But Bolton, who has become a vocal critic of Trump, denied his former boss was tough on Russia, saying Trump complained about any sanctions against Russian oligarchs in the United States. Then Bolton, who said Trump “didn’t” do a better job with Russia than President Biden, went deeper into Trump’s knowledge of Ukraine.
“The thing is, he barely knew where Ukraine was,” he said.
Taylor Budowich, Trump’s spokesperson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Budowich told the Hill in a statement that Bolton had been fired “because he believes nothing less than war is not enough”.
“President Trump ensured peace during his administration and ended wars, rendering Bolton irrelevant,” Budowich said.
Bolton’s comments come as Russian forces continue to weigh on Ukraine. A 40-mile-long Russian convoy approaching Kiev had ‘stalled’, possibly to regroup, a senior US defense official said, but other forces gathered threatening forces on Tuesday, six days after the invasion of Ukraine. As fighting continues across the country, nearly 680,000 Ukrainians have fled since the start of the Russian invasion, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
Trump has come under fire since he recently described Putin as “clever”, “savvy” and a “genius” for sending military forces to Ukraine. Trump continued to defend Putin at the expense of Biden, who defeated him in the 2020 presidential election.
In an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham last week, Trump appeared to mistakenly think the United States had decided to go to war with Russia. After being corrected by Ingraham, Trump said, “Oh, I thought you said we were sending people.”
As the war unfolded in Ukraine, Trump sought to rewrite some of the history surrounding his support for the country and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In a statement on Monday, Trump repeated some of the same lies he told during his presidency regarding his support for Ukraine and NATO, wrote Glenn Kessler of the Fact-Checker.
“With Trump, it’s hard to know if he’s being willfully ignorant or if he’s just swallowed his own spin,” Kessler wrote.
Contrary to statements by the former president, Trump wanted to leave NATO, according to Bolton’s 2020 memoir. Bolton wrote that he had to convince Trump not to leave NATO in the middle of a 2018 summit, despite his repeated wishes to leave the alliance.
Bolton went on to debunk some of Trump’s lies on Newsmax, a pro-Trump channel that appeals to far-right conservatives. Schmitt repeated some of what Trump promoted as his accomplishments before asking Bolton about Trump’s “very tough stance against Russia.”
“I’m surprised you don’t think he would have handled it better than Joe Biden,” the host said.
“He didn’t,” Bolton replied, citing several instances in which Trump either failed to enforce sanctions or was forced to impose sanctions. “In almost every case, the sanctions were imposed and Trump complained about it, saying we were being too tough.”
During the interview, Bolton claimed that Trump once asked White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly if Finland was part of Russia. The former national security adviser pointed out that the story on Newsmax about the invasion of Ukraine was a departure from reality.
“It’s just not accurate to say that Trump’s behavior somehow deterred the Russians,” he said. As Schmitt tried to cut him off, Bolton continued, “I think the evidence is that Russia didn’t think their army was ready.”
Toward the end of the interview, Bolton emphatically stated, as he has since leaving the Trump administration, that Trump “is not fit to be president.”
“He was not qualified to be president,” he said.
Schmitt replied, “You worked for him, though.”
Bolton acknowledged that he worked for Trump “because I wanted to try…to help protect American national security.”
“I jumped at the chance, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.
Bolton doubled down on his stance on Tuesday, telling Vice that Trump “and his own political failure” played at least a small part in the invasion of Ukraine.
“To the extent that an unnatural environment was created, it made Putin’s job easier,” he said. “I don’t think it was decisive, but it was a factor, for sure.”