ABC News devoted a primetime hour to an exclusive interview with John Bolton, Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, and they could not have asked for a better way of promoting the sit-down.
It was tied to the pending release of Bolton’s book The Room Where It Happened, chock-full of scorching anecdotes about his former boss.
Just on Saturday, a federal judge ruled against the administration’s effort to stop the book’s release this week, while chiding Bolton for not completing a required national security review process that raises the prospect that the book contains classified information.
That’s a marketer’s dream: The man they don’t want you to hear, telling things that should be secret.
The one drawback for ABC News is that many of Bolton’s claims already were revealed last week, as reporters obtained copies, so some of the bombshell revelations were a matter of listening to him elaborate on certain moments. That includes stories of Trump getting played by Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, or asking whether Finland is part of Russia, or suggesting to Chinese President Xi Jinping that he could help him win reelection.
Still, for viewers who didn’t follow the details so closely, ABC News interspersed the interview with its own correspondents, filling in key details and moments of Trump’s presidency.
Those who have already immersed themselves in all things Bolton, though, probably keyed on his still puzzling explanation of why he didn’t come forward earlier — namely during the Democrats’ impeachment proceedings — given his alarmist description of Trump’s leadership.
After all, Bolton said that Trump told him on August 20 that military aid to Ukraine was directly linked to whether the country’s leaders conducted investigations of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. That was a key detail in the impeachment proceedings, the key charge of which was that the president had politicized foreign policy.
“What you would have said in your testimony was what many believed was a key statement — the president himself directly connecting aid to security assistance and to the investigation,” Raddatz asked him, adding, “You could have been that person providing that testimony.”
“And it would not have made any difference,” Bolton said, adding that “minds were made up on Capitol Hill.”
He elaborated, “My feeling was that in the midst of all the chaos that had been created this would have come and gone and nobody would have paid any attention to it. My view is that when you take the extraordinary step of removing a president from office, you have to do it in a serious way. The only way to win an impeachment would be to get Republicans to go along, and the Democrats abandoned that idea almost before they got started.”
Raddatz, though, said that Bolton also argued that Democrats should have looked at a wider scope of Trump’s alleged misdeeds in their impeachment proceedings.
“If they didn’t know about those things from you, how could they do that?” she asked him.
His response was a little like the chicken and the egg.
“Because and impeachment process that was serious and not partisan, like Watergate, would have taken the time to cover all of these areas,” he said. “They were in a rush. They wanted to get it done much earlier at the beginning of the presidential nomination contest. They didn’t quite make it, but the fact was they had a strategy that suited their political objectives, and it is not my obligation to help the Democrats out of their own problem.”
In other words, Democrats were too partisan, but he wasn’t going to be the one to give them any kind of bipartisan credibility.
He then argued that now was a “better time to tell the story,” because “the American people can look at it in the context of the most important political decision we make as a nation every four years.”
“It has nothing to do with making a profit,” he told Raddatz. “It has everything to do with making sure that the constitutional responsibilities that are accorded the different branches of government are carried out the right way.”
As it stands now, Bolton faces the prospect that his profits from the book will go to the federal government, if the Justice Department moves forward with its lawsuit and is successful in its claim that he failed to complete a national security review.
Meanwhile, Bolton will appear on Good Morning America on Monday morning for a live interview, and he has a slew of guest spots lined up throughout the week as he promotes The Room Where It Happened.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.