Watch Norah O’Donnell’s interview with former national security adviser John Bolton on the “CBS Evening News” on Tuesday, June 23, at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Washington — Former national security adviser John Bolton hit back at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday after he accused Bolton of leaking to the media and lying, saying Pompeo at times served as one of President Trump’s “yes men” who decided to “tie his political future” to the president.
In an interview with “CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell, Bolton responded to Pompeo’s criticisms in the run-up to the release of Bolton’s memoir, “The Room Where It Happened,” which hit shelves Tuesday.
Pompeo told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday that he and Mr. Trump deliberately cut Bolton out of meetings because he was leaking information to the press and “would twist things or he’d lie.”
Bolton’s highly anticipated tell-all, which details his experiences working for Mr. Trump in the White House, has already caused a stir in Washington. Last week, the Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit against Bolton targeting proceeds from the book and sought an emergency order to stop its publication. But on Saturday, a federal judge in Washington declined to block the memoir’s release, while acknowledging the former national security adviser “gambled with the national security of the United States.”
Bolton refused to testify before House lawmakers as part of its impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and was not called to testify at the Senate’s impeachment trial.
Bolton also discussed Mr. Trump’s talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who he met for ain Singapore in 2018. While Mr. Trump touts his meeting with Kim and continued communications with the dictator as one of his greatest foreign policy successes, Bolton characterized it as a “manifest failure.”
“Trump believes that sitting down with anybody doesn’t confer legitimacy on the other side, doesn’t give them anything. I think that’s dead wrong,” he told O’Donnell. “And I think in international affairs countries all over the world were stunned that he was prepared to reward the North Koreans for their intransigent, unacceptable behavior. After three meetings with Kim Jong Un we got nowhere.”
In response to Bolton’s comments to the “CBS Evening News,” a Trump administration official said, “Let’s remember who was kicked out of meetings, and that was John Bolton.”
Norah O’Donnell: You’ve been called a liar. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said this morning that you were left out of meetings because, “He was leaking or would twist things or he lied.”
John Bolton: Yeah. Well, Mike and I obviously have a substantial disagreement here, because I think his department was the ace of aces in the government for leaking things. He has made a decision, which is certainly his to make, to tie his political future to Donald Trump. I think that’s what he continues to do. I feel sorry for him for doing that. But obviously, I’m not going to change his mind.
Was Secretary Pompeo one of those “yes men” that you describe in the book?
In some cases, he was. And I didn’t understand why. I didn’t understand why, knowing that he disagreed with some of the things the president wanted, he didn’t try to work to persuade him. Look, these decisions are ultimately the president’s. We all understand that. But at some point — and I came to that point and others did as well — when you can’t in good conscience carry out the decisions, then it’s time to resign.
Bolton’s memoir is published by Simon & Schuster, a division of ViacomCBS.