Bolton offers scathing criticism of Trump at closed-door event
Former national security adviser John Bolton didn’t offer any praise of President Donald Trump in remarks at a private event Wednesday, but instead took aim at his former boss’ policies on the world stage, according to an attendee.
Bolton, who Trump fired earlier this month, made comments at an event hosted by the Gatestone Institute in New York that the attendee characterized to CNN as scathing in their criticism of Trump’s approach to Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan. Politico was first to report on Bolton’s remarks.
“Bolton didn’t have anything positive to say about Trump,” the attendee said.
While Bolton did not mention Trump by name, he said the idea of inviting the Taliban to Camp David was “disrespectful” to the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the attendee. As CNN previously reported, Bolton and Trump got into a heated argument over the President’s plan to host the Taliban leaders in the days before the 18th anniversary of the attacks, and Bolton did not back down, two people familiar with what happened said.
One senior official confirmed this argument happened in the Oval Office and at the end of the meeting, the President asked Bolton for his resignation.
Bolton’s exit made him the latest national security figure the Trump administration has plowed through, even as multiple geopolitical crises have played out. Trump’s approach to national security — and his penchant for threatening other countries over Twitter — has made national security roles within the Trump administration increasingly difficult to navigate.
In June, Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has “kept his word” when it comes to nuclear and missile testing — a direct contradiction of Bolton, who just hours earlier had accused Pyongyang of failing to follow through on its commitments.
Trump sparked similar confusion in July when he told reporters that Afghanistan “would be wiped off the face of the Earth” if he wanted to win the war in the region.
Bolton went on to tell the attendees on Wednesday that the administration believes Iran has been behind other disruptive drone strikes, including one on a NATO convoy in Afghanistan, according to the attendee in the room for the remarks.
Bolton told the attendees he believed that letting these attacks go unanswered is simply encouraging Iran’s bad behavior.
In wide-ranging comments to reporters in the Oval Office last week, Trump held forth on Iran and Afghanistan, pausing to criticize Bolton for his positions on Iraq and North Korea and make clear he disagreed with his former adviser’s stance on Venezuela.
While Bolton had pushed tough measures against Iran and North Korea — and in the past has advocated the use of military force against both — Trump praised the potential of both countries and did not rule out easing sanctions on Tehran, a change the regime is demanding before it will engage in talks.
CNN’s Zachary Cohen, Kaitlan Collins, Nicole Gaouette, Maegan Vazquez and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.