John Bolton says U.S. will not cooperate with International Criminal Court

The United States will not in any way cooperate with the International Criminal Court, national security adviser John Bolton announced in a speech to the Federalist Society on Monday, blasting the ICC as an unaccountable, bureaucratic body that runs counter to the U.S. Constitution and is "antithetical to our nation's ideals."

In his first speech as national security adviser, Bolton made the case that the ICC's authority is invalid, subverts American sovereignty, and concentrates power in the hands of an unchecked authority in a way that is "antithetical to our nation's ideals." In November, the ICC prosecutor asked to investigate crimes allegedly committed by members of the U.S. military who served in Afghanistan. Bolton called those claims unfounded. The national security adviser said it was no coincidence he made his speech on the ICC one day before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. 

"Today, on the eve of September 11th, I want to deliver a clear and unambiguous message on behalf of the President of the United States," Bolton said. "The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.We will not cooperate with the ICC," Bolton said. "We will provide no assistance to the ICC. And we certainly will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us."

The ICC was formally established in 2002, although then-President George W. Bush authorized the U.S. to "un-sign" the Rome Statute and the Senate never ratified it. Bolton suggested the ICC was created to attack U.S. leadership, not to truly hold egregious international criminals accountable. 

"In theory, the ICC holds perpetrators of the most egregious atrocities accountable for their crimes, provides justice to the victims, and deters future abuses," Bolton said. "In practice, however, the court has been ineffective, unaccountable, and indeed, outright dangerous. Moreover, the largely unspoken, but always central, aim of its most vigorous supporters was to constrain the United States. The objective was not limited to targeting individual U.S. service members, but rather America's senior political leadership, and its relentless determination to keep our country secure."

If the ICC does come after the U.S., Israel, or any allies, Bolton said the U.S. will not sit quietly. He listed a number of possible actions Bolton might pursue, from withdrawing financial aid to banning judges from entering the country. 

"We will respond against the ICC and its personnel to the extent permitted by U.S. law," he said. 

Bolton's speech comes as the Trump administration is shuttering the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, a controversial move that Bolton confirmed in his speech. That development comes after the White House said over the weekend it was cutting $25 million in funding for health services in the heavily Palestinian East Jerusalem. 

"The United States will always stand with our friend and ally, Israel," Bolton said. "And, today, reflecting Congressional concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel, the State Department will announce the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization office here in Washington, D.C."

Ahead of Bolton's speech, a protester holding a pink "Iran wants Peace" sign and shouting Bolton is a "war hawk" was forcibly removed from the stage by security. Bolton joked in the middle of his speech that his friends with "Code Pink" were present, and apologized for shouts coming from the building. 

The Federalist Society is a conservative legal group that has supported the nomination and confirmation process of both Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Bolton has spoken to the group on foreign policy in years past. 

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