Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly gave a weighty endorsement Monday to former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who reportedly reveals damning information about President Donald Trump’s position on Ukraine in his forthcoming memoir.
“If John Bolton says that in the book I believe John Bolton,” Kelly said at an event in Sarasota, Fla., according to news reports.
“Every single time I was with him,” the retired Marine general said of Bolton, “he always gave the president the unvarnished truth.”
“John’s an honest guy. He’s a man of integrity and great character, so we’ll see what happens.”
The New York Times reported Sunday that Bolton claims in a manuscript of his book that Trump told him in an August 2019 conversation that he was withholding military aid to Ukraine until officials there provided information about Joe Biden. (RELATED: John Bolton Undercuts Trump’s Main Ukraine Defense In Book Manuscript)
Trump and his Republican allies have insisted that he has never linked military aid to Ukraine to Biden-related investigations. On Monday, Trump said he “NEVER” had the conversation with Bolton that is reportedly described in the manuscript.
Trump and White House officials have questioned Bolton’s motives for writing the book and tried to cast him as a disgruntled former employee. Bolton left the administration on Sept. 10, but there remains dispute over whether he resigned or was fired.
“How much does it cost to sell out potential national security in your country?” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham asked in an interview with Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs on Monday.
Kelly, who left as chief of staff on Jan. 2, 2019 after an 18-month White House tour, called the Trump-Bolton conversation as described by Bolton “very inappropriate.” He also said that he supports having Bolton and other witnesses testify at Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.
“I think some of the conversations seem to me to be very inappropriate but I wasn’t there. But there are people that were there that ought to be heard from,” Kelly said.
“If there are people that could contribute to this, either innocence or guilt,” Kelly continued, “I think they should be heard.”
Kelly also took a veiled shot at Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff and another key figure in the impeachment saga. Mulvaney also serves as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, and was involved in freezing military aid to Ukraine.
“There’s no one there right now who knows how to be a chief of staff, has ever done chief of staff work,” Kelly said.
“It is tough to look the President of the United States in the eye and say, ‘I think you’re wrong. Let me bring in the kind of people that could help you understand the issue in a broader way.’ They don’t seem to be there anymore.”
Kelly has taken shots at Mulvaney before, while largely avoiding criticism of Trump. At an event hosted by the Washington Examiner in October, Kelly said that he warned Trump that if he hired a “yes man” as chief of staff he would be impeached.
“I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that,” Kelly said.
“Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached.”
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