National security adviser John Bolton warned Thursday that the US will not tolerate Russian interference in the 2018 midterm elections, attempting to reaffirm the administration’s strong opposition to Moscow’s influence over the democratic process after President Donald Trump failed to raise the issue during his summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin last month.
“I made it clear that we wouldn’t tolerate meddling in 2018 and that we were prepared to take necessary steps to prevent it from happening,” Bolton told reporters after meeting with his Russian counterpart in Geneva, Switzerland.
But it was clear that the turbulent events that have rocked the White House this week loomed over the meeting as Bolton was forced to defend the President’s decision-making on matters of national security.
He was asked if he is ever concerned that Trump is a “security risk” given that his former lawyer Michael Cohen admitted to campaign finance crimes in federal court on Tuesday and implicated the President by saying Trump had directed the action.
“Of course not. That is a silly question,” Bolton said when confronted with what was clearly an uncomfortable question for the national security adviser. “Honestly, have a little faith in the American people who elected him President.”
Bolton said he had spoken with Trump moments before stepping to the podium and that his performance in Geneva was consistent with the President’s expectations despite the fact that he had failed to reach an agreement with his Russian counterpart on election interference.
“On the whole, I’d say we made considerable progress. I think that’s what the two presidents had in mind for us, and hopefully they’ll agree with our assessment that in fact we did make progress,” he said.
Despite saying that progress had been made on other issues, Bolton told reporters the disagreement over election interference had driven the decision to hold his own news conference rather than release a joint statement.