Former White House national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday that President Donald Trump denying in a tweet he was briefed on intelligence that Russians had tried to bribe Taliban fighters to kill US troops shows Trump’s “fundamental focus” is not on the United States’ national security.
“The fact that the President feels compelled to tweet about the news story here shows that what his fundamental focus is, is not the security of our forces, but whether he looks like he wasn’t paying attention. So he’s saying well nobody told me therefore you can’t blame me,” Bolton told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
The former official added that he believed Trump’s motivation for denying a briefing is “because it looks bad if Russians are paying to kill Americans and we’re not doing anything about it.”
“So what is the presidential reaction? It’s to say it’s not my responsibility, nobody told me about it,” Bolton said.
The comments from Bolton add to a growing list of critiques the former Trump aide has made in recent days. Bolton, who has authored a book highly critical of Trump and his administration, told Tapper that the President’s denial on Sunday “is part of the problem with Trump’s … decision-making in the national security space. It’s just unconnected to the reality he’s dealing with.”
“It’s about his personal position,” he said of Trump, noting that if the intelligence reports are true, this “is one of the most serious matters … that has arisen in the Trump administration.”
Earlier Sunday, Trump said in a tweet that “there have not been many attacks” on US troops by Taliban fighters as his evidence that the intelligence – first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by CNN – may be “phony.”
The tweet went a step further than a Saturday statement from the White House, which did not deny the validity of the report, but instead said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were not briefed “on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence.”
CNN previously reported that Russian intelligence officers for the military intelligence GRU recently offered money to Taliban militants in Afghanistan as rewards if they killed US or UK troops there, according to that source. US intelligence concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence offered the bounties, amid peace talks, the Times said in its report.
Trump was briefed on the intelligence findings and the White House’s National Security Council held a meeting about it in late March, according to the Times, citing officials briefed on the matter.
Asked by Tapper if he thought Trump poses a “clear and present danger” to the country, Bolton replied: “I think he’s dangerous enough, he shouldn’t get a second term.” Bolton said last week that he doesn’t plan to vote for Trump or Joe Biden in November.
This story has been updated with additional comments from John Bolton on “State of the Union.”
CNN’s Sarah Westwood contributed to this report.