Former National Security Adviser John Bolton said in an interview with ABC News that aired Sunday night that the most important person in the White House was President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
“It varied from time to time,” Bolton said. “The sustained answer to that question… is Jared Kushner.”
Bolton went on to say that Trump was generally uninformed and did not do his homework.
“There was an unwillingness… to do systematic learning so he could make the most informed decisions,” Bolton said, adding that the president’s day didn’t “start until almost lunchtime.”
“I don’t think he is fit for office,” Bolton said.
Bolton’s interview with ABC comes just two days before the release of his book, titled The Room Where It Happened. The Department of Justice last week attempted to put an injunction on the book and block its release. But a judge in Washington struck down that effort Saturday.
Most of Bolton’s comments about the president seemed to focus on the president’s inability to study and understand foreign policy.
“Trump was not following any international grand strategy,” Bolton said.
Trump said he ousted Bolton from his position at the NSC in September in the midst of the Ukraine scandal and in the lead-up to the House impeachment inquiry. (Bolton now claims that he resigned.)
Over the past week the White House has scrambled to contain the fallout from Bolton’s book and has tried to paint the former national security adviser as a disgruntled former official attempting to profit off of lies.
In his interview with ABC’s Martha Raddatz, Bolton laid out a series of foreign policy events where he says Trump “did not understand” U.S. policy and instead thought that forging personal relationships with leaders would bring friendlier relations between two nations.
“I think many of these foreign leaders mastered at ringing his bells,” Bolton said.
Bolton said Trump tried to become close with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in an attempt to smooth relations between the two countries and come to an agreement on nuclear weapons.
“I think Kim Jong Un gets a huge kick out of this,” Bolton said. “Nobody should misunderstand that a personal relationship is somehow equivalent to better relations between two nations.”
Bolton said that during the Singapore summit in 2018 Trump gave concessions to Kim in private talks.
Perhaps no other foreign policy relationship was more concerning to Bolton than the one between Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Bolton said it was clear Putin had a hold over Trump
“I think Putin thinks he can play him like a fiddle. I don’t think he is worried about Donald Trump,” Bolton said. “I can just see the smirk when he knows he’s got him following his line.”
The former national security adviser said Trump’s callous indifference to establishing streamlined foreign policy eventually led to the breakdown of relations between the U.S. and Ukraine.
“He directly linked the provision of [Ukraine’s] assistance with that provision,” Bolton said of Trump holding up the country’s military aid in exchange for President Volodymyr Zelensky pushing officials in Kyiv to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.
Bolton was called to testify in the House impeachment probe but declined Democrats’ outreach, saying “it wouldn’t have made a difference” if he had answered their questions. “Minds were already made up on Capitol Hill,” he said.
Bolton said Democrats carried out “impeachment malpractice” and that the House Democrats should have taken more time to carry out the investigation. Instead, he said, they chose to “keep it narrow and move it fast.”
If there was one incident that pushed him over the edge, Bolton said, it was Trump’s decision to invite the Taliban to Camp David on the week of 9/11. That’s when he decided to resign, Bolton said. But the president fired him first.
“I should have striked preemptively,” Bolton said. “He and I had a one-on-one conversation in the afternoon and I said, ‘If you want me to resign I’ll do it.’ And we decided to talk about it later in the afternoon.”