The Corner

Politics & Policy

Trump: Bolton Lost Me When He Defended the Iraq War, One Month into the Job

President Trump, in an interview with Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender in the Oval Office Wednesday evening, discussing John Bolton:

He had a lot of policy disputes, he and I. And after the first month or so, you know, I asked him one question. I said, “So, do you think you did the right thing by going into Iraq?” He said, “Yes.” And that’s when I lost him. And that was early on. That’s when I lost him. But no, I disagreed with much of the stuff he said. He was one of many people. I liked listening to many people, and then doing whatever is the right thing to do.

Mr. Bender: You didn’t ask him about Iraq before you brought him into the White House? If he regretted that?

Mr. Trump: No, but it didn’t . . . I knew all about his policy on Iraq. But that didn’t matter, frankly. Because he made a terrible mistake. And so did everybody else involved in Iraq and the Middle East, frankly. I never thought it was the right thing to do. And I’ve been proven right. But when he told me he still thinks it was the right thing to do, and was unable to explain it to me, I said, “Explain that to me, because I don’t think you can.” And he could not explain it to me. So I said, “Do you say that just to make yourself feel good? Or do you say that because you really believe it?” He said, “I really believe it.” I said, “Well, then you’ve lost me because it’s just wrong.”

This is a pretty remarkable exchange. John Bolton is not exactly shy about his views. If Bolton ever said or wrote anything that indicated or suggested he regretted the decision to invade Iraq, I missed it. It’s surprising that Bolton’s answer surprised Trump, and Bender’s incredulity that the issue never came up in the job interview is palpable. (What did Trump and Bolton talk about before he was hired?) And from Trump’s words, he lost faith in Bolton’s judgment in matters of national security about a month or so after Bolton took the job. Bolton served as national-security adviser for 16 months!

Elsewhere in the interview, Trump said, “The only thing I liked about Bolton was that everybody thought he was crazy.” Hopefully, the president sees more qualities he appreciates in current national-security adviser Robert O’Brien.

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