Washington, DC — Former national security adviser John Bolton slammed President Trump’s style of negotiating with other world leaders as “naive and foolish,” saying that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin can “see right through” the president.
Bolton told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett that Mr. Trump’s affinity for authoritarian leaders stemmed from his own desire to be seen as a “big guy.”
“I think the president likes being a big guy, you know, doing big guy things, and then he had to come down later to being merely a constitutional president of the most powerful country in the world,” Bolton said. He spoke to Garrett for this week’s episode of “The Takeout” podcast, which aired in its entirety on CBSN on Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.
“I do think Putin and Xi Jinping, I read them across the table, and I’ve been across the table from Putin many times in 20 years. I think they could see right through Donald Trump. When one of them was on the other side, it was not a fair fight,” he continued.
Bolton criticized Mr. Trump for believing he could “make deals on major issues in a day’s worth of negotiations.”
“He and Kim Jong Un could sit down on the North Korea program and he and the Ayatollah Khamenei could sit down on Iran and could wrap it up in a day. You know, the Munchkins could work out the details. That’s the way he does things,” Bolton said about Mr. Trump’s style of negotiating. “Big picture, big guy talking to the big guy. I think this is naive and foolish frankly.”
The president has met with Kim three times, and became the first American president to step foot in North Korea. Nuclear talks between the two leaders have stalled for months. The president has not met with Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran. Bolton, a longtime foreign policy official, is known for his hardline views on Iran.
His new memoir documenting his time in the White House, “The Room Where It Happened,” is published by Simon & Schuster, a division of ViacomCBS.
Bolton also talked about his refusal to participate in the House impeachment inquiry late last year. He refused to testify before the House unless under subpoena, but House Democrats declined to issue one, fearing the issue would get tied up in the courts. The White House would have likely objected to his testimony, and Democrats were concerned that a decision would be delayed for months.
Bolton told Garrett that he believed the president was “torquing around a legitimate governmental interest of the United States” by asking the Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival in a now-infamous July 2019 phone call. A whistleblower report about the call raising concerns that the U.S. was conditioning aid to Ukraine on opening investigations kickstarted the impeachment inquiry. Bolton said that he believed Mr. Trump’s objections to aiding Ukraine were “illegitimate.”
“The president is free as president to pursue his own political prospects. He is a politician, he has a First Amendment right to do it,” Bolton said. “What he doesn’t have a First Amendment right to do is torque the government to his political benefit. And that’s what I think we saw there.”
Bolton said that he did not regret not testifying before the House, but regretted how the impeachment trial was conducted in the Senate. He offered to testify at the trail, but no witnesses were called, and Mr. Trump was acquitted on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, with one Republican senator voting to convict on one of the charges.
“I have regrets about the whole way the process turned out. I have a big regret that the White House argument which conceded the quid pro quo … [but said] it did not represent conduct that rose to the level of an impeachable offense. Which was an argument, I think it’s fair to say, a majority, maybe nearly all of the Republicans in the Senate accepted,” Bolton said. He added that he would not have accepted this argument from the White House.
“I’ve said if I were in the Senate I think I probably would have voted in favor of impeachment on the article about Ukraine,” Bolton said.