John Bolton: Pence was a 'consistent ally' and equally 'stunned' by some Trump actions
The judge wrote that it was too late to halt Bolton's book titled, "The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir." Wochit
WASHINGTON – Former National Security Adviser Bolton wrote in “The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir.”
Bolton argued for keeping Pence on the 2020 ticket when Trump asked if he should replace him with Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador.
Bolton called it a bad idea to jettison someone so loyal without a guarantee that it would pay off at the ballot box.
“That seemed to be Trump’s thinking as well,” he wrote.
Pence's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bolton defends Pence on Ukraine
Bolton also backs up Pence’s previous refutation that he’d been warned that the delay in aid to Ukraine – the issue at the center of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry – had become tied to politically-motivated investigations Trump wanted.
Diplomat Gordon Sondland testified under oath last year that he mentioned his concern to Pence in a briefing in Warsaw shortly before Pence met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in September.
Pence has disputed Sondland’s account of raising concerns about the aid and has broadly denied knowing about the allegations.
Bolton, who was aware of efforts by Sondland and others to get Ukraine to investigate, wrote that he doesn’t recall “Sondland saying anything at that meeting” with Pence.
But when Pence and Bolton discussed the issue without Sondland, the vice president “acknowledged we still didn’t have a good answer to give” Zelensky for why the assistance hadn’t been released.
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Pence “ducked as adroitly as possible,” when reporters asked about it. He danced around the issue with Zelensky and the “lack of `yes, it’s definitely coming’ statement was impossible to hide,” Bolton wrote.
A few days later, Pence told Bolton that he’d told Trump the money should be released.
“Pence also pressed Trump to meet Zelensky at the UN General Assembly and said that `just between us girls,’ he thought Trump was looking for a news peg to make what we hoped was the right decision," Bolton wrote.
Democrats and other critics of Bolton pointed out that he refused to testify during their impeachment inquiry into the president's dealings with Ukraine, and only agreed to testify during the Senate trial when he knew it was unlikely Republicans would call him forward.
Trump attacked book
Trump’s Justice Department had gone to court to block publication of the memoir, saying it contained classified information.
A federal judge Wall Street Journal in an interview last week that Bolton "is a liar” and adding “everybody in the White House hated John Bolton.”
While Trump has also tweeted this month that Bolton is wacko, despicable and a “disgruntled boring fool who only wanted to go to war,” Pence has not recently mentioned Bolton on Twitter.
Bolton: Pence `stunned' by some of Trump's actions
Bolton is critical of Trump team operations from the beginning, including the transition, which Pence led. But Pence is a rare top White House official not skewered by Bolton.
The two had known each other when Pence served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Bolton calls Pence a “solid supporter of a strong national security policy” with whom he could easily converse on a range of foreign and defense policy issues.
He describes the vice president as trying to influence policy in private conversations with Trump but being as taken aback as Bolton was at some of Trump’s actions. That includes Trump’s Oval Office meeting in early 2019 with Kim Yong Chol, the then-lead negotiator for North Korea, which Trump conducted without Pence and Bolton.
“I was still stunned at being excluded, but not more stunned than Pence, who was stoical throughout,” Bolton wrote. (A few months later, during a meeting with Japan’s prime minister, Trump laughed that the North Koreans “hated” Bolton, Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “but they loved him,” according to the book.)
When, during negotiations over U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, Trump wanted to invite the Taliban to Washington, Pence “replied carefully,” Bolton wrote.
“We should reflect before we make that decision,” Bolton quotes Pence telling Trump. “They have abused and repressed their people. Have they actually changed?”
After Trump called off a military strike to retaliate against Iran for shooting down an American surveillance drone, Pence was as “dumbfounded” as Bolton, according to the book.
“He agreed to go down the hall to see Trump and find out if there was any way to reverse the decision, but there obviously was not,” Bolton wrote.
Bolton credits Pence with influence
Bolton, Trump’s third national security adviser, does give Pence credit for influencing the administration’s push for the ouster of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. During a meeting to discuss possible sanctions, a Pence aide said the vice president thought the administration should be “going all out” against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.
“That had enormous effect since Pence rarely offered his views in such settings, to avoid boxing in the President,” Bolton wrote.
He also credits Pence with “persuading Trump to overcome Treasury’s objections to sanctioning a major Venezuelan government financial institution and four of its subsidiaries.”
Pence had the difficult task of going after China without saying anything that might damage Trump’s “prized personal relationship” with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Before Pence gave a 2018 speech accusing the Chinese government of orchestrating an aggressive military, economic and political campaign to expand its influence inside the United States and across other regions of the world, Trump went over the text “line by line,” according to Bolton.
Everyone was “delighted” with how the speech was covered in the press. Pence remarked to his chief of staff and to Bolton that it was “the boldest China speech ever.”
“Which I think is true,” Bolton wrote.
While Pence may have pushed Trump to take a harder line against totalitarian regimes, the president relied on his No. 2 to make his comments more palatable to traditional allies.
Bolton describes a National Security Council meeting in which Trump railed against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and instructed Pence to tell NATO’s secretary general that the organization – and not the U.S. – should help Ukraine.
When Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., continued the discussion with Trump after the meeting, Trump finally responded: “Pence will soften my message.”
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