Former National Security Adviser John Bolton refused to directly address whether he had briefed President Donald Trump on intelligence that Russia paid Afghan militants to kill U.S. troops during an interview with “Mornings on the Mall” (WMAL) Thursday.
Bolton reportedly told administration officials he personally briefed Trump on the intel, according to the Associated Press Monday evening. This would indicate that White House officials knew about the alleged bounties around a year earlier than previously reported by publications.
WMAL co-hosts Mary Walter and Vince Coglianese pressed Bolton on the report, but he sidestepped and would not confirm nor deny whether he had briefed the president on the alleged bounties.
Walter began by noting that “there seems to be some confusion surrounding the current news story and” Bolton’s “role in it.” She asked if Bolton “personally” briefed “the president on the allegation that the Russians were paying the Taliban a bounty” on U.S. forces.
“Well you know, the Associated Press wrote that story four or five days ago now,” Bolton began. “They called to comment on it and I declined to comment on aspects about me. They say we’ve been going over this scuffle about whether there’s classified information out there and when I wrote the book I was extremely careful not to put what I though to be classified information in the book and that’s just a practice that I think is very important.”
Bolton continued on to discuss “the current crisis,” saying that the administration “has been all over the place,” while avoiding Walter’s question.
“Right, but the president’s reference to a hoax is in reference to the idea that he was briefed on this subject, and you could actually prove this point if it’s true,” Coglianese noted. “Did you brief him in March of 2019 on a Russian bounty paid to the Taliban to go after Americans?”
“Well as I said just a moment ago I said no comment to the AP when they first asked me about it and that’s the position I’m gonna take,” Bolton said, adding that “the real question is how the administration is handling the issue today.”
Bolton’s sidestepping comes on the heels of a Wednesday interview with CBS News’ “The Takeout” podcast, where he spoke about the alleged briefing. There, the former advisor said that he would have personally briefed Trump on intelligence like that, although he did not confirm whether he had.
“She [former National Security Advisor Susan Rice] said she would have walked in and shown it to [former President Barack] Obama,” Bolton said. “I would have done the same if — I hope I would have done the same if I had this kind of information.”
Trump and other members of the White House have denied the reports surrounding the alleged Russian bounties. (RELATED: President Trump Says John Bolton ‘Should Be In Jail’ Over Allegedly Classified Information In Book)
Bolton did deny allegations that he released his much-anticipated memoir about his time in the Trump administration – “The Room Where It Happens” – in an effort to undermine the president’s chances in the upcoming 2020 election.
The former advisor told Walter and Coglianese that the timing was “not entirely in” his hands and noted that it is not uncommon for memoirs to come out during a presidency.
“Memoirs are always inconvenient for people who don’t like what the person writing the book has to say, but they’re quite common,” Bolton said.
He also touched on the topic of impeachment and why he decided not to testify under oath. Bolton noted that he explains in his book how he “thought the Democrats had committed impeachment malpractice in the way they pursued the impeachment process.”
“We know how to conduct a successful impeachment … That didn’t happen here. I think this was done in a very partisan fashion and I think, and I’m not alone in the conclusion, that whatever I had to say was going to get swept away and lost in the shuffle,” Bolton said.
Bolton ended the interview with a comment about his supporters who may feel betrayed by the memoir.
“I think that everybody who has the honor to serve in the government in a senior position really has an obligation to the American people to make sure that they know what the truth is about what is going on,” he said.”
“I’m still the same conservative Republican. What I’m trying to show is loyalty to the constitution … And to explain, I don’t think Donald Trump is a conservative.”