"It's Payback Time": With Acquittal Certain, Trump Plots Revenge on Bolton, Impeachment Enemies - 2020-02-03
With Senate Republicans on track to acquit Donald Trump on Wednesday, Washington is bracing for what an unshackled Trump does next. Republicans briefed on Trump's thinking believe that the president is out for revenge against his adversaries. "It's payback time," a prominent Republican told me last week. "He has an enemies list that is growing by the day," another source said. Names that came up in my conversations with Republicans included Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Mitt Romney, and John Bolton. "Trump's playbook is simple: go after people who crossed him during impeachment."
Several sources said Bolton is at the top of the list. Trump's relationship with Bolton was badly damaged by the time Bolton left the White House in September. Trump has since blamed his former national security adviser for leaking details of his forthcoming memoir that nearly derailed the impeachment trial by pressuring Republicans to call witnesses. In the book Bolton reportedly alleges Trump told him directly that Ukraine aid was tied to Ukraine announcing investigations into the Bidens (Bolton has denied being a source of the leak).
The campaign against Bolton has already begun. On January 23, the White House sent a cease and desist letter to Bolton's lawyer demanding that Bolton's publisher, Simon & Schuster, not release the book in March without removal of certain information. Trump intends to ratchet up the pressure, and some Republicans close to the White House fear how far Trump will take things after he's gotten off for a second time (Trump famously made his July 25 call to Volodymyr Zelensky the day after Robert Mueller testified before Congress.) "Trump has been calling people and telling them to go after Bolton," a source briefed on the private conversations said. The source added that Trump wants Bolton to be criminally investigated. A person familiar with Trump's thinking said Trump believes Bolton might have mishandled classified information. According to a former official, the White House is planning to leak White House emails from Bolton that purportedly allege Bolton abused his position at the National Security Council. The official said that West Wing officials have discussed releasing emails "showing [Bolton] was doing pay-to-play," the official said. A person close to Bolton dismissed the story. "John plays things straight," the person said.