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Former national security adviser John Bolton admits to planning foreign coups

Pressed about his involvement, Bolton cited an unsuccessful attempt to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro during the Trump administration.
John Bolton
Former national security adviser John Bolton speaks at the Christians United for Israel's annual summit in Washington, D.C., on July 8, 2019.Patrick Semansky / AP file

John Bolton, who was national security adviser during the Trump administration, revealed in a TV interview Tuesday that he has played a role in planning coups in foreign countries.

“As somebody who has helped plan coups d’état — not here but, you know, other places — it takes a lot of work,” Bolton said on CNN.

The comments came after Bolton told CNN's Jake Tapper that the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol was "not an attack on American democracy" but instead a "once-in-a-lifetime occurrence."

Bolton said that while there was "no doubt" that former President Donald Trump was responsible for unleashing rioters at the Capitol, the effort wasn't meant to "overthrow the Constitution"; instead, it was an attempt to bide time to challenge 2020 election results in states he had lost.

Pressed about the coups he said he has planned, Bolton cited an unsuccessful attempt to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro but declined to provide further details.

“I feel like there’s other stuff you’re not telling me," Tapper said.

“I’m sure there is,” Bolton replied.

In 2019, shortly after Trump and much of the international community recognized Venezuela's opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as interim president, Bolton said "all options are on the table" in Venezuela, indicating the Trump administration might be open to U.S. military intervention.

NBC News reported at the time that U.S. officials had also been examining ways to oust Maduro, whom many countries viewed as the illegitimate leader.

Trump later fired Bolton as national security adviser. Maduro remained in power.