The morning after it was revealed that former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book claims Donald Trump tied military aid to Ukraine investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Trump’s favorite morning show Fox & Friends dutifully downplayed such claims, doing everything in its power to defend the president.
As first reported Sunday by The New York Times, Bolton wrote that Trump told him in August that he wanted to keep the freeze on $391 million of congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine until the country’s officials agreed to investigate the Bidens. This contradicts a central element of Trump’s defense—that withholding the aid had nothing to do with the president’s partisan desire for Biden probes.
With the president having already raged on Twitter overnight that he “NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens,” Fox & Friends’ curvy couch denizens and their guests went into full spin mode on Monday morning.
Co-host Steve Doocy, who in September said it would be “off-the-rails wrong” if Trump said he’d give Ukraine money only if the country investigated Biden, sang a drastically different tune in light of the Bolton blockbuster. “But we heard him say in the transcript he wanted President Zelensky to look into the Bidens and what happened in 2016, so is this a big, big, big story?” Doocy wondered aloud.
The timing of the Bolton manuscript leak—which came as the president’s counsel delivers its defense in the Senate impeachment trial—was also a major point of contention. After Doocy sarcastically said it’s “gotta be a coincidence” that this dropped before senators decide to allow additional witnesses, Fox News contributor Dan Bongino invoked a children’s toy from the ’80s to lash out at lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff.
“Everything is a coincidence,” the pro-Trump commentator exclaimed. “A whistleblower magically appears. A whistleblower, people from the NSC are working on Adam Schiff’s staff. What a coincidence. Adam Schiff is like the modern-day Teddy Ruxpin. You put a quarter in his back and he tells you a story. This is the next story. Now Bolton has the keys to the kingdom.”
Co-host Brian Kilmeade, meanwhile, said the president’s big takeaway from this and the “Lev and Igor tapes” is that he “has to do a better job vetting his staff.” (Interestingly, before becoming Trump’s national security adviser, Bolton spent more than a decade as an on-air commentator for Fox News, often appearing on Kilmeade’s show.)
Later on in the program, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham—who has yet to hold a press briefing—waved off the entire Bolton story, reiterating the president’s late-night Twitter defense before suggesting Bolton’s book is untrustworthy because it’s from “the same publisher that [James] Comey used.” (Simon & Schuster has also published several books by Trump himself.)
With Bolton’s legal team indicating in a statement that they only provided the manuscript to the White House National Security Council for review of classified material, Fox & Friends also took aim at leakers within the Trump administration.
“If John Bolton’s lawyers are telling the truth here and they just submitted it in and it’s leaked out, if that is indeed the case, more evidence that people within the administration are actually against the administration,” Kilmeade bemoaned. “And the other thing is, devastating timing because this thing was on the fast track to closing out without witnesses on Friday.”
Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, reiterated Kilmeade’s concern about those who are “disloyal” to Trump within his own administration.
“That is dishonorable, it’s dishonest, it’s disgusting, and people like that shouldn’t be listened to,” he huffed.