One Week After Being Fired, John Bolton Is Already Speaking Out Against Trump

Well that didn't take long.

A week after being fired by President Trump, former National Security Adviser John Bolton is already out there attacking the Administration’s foreign policy, suggesting that unlike other former Trump associates he is not going to be remaining quiet:

John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s fired national security adviser, harshly criticized Trump’s foreign policy on Wednesday at a private lunch, saying that inviting the Taliban to Camp David sent a “terrible signal” and that it was “disrespectful” to the victims of 9/11 because the Taliban had harbored al Qaeda.

Bolton also said that any negotiations with North Korea and Iran were “doomed to failure,” according to two attendees.


All the North Koreans and Iranians want to do is negotiate for relief from sanctions to support their economies, said Bolton, who was speaking before guests invited by the Gatestone Institute, a conservative think tank.

“He ripped Trump, without using his name, several times,” said one attendee. Bolton didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bolton also said more than once that Trump’s failure to respond to the Iranian attack on an American drone earlier this summer set the stage for the Islamic Republic’s aggression in recent months.

At one point, Bolton, a previous chairman of Gatestone, suggested that had the U.S. retaliated for the drone shootdown, Iran might not have damaged the Saudi oil fields.

Bolton called the alleged attack on Saudi Arabia, which U.S. and Saudi officials have blamed on Iran, “an act of war” by anyone’s definition.


After the attack in June, Trump was poised to launch a military response against the Iranians — strongly urged by Bolton — but pulled back after Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others warned him that it was a bad idea.

During Wednesday’s luncheon, Bolton said the planned response had gone through the full process and everybody in the White House had agreed on the retaliatory strike.

But “a high authority, at the very last minute,” without telling anyone, decided not to do it, Bolton complained.

On Wednesday afternoon, Trump pushed back strongly.

“Well, I was critical of John Bolton for getting us involved with a lot of other people in the Middle East,” he told reporters during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego. “We’ve spent $7.5 trillion in the Middle East and you ought to ask a lot of people about that.”

“John was not able to work with anybody, and a lot of people disagreed with his ideas,” Trump added. “A lot of people were very critical that I brought him on in the first place because of the fact that he was so in favor of going into the Middle East, and he got stuck in quicksand and we became policemen for the Middle East. It’s ridiculous.”


On Afghanistan, another frequent subject of disagreement with the president, Bolton said that the U.S. should not have pursued a peace deal with the Taliban.

Instead, he said, the U.S. should keep 8,600 troops in Afghanistan with intelligence support and other support elements. He called the proposed deal that was on the table similar to the agreement the Taliban offered the U.S. after 9/11, but said “it doesn’t make any sense.”

More than once, Bolton said, Israel would “sooner or later” see a new government, even though he personally liked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Venezuela, a focus of his short White House tenure, Bolton claimed there were 20,000 to 25,000 Cuban troops in the South American country. The day they left, he predicted, the Nicholas Maduro regime would fall by midnight.

As I said when he was fired, it was obvious from the start that Bolton and Trump did not see eye to eye on a whole host of foreign policy issues. The most obvious, of course, is the fact that Bolton has always tended to be far more aggressive and willing to use military force as an instrument of foreign policy than this President seems inclined to do. This is especially true with regard to Iran, but based on Bolton’s comments and on reports that came out during his time in the White House it also appears to have been true regarding Venezuela and a number of other world hot spots.

That being said, just as a stopped clock can be accurate twice a day, there have been some instances where Bolton has been right and Trump has been wrong. The most prominent of those areas, of course, was the incident that led to his dismissal, the invitation to Taliban representatives to come to Camp David on the same week as the anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Bolton was right that the invitation was a foolish and insulting one, especially given the fact that there was no deal on the table to agree to. Additionally, it seems clear that Bolton was one of those in the foreign policy team that pushed back against Trump’s practice of placing obstacles in our relationships with traditional allies in Europe while cozying up to dictators in Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China, and North Korea.

While this speech in New York was at a private meeting Bolton is obviously sophisticated enough to know that a speech like that before a group that included people like Fox News host and pundit John Stossel, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, and others who are prominent in the media was going to get out. It’s also being reported that Bolton was on the phone talking to literary agents about the inevitable book deal within days after leaving the White House. Clearly, Bolton is not going to be quiet about his time in the Administration in the manner that previous Trump appointees have been. Even taking into account his own imperfections, his perspective on an Administration with an obviously flawed foreign policy should prove to be quite interesting.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, National Security, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    Theory: Bolton is the DNI whistleblower

  2. Teve says:

    @Stormy Dragon: In that case Fox News is well-positioned, because as soon as Trump fired him, Tucker Carlson called Bolton a liberal.

    Fox News thinks even less of Trump Chumps’ intellects than I do. 😀

  3. CSK says:

    I said at the time–here on OTB, in fact–that when Trump canned Bolton, he’d just made a bad enemy. It was clear that this was going to happen.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    At one point, Bolton, a previous chairman of Gatestone, suggested that had the U.S. retaliated for the drone shootdown, Iran might not have damaged the Saudi oil fields.

    Yeah sure. That’s almost as stupid as saying:

    “A proportional, limited response would look like the Saudi armed forces, or the US armed forces, or both, firing a volley of cruise missiles … against the facilities or the territory where these attacks originated,” said McNally.

    “It would be a symbolic strike that is directly proportional,” said Lamrani. “You struck our most important oil facility, and so we’re striking yours, and then we’re backing down.”

    You dumb fucks, we’ve already attacked their oil infrastructure. You think dropping a few bombs on a facility operating at the minimum is really going to dissuade them? Their economy is already going in the toilet. They aren’t going to go quietly, and they’ve just demonstrated how easy it is to attack ours.

    Geeezz, it’s almost like trashing the JCPOA was a bad idea.

    Quote from How did oil attack breach Saudi defences and what will happen next?.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    Bolton has always tended to be far more aggressive and willing to use military force as an instrument of foreign policy than any sane person or even this President seems inclined to do.

    sorry, felt that needed to be expanded on.

  6. Slugger says:

    Trump has already calculated the downside of firing Bolton and concluded that there is none. What are the Dershowitzes and Stossels going to do? They are not going to support Elizabeth Warren not matter what. They are so firmly in the Trump orbit that this temporary deviation will be followed by renewed sycophantic kissing-up within ten days at most. Trump’s ardent supporters are not going anywhere. To get above the 40% he needs some outreach to the lukewarm public out there to avoid being a Netanyahu. Bolton’s positions were well known prior to his appointment. If Trump were clever, diabolically clever, he would have appointed Bolton in order to fire him.

  7. Barry says:

    Doug: “That being said, just as a stopped clock can be accurate twice a day, ”

    No. One of the prime reasons that we in the flustercluck that we are in was listening to people who’ve been proven 100% wrong.

  8. Mister Bluster says:

    When a digital clock is broken so that it has no source of electricity it has no display and is always wrong.

  9. Mu says:

    This website needs the ability to post gifs