Bolton doubles down on Trump obstruction claims amid bipartisan backlash

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., called John Bolton "a political opportunist and a profiteer."
Image: John Bolton
John Bolton, then President Donald Trump's national security adviser, speaks to reporters at the White House on May 1, 2019.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters file

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By Allan Smith

Former national security adviser John Bolton said in an interview that aired Sunday that he saw evidence that obstructing justice was a way of life for President Donald Trump.

"These were things that I could see some evidence of," Bolton told ABC News, expanding upon the claim from his soon-to-be-released book, "The Room Where It Happened." "And they bothered me greatly. I talked to the attorney general about them. I talked to counsel to the president about them. I've talked to other members of the Cabinet about them and relayed my concerns. And they were very much on my mind."

Bolton added that Trump, speaking to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about a case involving a Turkish bank in the U.S., once said, "Look, those prosecutors in New York are Obama people."

"'Wait until I get my people in, and then we'll take care of this,'" Bolton recalled Trump as having said. "And I thought to myself — and I'm a Department of Justice alumnus myself — I've never heard any president say anything like that, ever."

Bolton's full interview is set to air Sunday evening.

In his 494-page book, set to be released this week, Bolton alleges that Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to agree to trade policies that would help with his re-election in November, as well as offered his own approval for concentration camps to detain Uighurs, a group of Muslims living in China. (Trump on Wednesday signed a law aimed at addressing human rights abuses of Uighurs.)

Bolton describes Trump as employing "obstruction of justice as a way of life" and making decisions based purely on what they meant for his re-election.

Democrats on Sunday chastised Bolton for not having come forward sooner with the eye-opening claims he filled his book with, while Trump officials said he is simply a disgruntled former employee who one staffer said should be in jail.

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Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said the committee has no interest in calling Bolton to testify, adding that he believes Trump "has done a lot of impeachable things, including what Bolton is talking about."

"But we have an election coming up," Nadler said. "We know the Republicans in the Senate will not entertain an impeachment in any event. So that would be — that would, at this point, be a waste of time and effort."

Responding to Bolton's claim that Democrats engaged in malpractice by limiting Trump's impeachment to his actions toward Ukraine, Nadler said Bolton, "who has, as we now know, evidence that he could have offered and refused to offer, is certainly no one to talk."

On NBC's "Meet the Press," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Bolton's allegations are not surprising, adding that Bolton "indicts himself for cowardice and for greed" and that it "was only the greed that made him come forward in this book."

Schiff said his committee will determine within the next two days whether it will seek to have Bolton testify before the panel.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., called Bolton "a political opportunist and a profiteer" in an interview on ABC's "This Week."

Republicans also took issue with Bolton's book. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said on "This Week" that he wished Bolton "would have come into the House under oath and testified."

"One of the things about making allegations in a book for $29.95, certainly is going to be a best-seller, I'm sure," he said. "The problem is that when you're not selling it in a book, you're not putting yourself in a position to be cross-examined."

Trump has accused Bolton of publishing classified information. But the president has also accused Bolton of making up "lies & fake stories," calling him a "disgruntled boring fool."

Peter Navarro, Trump's top trade adviser, said on "State of the Union" that Trump's asking China to boost his re-election was "a John Bolton fantasy," adding that he "never heard that."

Navarro said Bolton "should be turning in his seersucker suit for an orange jumpsuit."

Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Mercedes Schlapp, a senior adviser to Trump's campaign, said Bolton was "disgruntled" because Trump didn't listen to his hawkish advice.

Host Chris Wallace pointed to a number of former officials, such as ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and chief of staff John Kelly, who have taken issue with the president and whom Trump has lambasted.

Schlapp said: "These are individuals who did not agree with the president's policies when it came to foreign policy in general. And so, at the end of the day, it's not Rex Tillerson or John Kelly or Secretary Mattis who makes these decisions. It's President Trump, and President Trump is going to listen to his advisers, but he's the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to foreign policy."