President Donald Trump phoned his then-national security advisor John Bolton to complain after he saw a TV news report that the U.S. planned to use a ship to send a signal about freedom of navigation that might provoke Russia.
The phone call was revealed in testimony by State Department official Christopher Anderson, who testified to Congress about the days after Kerch Straight Incident between Russia and Ukraine.
Anderson described a time of military tension after Russian ships rammed and fired on Ukrainian vessels in the straight, which Russia claims but has historically been shared. Trump, Anderson testified, had viewed a CNN report that the U.S. Navy was preparing to sail a ship into the Black Sea in a demonstration of free navigation in waters the U.S. considers international.
President Donald Trump called John Bolton to complain after he saw a CNN report the U.S. was sending a ship through the Black Sea after Russia fired on Ukrainian vessels
‘Ambassador Bolton relayed that he was called at home by the president, who complained about this news report,’ Anderson told the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, in testimony released Monday.
‘We met with Ambassador Bolton and discussed this, and he made it clear that the president had called him to complain about that news report. And that may have just been that he was surprised,’ said Anderson.
Democrats want Bolton to testify, but he has joined a suit seeking a decision by a federal judge on the matter.
The complaint appears to have had an effect – though only temporary.
Trump phoned then-national security advisor John Bolton at home
A view of the Nikopol and Berdyansk artillery boats detained by the Russian Federal Security Service in the Kerch Strait incident
Ukrainian ships detained in Kerch Strait on Sunday are docked in this still image from video released by Russian Federal Security Service November 27, 2018
A freed Ukrainian sailor carries his son as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) meet them after the plane with freed prisoners landed in Boryspil International Airport near of Kiev, Ukraine, 07 September 2019. The 35 political prisoners and Ukrainian sailors were freed during Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap. The swap list includes 24 sailors captured by Russia in the Kerch Strait, and 11 more convicts, including Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov, as local media report
A Ukrainian soldier gets ready at position near frontline with Russia-backed separatists in Shyrokyne, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018
‘We don’t — I can’t speculate as to why, but that, that operation was canceled, but then we were able to get a second one for later in February. And we had an Arleigh-class destroyer arrive in Odessa on the fifth anniversary of the Crimea invasion,’ Anderson said.
Anderson, who advised Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker, another key witness, told lawmakers another incident of presidential intervention in Ukraine. Russia invaded Eastern Ukraine in 2014 and seized strategically important Crimea.
He called it an ‘overt escalation’ that happened in international waters.
After the initial Kerch Strait incident in November 2018, U.S. diplomats prepared a strong statement in protest.
Foreign Service officer Christopher Anderson, a witness in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate his political rival, testified about Trump’s response to the Kerch Straight incident
Anderson testified Trump complained after seeing a CNN report on the naval move
‘While my colleagues at the State Department quickly prepared a statement condemning Russia for its escalation, senior officials in the White House blocked it from being issued,’ Anderson testified. ‘Ambassador Volker drafted a tweet condemning Russia’s actions, which I posted to his account,’ he says.
Asked how he learned of the presidential intervention, Anderson said he did not recall, but says he found information about it in his notes.
‘But I did send a message to Ambassador Volker that evening that the President had put an embargo on any statements,’ he said.
‘Secretary Pompeo issued a statement the following day. Ambassador [Nikki] Haley did eventually pretty quickly issue a statement as well. But there was never a statement from the White House that I’m aware of.’
Anderson added: ‘We received questions from Ukrainian counterparts and journalists as to why there wasn’t a stronger statement, but that is not my decision to make,’ he said.
‘This was the first act of Russian military overtly fining on Ukrainian military vessels, and so this was a dramatic escalation,’ Anderson said.
Asked if he had any concerns at this time period that U.S. support was shifting, Anderson replied: ‘There were some indications, possibly, of Ukraine fatigue.’
However, the administration would eventually approve U.S. made Javelin missiles being provided to Ukraine. And even after a holdup of appropriated military aid that Democrats and witnesses say was part of a quid pro quo, the administration provided $391 million in aid to Ukraine this year.
Haley said at the UN November 26 at an emergency UN Security Council meeting, the day after the incident: ‘This is no way for a law-abiding, civilized nation to act … Impeding Ukraine’s lawful transit through the Kerch Strait is a violation under international law. It is an arrogant act that the international community must condemn and will never accept.’
Trump was much less direct when he spoke to reporters that same day: ‘We do not like what’s happening either way. We don’t like what’s happening, and hopefully it’ll get straightened out,’ he said. ‘I know Europe is not, they are not thrilled,’ he added. ‘They’re working on it too. We’re all working on it together.’