President Trump indicated in an exclusive interview with Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” that he would use executive privilege to block former national security adviser John Bolton and other administration officials from testifying in his Senate impeachment trial if necessary.
The comments followed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing earlier in the day she will take steps to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week, paving the way for the start of a trial in a matter of days.
“I think you have to for the sake of the office,” Trump replied when asked by host Laura Ingraham if he would use executive privilege to stop testimony from Bolton, who said this week he would be willing to testify.
He then referenced several other officials, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, saying he would like for them to testify but can’t allow it because of executive privilege concerns.
“I would love everybody to testify,” Trump said. “I’d like Mick to testify, I’d like Mike Pompeo to testify, I’d like Rick Perry to testify. I want everybody — but there are things that you can’t do from the standpoint of executive privilege.”
Trump added he also has “no problem” with Bolton testifying, but worries about what it means for “future presidents,” expressing concerns about forcing testimony from officials involved in national security matters.
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“Especially, a national security adviser,” Trump said. “You can’t have him explaining all of your statements about national security concerning Russia, China, and North Korea – everything. We just can’t do that.”
At this point, such testimony remains hypothetical: while Bolton’s testimony has been sought by Democrats, the GOP majority in the Senate has not at this point agreed to call witnesses for the trial.
Trump also slammed Pelosi in response to her announcement, which came after she held off on transmitting the articles of impeachment for several weeks in a failed attempt to extract concessions from Republicans.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump said. “She should have sent them a long time ago. It just belittles the process … Nancy Pelosi will go down as the least successful speaker of the House in the history of our nation. She has done nothing.”
Also during the wide-ranging interview, Trump claimed the imminent threat from Iran that provoked the United States to kill Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani involved planned attacks on four U.S. embassies.
Asked specifically what was targeted, Trump revealed: “We will tell you that probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad.”
Pressed on whether large-scale attacks were planned for other embassies, the president said: “I can reveal that I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies.”
“Baghdad certainly would’ve been the lead,” Trump said. “But I think it would’ve been four embassies that had been military bases — could’ve been a lot of other things too, but it was imminent.”
The American embassy in Baghdad had already been attacked on New Year’s Eve when demonstrators stormed the compound to protest American airstrikes against Iran-backed militia members.
But there has been confusion over whether additional attacks were being planned at the embassy after Trump told reporters Thursday that the U.S. killed Soleimani because “they were looking to blow up our embassy.”
The administration has repeatedly said that that strike was an act of self-defense to prevent what it has described as an “imminent threat” against U.S. interests and troops.
During Friday’s interview with Ingraham, the president was also asked about whether the Iraqi backlash to the Soleimani strike could lead to U.S. troops leaving Iraq.
“I’m OK with it,” Trump said before dismissing recent calls from Iraqi officials to begin planning for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. “That’s what they [the Iraqis] say publicly. They don’t say that privately,” Trump said.
He also hit Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and other Democrats who implied in comments this week that Trump deserves blame for the downing of the Ukrainian airplane after U.S. officials said they believe Iran shot the plane down amid the airstrikes on U.S. military facilities in Iraq.
“I think it’s just low life,” Trump said of the criticism, adding of Buttigieg, “look, he’s not going anywhere, he was a lousy mayor of a place that is not doing well.”
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Trump then unloaded on a variety of Democratic politicians. Speaking of Rep. Ilhan Omar, the president charged: “She hates Israel. She hates Jewish people. And you just have to take a look at her rhetoric.”
As for New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, he said, “AOC knows nothing.”
Trump also weighed in on the drama overseas with the announcement this week that that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are stepping down from their senior status in the British royal family.
“I think it’s bad,” Trump said. Speaking of Queen Elizabeth II, Trump added: “I just have such respect for the queen, I don’t think this should be happening to her.”