia and Europe at the National Security Council, and Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the Ukraine expert there, described how the council under Mr. Bolton became consumed with trying to thwart Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to bend Ukraine policy to the president’s political advantage.
They said there was evidence Mr. Mulvaney was involved in setting up a quid pro quo in which Ukraine could not receive a White House meeting unless top officials there committed to investigations that Mr. Trump wanted. And they showed how the foreign policy officials most deeply knowledgeable about Ukraine were sidelined and forced to act as mere spectators — in some instances watching for Mr. Giuliani’s freewheeling appearances on cable news for clues — in dealing with the relationship with Kiev.
Ms. Hill said Mr. Bolton repeatedly sought to cut off the influence of Mr. Giuliani, whom he referred to as a “hand grenade.”
Mr. Bolton was “closely monitoring what Mr. Giuliani was doing and the messaging that he was sending out,” she told investigators, adding that he warned “repeatedly that nobody should be meeting with Giuliani.”
House Democrats complained that Mr. Bolton was stiff-arming them, but said they would not subpoena him because they did not want to get dragged into lengthy court proceedings. Instead, Democrats have suggested that they may cite the refusal to testify as evidence of obstruction of Congress by the president, which could form its own article of impeachment.
In his letter, Mr. Bolton’s lawyer argued that his client would be willing to talk to investigators, but only if a court rules that he should ignore White House objections.
Mr. Bolton’s former deputy, Charles M. Kupperman, represented by the same lawyer, filed a lawsuit seeking guidance from the federal courts on competing demands by the executive branch, which has ordered them not to testify, and the legislative branch, which has issued subpoenas directing them to. Late Friday, Mr. Mulvaney filed to join Mr. Kupperman’s lawsuit to have a court settle whether the men are obligated to comply with testimony requests.
But Democrats have said they will not pursue time-consuming litigation on the matter, arguing that it is a stalling tactic.