Former Trump administration National Security Advisor John Bolton isn’t a fan of his former boss, the president. The two aren’t going to be dining at Mar-a-Lago anytime soon. In fact, if it feels like only yesterday that he was omnipresent on political TV, telling us that not only had President Donald Trump engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine but he’d arguably done it with a series of other nations.
In terms of the political life of the republic, yes, it was only yesterday — but we now have the collective attention of a gnat, so we’ve forgotten about that Trump-related outrage.
The modish outrage, instead, began with Jeffrey Goldberg’s article published last week in The Atlantic where he claimed Trump would frequently disparage the troops and did so before he canceled a 2018 visit to a cemetery for American war dead in France.
“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” Trump is alleged to have said before the visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery outside of Paris. Goldberg’s article also claimed the president called the 1,800 Marines who died at the Battle of Belleau Wood “suckers.”
There’s a whole variety of language that anonymous sources told Goldberg the president has used toward American troops in the story, all of it shocking, all of it playing against character and all of it dropped right as the men and women of our military are about to cast their ballots. (Convenient, that.)
And, according to Bolton, the story that constitutes the linchpin for Goldberg’s piece is entirely untrue.
“According to what that article said, the president made disparaging remarks about our soldiers, the people buried at the Aisne-Marne cemetery, in connection with the decision for him not to go to the ceremony that was planned that afternoon, and that was simply false,” Bolton told Fox News on Monday.
“I don’t know who told the author that, but that was false.”
Bolton said the same thing as the president: The trip had been canceled because of the weather, not that that Trump was hopping mad he’d have to spend the day with some “losers” or “suckers.” (One assumes he would have also dismissed another key point of Goldberg’s article, that Trump hadn’t gone to the event because he was afraid the rain would play with his coiffure.)
“The main issue was whether or not weather conditions permitted the president to go out to the Aisne-Marne cemetery,” Bolton said.
John Kelly, the White House chief of staff at the time, told the president the “logistical reasons why the trip couldn’t take place, and the president assented to the recommendation that he not go,” Bolton said.
As for The Atlantic article’s other claims or those who’ve also anonymously told other outlets the president said similar things, Bolton wasn’t in a position to deny them but seemed to express skepticism.
“Look, obviously, I can’t prove the negative that he never said those things,” he said. “The president has a habit of disparaging people. He ends up denigrating almost everybody that he comes in contact with whose last name is not Trump.
“I was simply responding to what I thought was the main point of The Atlantic article, that at the critical point Saturday morning, when the decision was made not to go to Aisne-Marne, that he made the disparaging remarks. And he did not.”
Bolton’s account is key. First, he was in the room when the decision was made. Second, he loathes the president; Bolton is one of many individuals who’ve gotten in on the Trump “insider” book grift, although he was far more of an insider and his claims were far more incendiary than most.
The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the George W. Bush administration was always an odd choice for Trump, given that he was notoriously hawkish. Indeed, his book excoriated the current president for not seizing the opportunity to get more stuck into places like Iran. (It’s not as if Tehran is necessarily trustworthy, although Bolton’s prescription in his tome, “The Room Where it Happened,” lays out a prescription for dealing with the Islamic Republic that might even make Curtis LeMay’s eyes bulge.)
Bolton also made a whole bushel of sensational claims about the president in the book, published in June. He said Trump asked for China’s help in winning the 2020 election. He said the president praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for the country’s internment camps. He said Trump defended Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of Jamal Khashoggi to distract from a story about Ivanka Trump.
The president, for his part, tweeted that Bolton’s book “is a compilation of lies and made up stories, all intended to make me look bad,” and that he was “trying to get even for firing him like the sick puppy he is!”
Bolton’s book, which is getting terrible reviews, is a compilation of lies and made up stories, all intended to make me look bad. Many of the ridiculous statements he attributes to me were never made, pure fiction. Just trying to get even for firing him like the sick puppy he is!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2020
How believable this all is to you probably depends on your relative opinion of Donald Trump and/or John Bolton, but the point is there’s no love between the two of them. And yet Bolton has made it clear that if the story were true, it would have formed a whole chapter in his book.
Bolton isn’t the only one to cast doubt on parts of the Goldberg story; many others have done so, including former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and White House deputy director of communications Dan Scavino.
I was with POTUS in France, with Sarah, and have been at his side throughout it all. Complete lies by “anonymous sources” that were “dropped” just as he begins to campaign (and surge). A disgraceful attempt to smear POTUS, 60 days before the Presidential Election! Disgusting!! https://t.co/mQfCNUlyZm
— Dan Scavino??? (@DanScavino) September 4, 2020
These were some of the moments I witnessed the President show his heart and demonstrate how much he respects the selfless and courageous men and women of our military. I am disgusted by this false attack.
— Sarah Huckabee Sanders (@SarahHuckabee) September 4, 2020
Sanders and Scavino going on record about this story is one thing, but Bolton’s denial is quite another, particularly given his feelings on the subject.
Goldberg himself has said that the anonymous sourcing for his piece is “not good enough” but that the people he talked to were afraid of “angry tweets and all the rest.”
When no one has gone on record about these statements and the former national security advisor will — when there’s nothing in it for him and he’s merely deleting the temporary goodwill he may have earned from the left from his book — that should tell you quite a great deal.
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