ABC’s Martha Raddatz Grills Bolton on Why He Didn’t Testify: ‘You Felt No Obligation at All to Tell the American People All This?’


Former national security adviser John Bolton sat down for an in-depth interview with ABC’s Martha Raddatz to promote his book ahead of its release on Tuesday — but also faced a grilling from Raddatz about why he waited to release some of his damaging information about President Donald Trump until now.

“You were a star witness to something the president was on trial for,” Raddatz said to Bolton, “something you say you now find deeply disturbing, possibly criminal. Yet, you felt no obligation at all to tell the American people about this? Whether in testimony on the Hill or an interview or a statement or anything?”

Bolton replied that he was “fully prepared” to testify during Trump’s impeachment proceedings, but only if he got a subpoena, noting that everyone else who testified had been subpoenaed.

He then criticized the way that House Democrats had committed “impeachment malpractice” in the way that they had managed the process, saying they “very narrowly focused on Ukraine,” and too rushed — which kept impeachment from dragging on through the Democratic presidential nomination, but also politically benefitted Trump.

“Because they didn’t wanna mess up the Democratic presidential nomination,” said Bolton. “Now, I find that conduct almost as bad and somewhat equivalent to Trump. That they’re torqueing one of the gravest constitutional responsibilities the House of Representatives has, the power of impeachment, around their presidential nomination schedule.”

The Democrats’ strategy failed, said Bolton, and actually made things worse, because it fit with Trump’s own political strategy, “keep it narrow, and move it fast.” He scoffed at House Democrats’ assumption that impeaching Trump would teach him a lesson.

It’s absolutely 180 degrees the opposite of the truth,” he explained, “because he was acquitted in the Senate. He didn’t learn lessons from it, other than that he could get away with it, which leaves only the last guardrail — is the election this November.”

“I think the House Democrats built a cliff, they threw themselves off of it. And halfway down, they looked up and saw me, and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come along?'”

Raddatz pressed Bolton, “But you could have testified. You could have made some sort of statement. Your critics say you put your personal profit over the country by saving your depiction of Trump for this book.”

Bolton demurred, pointing blame at the Democrats for the way they “misused the process” and drove House Republicans away from them, ones who might have supported impeachment or at least been willing to consider a broader investigation.

Raddatz followed up again, “You don’t think it would have made a difference, your testimony…”

“I don’t think it would have made a difference because of the way the Democrats pursued the impeachment process in the House,” Bolton interjected, calling the entire process “a partisan catfight” that Americans watched on TV.

Moreover, he added, “minds were made up on Capitol Hill,” and he was convinced that even if he had testified, it would have been lost in the noise.

Bolton went back again to his critique that the impeachment inquiry was too narrow and too fast. “The only way to win an impeachment would have been to get Republicans to go along,” he said, “and the Democrats abandoned that idea almost before they got started.”

The Democrats’ strategy might not have removed Trump for office, but it did meet their “political objectives” as they faced pressure to wrap things up so the focus could turn to their presidential primary.

“But the fact was,” said Bolton, “they had a strategy that suited their political objectives. And it’s not my obligation to help the Democrats out of their own problem. My judgment was that I was prepared to testify. But I think now this is actually a better time to tell the story. Because now the American people can look at it in the context of the most important political decision we make as a nation every four years.”

Watch the video above, via ABC News.

Note: Quotes drawn from the full interview transcript, provided by ABC News, including some segments that did not air on the original television broadcast of the interview.

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