Former National Security Adviser John Bolton shot down a theory that NBC News host Chuck Todd floated during an interview Sunday regarding President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Do you think that the president is afraid to make Putin mad because maybe Putin did help him win the election and he doesn’t want to make him mad for 2020?” Todd asked Bolton during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“Honestly, I don’t think there’s evidence for that, and I think it’s a mistake on the one hand to say the Russia collusion theory was true which some opponents of Trump still can’t let go of,” Bolton replied.
Todd had asked Bolton about reports that Trump was briefed in March on intelligence that a Russian spy unit was paying bounties to the Taliban to target U.S. and Western troops stationed in Afghanistan.
The New York Times reported that the White House has not retaliated against the Russian government.
Trump denied on Twitter on Sunday that he, Vice President Mike Pence, or White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were briefed on the intelligence. He did not address whether the intelligence is accurate. John Ratcliffe, the director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in a statement Saturday that Trump was not provided the information cited in the Times report. (RELATED: Chuck Todd Apologizes On Air For Playing Deceptively Edited Clip Of William Barr)
Bolton, who left the White House in September 2019 and has written a scathing review of Trump in his forthcoming memoir, indicated he had no insight into whether the reports of Russian bounties were accurate.
Bolton criticized Trump in the interview for being defensive of Russia, and accepting Putin’s denials that the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 election. Trump has waffled during his tenure on whether he believes that Russia interfered in the election, sometimes saying that he accepts the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies, and other times saying that he believes Putin.
Bolton said that he does not know why Trump is defensive of Putin, but he doubts that it is because the Russian leader has something on his American counterpart, as many Democrats have suggested.
“So why is the president so defensive about Putin? I don’t — as I say, I don’t read anything into it necessarily. If I had evidence I would reveal it. I just don’t know what to say other than he likes dealing with strong, authoritarian figures,” Bolton said.
He said that whether Trump would have been briefed on the intelligence would depend on the level of confidence that U.S. intelligence officials had in the information.
“It depends on what the level of confidence in the intelligence is, I tried during my tenure at my White House to read as much intelligence as I could. That doesn’t mean I passed all of it on to Trump and others,” Bolton said.
“I think it’s important to understand there needs to be a filter for any president, maybe particularly for this president. There’s obviously more to this story, but it is remarkable to say that the president is going out of his way to say he doesn’t know anything about it.”
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