Following reporting that a book manuscript written by John Bolton supports the allegation that President Donald Trump abused his power by using his office for personal benefit, One America News Network (OANN) floated an alternate theory: What if Bolton actually wrote the opposite of what is reportedly in his manuscript?
In a major development in Trump’s impeachment trial, The New York Times reported on January 26 that “President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.” The revelation is central to the first impeachment article Trump is facing, abuse of power, and has led to further calls for Senate Republicans to allow Bolton to testify in the trial as a witness.
After the Times story broke, many members of conservative media turned on Bolton -- a longtime conservative stalwart and former Fox News contributor -- questioning his motivations and suggesting that he was behind the leak of the manuscript. (Bolton has denied leaking the manuscript, a copy of which was sent to the White House several weeks ago.)
The Times report also sent OANN -- a cable news network notorious for its attempts to curry Trump’s favor -- into spin mode, as network personalities offered a litany of defenses for Trump in light of the news development. The most brazen defense came from Liz Wheeler, the anchor of OANN prime-time show Tipping Point, who baselessly hypothesized that Bolton’s manuscript could be somehow exculpatory for Trump. During her January 27 broadcast, she asked, “Even if the New York Times report is fully accurate, which seems doubtful given their track record, who knows what else Bolton wrote before or after? What if Bolton also wrote there were additional corruption reasons to pause the aid to Ukraine?”
The available evidence actually points in the opposite direction of Wheeler’s theorizing. The Times reported that Bolton’s comments on Ukraine ran “dozens of pages” and that “he described not only the president’s private disparagement of Ukraine but also new details about senior cabinet officials who have publicly tried to sidestep involvement.” Significantly, the Times reported that at the White House -- where Bolton submitted the manuscript for a pre-publication review in December -- the manuscript “intensified concerns among some of his advisers that they needed to block Mr. Bolton from testifying.”
Wheeler also offered other defenses of Trump, including attributing the Times reporting to “biased liberal mainstream media reporters who hate Trump,” calling the Times report a “dirty bomb,” claiming that Democrats want to impeach Trump over a “thought crime” because of what he reportedly said to Bolton, and claiming, “Everything we know about this New York Times piece and the John Bolton book right now smells of swamp stink and collusion between the mainstream media and the Democrats and a bitter terminated Trump official, all colluding to try to take Trump down.” Toward the conclusion of her segment, Wheeler addressed senators directly, telling them to acquit Trump.
The January 27 broadcast of OANN program The Ledger Report also featured plenty of spin on the Bolton news. Host Graham Ledger claimed that “Democrats are taking advantage of the complete and total ignorance of the majority of Americans” about the U.S. Constitution before claiming that Bolton testifying would violate the Constitution (even though it would certainly not, as an assertion of executive privilege by Trump could not block the willing testimony of a former executive branch employee).
Contrary to what Ledger said, Bolton was not a member of Trump’s cabinet. (Ledger also referenced his own legal problems -- he and the CEO of OANN’s parent company are being sued for alleged racial discrimination -- in complaining that the impeachment process is unfair to Trump.)
Trump has been promoting OANN, most recently mentioning the network in a January 25 tweet: