During an interview with John Bolton Tuesday, Fox News anchor Bret Baier signaled straight out of the gate that he wasn’t about to give the former national security adviser unchallenged airtime to promote his widely criticized book, “The Room Where It Happened,” about his time in the Trump White House.
“How did you write this book?” Baier asked the question critical thinkers want to know of the incredibly detailed account. Bolton said the notes he took while working in the administration were all destroyed during his tenure. “So how do you go back and fill in all these blanks with that detail, these quotes, 500 pages?”
“Well, this is the best recollection I can put together. I’m blessed with a pretty good memory,” Bolton said, using as evidence of his accuracy the fact that he had used a similar memory method to write a book when he left the George W. Bush administration.
“I’m certainly not the first person in the Trump administration to write a book,” Bolton deflected. “Sean Spicer’s written a book, Sarah Sanders has written a book. Others have written books.”
“Sure, not like this one,” Baier pressed. “You took this job as national security adviser under the trust of the president that those conversations were going to happen inside the White House.” Thanks to Bolton, those conversations didn’t stay in the room where they happened.
A Threat to National Security
As Baier noted, former National Security Council chief of staff Fred Fleitz disagreed with Bolton’s book, having said, “I don’t believe national security advisers should be revealing internal candid discussions with the president. The president has to be able to know that whatever he says in those discussions won’t be made public. And if he thinks they’re going to made public, a president won’t consult with experts, and I think that’s a very dangerous prospect for our national security.”
One doesn’t need to look hard to see the president’s distrust of experts — a point for which his detractors, including the press, berate him endlessly. Throughout the Wuhan virus pandemic, Trump’s selective regard for expert opinion created clicky headlines, but ultimately revealed some degree of prudence, with the infamous and bogus hydroxychloroquine study retracted and health leaders flip-flopping on mask guidelines.
According to Fleitz, however, Bolton’s book revelations and disloyalty could lead Trump to disregard expert opinion even on national security, potentially placing Americans in a precarious position.
“Well, I don’t see it that way at all,” Bolton told Baier. “My feeling in basically all of my government jobs from lower levels up to the last job was that anything I said could and quite possibly would be in the papers the next morning. And this is nothing new in American history,” Bolton said, citing Hamilton, Jefferson, and Washington as parallels.
But Baier stressed the security point throughout the interview, saying the judge who ruled that the book could be released used strong language regarding the threat Bolton posed to national security. “Are you confident that you’re not going to face any criminal or other liability after this?” Baier asked.
“I am very confident that there’s no classified information in the manuscript. I never intended to put classified information out there,” Bolton replied, saying he believes the review of the book was Trump’s attempt at suppressing it.
“Let me just read from Judge [Royce] Lamberth,” Baier cut him off. “Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States. He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability.”
Bolton’s response? “We respectfully disagree.”
Throughout the interview, Baier revealed a list of other instances over which Bolton and other officials disagree, noting that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer even contradicted under oath on Capitol Hill what Bolton has presented in his book as fact. It seems “The Room Where It Happened” is Bolton’s word against — everyone else’s.
Bolton’s Impeachment Charade
Republicans aren’t the only ones who have a problem with Bolton. Democrats’ distaste for the former national security adviser came into focus throughout the impeachment mess, when Bolton said he had new information and would be willing to testify if the Senate called on him — none of which ever materialized.
Baier noted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Bolton put profit over patriotism, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Bolton was greedy, lacking courage and patriotism for failing to reveal what he knew while at the same time National Security Council officials were coming forward.
“You say in this book that they could have impeached on a number of different fronts,” Baier said. “You also told Susan Page with USA Today that if you were a senator voting, you would have voted to convict, but there was more that you needed to know about Ukraine and that might not be impeachable. Don’t you feel some responsibility now that you’re saying he should have been impeached on other things, but you never piped up?”
“I’m not saying he should have been impeached. I’m saying there’s a lot of reprehensible conduct, not all of which is impeachable,” Bolton replied, deflecting blame to the Democrats’ poor strategy and partisanship.
“Why would you vote to convict?” Baier asked.
“What President Trump did in Ukraine as far as I could see, based on my observation, was to use government power to further his own political interest,” Bolton replied.
“But you said that was enough,” Baier retorted. “If you were a senator, you would vote to convict. But they didn’t have all the information because you didn’t provide it.”
Bolton conjured up quite a word salad, saying history proves the only way to convict through impeachment is by a bipartisan process. He blamed Democrats’ “partisan rush” for the failure and deferred to the ballot box, saying, “the most important way that the American people control their government and control their president is through elections.”
Does Anybody Like You?
Baier offered an array of people averse to Bolton, from Republicans such as Sarah Sanders, to Democrats such as Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi, to the South Korean national security adviser. He even noted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Bolton a traitor, having both celebrated his White House exit and compared him to Edward Snowden.
George W. Bush said he “did not believe you were credible. Colin Powell obviously had a lot of things to say about you. Other administrations and other people you’ve worked with have painted a negative picture,” said Baier. “Is there somebody that you’ve worked with that has a positive perspective on your time?”
“Well, I hope there are a lot of people who have a positive perspective. I’ve been criticized for a lot of things,” Bolton said. “But I’ve always tried to say what I thought.”
It appears that strategy might not have worked out so well.