Last Updated Jun 23, 2020 8:18 PM EDT
Washington — Former national security adviser John Bolton hit back at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday after he accused Bolton of leaking to the media and lying, saying Pompeo at times served as one of President Trump's "yes men" who decided to "tie his political future" to the president.
In an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell, Bolton responded to Pompeo's criticisms in the run-up to the release of Bolton's memoir, "The Room Where It Happened," which hit shelves Tuesday. Bolton also discussed his views on Biden, the president's relationship with China and decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and more.
Pompeo told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday that he and Mr. Trump deliberately cut Bolton out of meetings because he was leaking information to the press and "would twist things or he'd lie."
Bolton's highly anticipated tell-all, which details his experiences working for Mr. Trump in the White House, has already caused a stir in Washington. Last week, the Justice Departmentagainst Bolton targeting proceeds from the book and sought an emergency order to stop its publication. But on Saturday, a federal judge in Washington the memoir's release, while acknowledging the former national security adviser "gambled with the national security of the United States."
Bolton refused to testify before House lawmakers as part of its impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump's dealings with Ukraine and was not called to testify at the Senate's impeachment trial.
Bolton also discussed Mr. Trump's talks with North Korea's Kim, who he met for ain Singapore in 2018. While Mr. Trump touts his meeting with Kim and continued communications with the dictator as one of his greatest foreign policy successes, Bolton characterized it as a "manifest failure."
"Trump believes that sitting down with anybody doesn't confer legitimacy on the other side, doesn't give them anything. I think that's dead wrong," he told O'Donnell. "And I think in international affairs countries all over the world were stunned that he was prepared to reward the North Koreans for their intransigent, unacceptable behavior. After three meetings with Kim Jong Un we got nowhere."
In response to Bolton's comments to the "CBS Evening News," a Trump administration official said, "Let's remember who was kicked out of meetings, and that was John Bolton."
Bolton on China, Kushner, Biden and November
John Bolton: I think with respect to China, which for me is the existential threat to America in the 21st century, we're in much worse shape.
China continues to be an increasing global threat for the United States.
Norah O'Donnell: What capabilities does China have?
Well, national wealth alone gives them the kind of potential in cyberspace and in many other respects that Russia doesn't. Russia's a one-horse economy. And when the price of oil is down, they're in trouble. They happen to be a massive nuclear power.
I do think it's correct, when America's criticized for having a quarterly report mentality, China thinks in decades and longer, and we need that strategic approach. So when you look at Xi Jinping and that very long range approach they have compared to Donald Trump thinking, "This is an afternoon conversation," it's no wonder we're at a disadvantage.
You write in the book that President Trump asked the Chinese president, Xi, for help in the 2020 election. How explicit was the ask?
Well, this is an area where in the prepublication review process I was asked to change my description of what was said. And we had a lot of discussions on that point. But I finally agreed.
I'm going to follow the agreement and leave it at what we said there.
Because this is a national security issue? It's classified?
Because under the attack that the administration is already making, I don't want to give them any more evidence. But let's be clear. Donald Trump is not worried about foreigners reading this book. He's worried about the American people reading this book. That's what this is about.
I know, but you make the case that this is important for the American people to know before an election. Why not tell us what he was asking of the Chinese president?
Because when I wrote the book, I never intended to disclose classified information. I've been through four Republican administrations now and have never done that. I wouldn't do it.
Within the White House, which adviser would you say has the most power?
Well, I think, perhaps not so evident at the beginning, but increasingly evident now is Jared Kushner.
And is Jared Kushner, in your view, qualified to handle the portfolio that he holds within the White House?
Well, I can't speak to the non-national security areas. The president can pick any political adviser he wants. But in the national security field, I didn't understand why he was given the responsibilities he was.
Who is the safer choice for America's commander in chief — President Trump or Joe Biden?
I'm not going to vote for either one. And it's a question of apples and oranges. It's a very bad election from my point of view, at the presidential level. What I'm going to do is write in the name of a conservative Republican leader.
Well, a write-in is not going to win.
That's true. My plan is to hope for a miracle.
Do you believe if President Trump loses in November he will contest the results of the election?
So there may be legitimate reason for either candidate to contest this or that state. The real issue I think is, is there some chance he would refuse to leave?
And I've got to believe that the Republican Party at that point would rise, as it did in the case of Richard Nixon, and tell him he had to get out.
You think the Republican Party would do that?
I hope so.
Bolton on Pompeo
You've been called a liar. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said this morning that you were left out of meetings because, "He was leaking or would twist things or he lied."
Yeah. Well, Mike and I obviously have a substantial disagreement here, because I think his department was the ace of aces in the government for leaking things. He has made a decision, which is certainly his to make, to tie his political future to Donald Trump. I think that's what he continues to do. I feel sorry for him for doing that. But obviously, I'm not going to change his mind.
Was Secretary Pompeo one of those "yes men" that you describe in the book?
In some cases, he was. And I didn't understand why. I didn't understand why, knowing that he disagreed with some of the things the president wanted, he didn't try to work to persuade him. Look, these decisions are ultimately the president's. We all understand that. But at some point — and I came to that point and others did as well — when you can't in good conscience carry out the decisions, then it's time to resign.
Bolton on North Korea
On North Korea, I mean, President Trump is the first sitting president to meet with the North Korean leader. And the president touts this as one of his great foreign policy successes. Is it a success?
No, it's a manifest failure. Trump believes that sitting down with anybody doesn't confer legitimacy on the other side, doesn't give them anything. I think that's dead wrong. And I think in international affairs, countries all over the world were stunned that he was prepared to reward the North Koreans for their intransigent, unacceptable behavior. After three meetings with Kim Jong-un we got nowhere. But —
And what did the North Koreans get?
The North Koreans got somewhere. They continued their ballistic missile and nuclear programs over that period. And made progress. And that is something that we can't take back now. The destruction of the liaison office they built for South Korea is the fitting symbol of the failure of the Trump administration policy.
Bolton's memoir is published by Simon & Schuster, a division of ViacomCBS.