Newly named White House national security adviser John Bolton tried to distance himself from his past statements on Thursday, mere minutes after being named President Donald Trump’s new top national security aide.
Bolton told Fox News’ “The Story” that his past comments are now “behind me” and what matters is “what the President says.”
“During my career, I have written I don’t know how many articles and op-eds and opinion pieces. I have given I can’t count the number of speeches, I have countless interviews … in the past 11 years. They’re all out there in the public record. I have never been shy about what my views are,” Bolton said, adding later, “Frankly, what I have said in private now is behind me.”He concluded: “The important thing is what the President says and the advice I give him.”
This theme continued throughout the interview. When pressed on specific policy questions, the former US ambassador to the United Nations didn’t repeat his earlier views on Iran and North Korea.
In a March 2015 New York Times op-ed, Bolton wrote that international sanctions against Iran have not deterred the state’s expansion of its nuclear program.
“The inescapable conclusion is that Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program,” he argued, saying the US’s only effective solution would be “military action” like Israel’s 1981 bombing of an atomic reactor in Iraq that would have allowed for the state’s manufacturing of nuclear weapons.
He also argued for a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea amid growing tensions with the US in a Wall Street Journal editorial last month.
Despite not touching on those hawkish views, Bolton didn’t shy away from providing his thoughts on a recent leak of Trump’s briefing materials for his call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Trump congratulated Putin for his recent re-election victory despite briefing materials that said, “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.” The White House declined to officially comment to CNN on the matter.
Bolton said the leak was “completely unacceptable” and added that it threatens the President’s ability to work with other nations.
“It’s completely unacceptable,” Bolton told Fox News. “You cannot conduct diplomacy … if some munchkin in the executive branch decides they are going to leak.”
Bolton said he wasn’t expecting Trump to announce his hiring via Twitter on Thursday afternoon, adding that he’s “still getting used to it.”
The outgoing Fox News analyst was asked when he was offered the job and said that “it came to a conclusion this afternoon.” CNN has confirmed that Bolton met with Trump on Thursday afternoon.
Bolton added that he will be going through a transition before taking over April 9, including working with current National Security Council adviser H.R. McMaster.