Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton took his former boss's foreign policy to task during comments made at Duke University Monday night — in his first public speech since the impeachment inquiry wrapped up, and at a sensitive moment his lawyers are still wrangling over the contents of his soon to published book. On this latter point, he briefly expressed simply that "I hope my book is not suppressed" and later said more sharply, “This is an effort to write history. We’ll see what comes out of censorship.”
Evaluating the success of the administration's Iran policy, Bolton said: "I think it’s failing because i don’t think it lives up to its bumper sticker slogan of maximum pressure. I don’t think we’re applying maximum pressure to Iran."
However, he did hail the Soleimani strike in saying the now deceased IRGC Quds Force chief "deserved exactly what he got" but added, "The only quibble I have is it should've happened sooner." But he cited as among significant "failures" the administration's response or lack thereof to the IRGC's accidental downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.
Bolton also emphasized during the speech entitled “The National Security Challenge of 2020” his familiar theme going back to the Bush White House that “weapons of mass destruction” remain the most “severe” threat to US — especially those possessed by Iran and North Korea.
Specifically on North Korea, Bolton called the president's attempts to bring Pyongyang in from the cold with direct negotiations “doomed to failure”.
Bolton viewed the whole initiative (for which he was largely sidelined from during the last months of his tenure as national security adviser) as having ultimately “wasted two years” and which simultaneously gave North Korea “two year pass.”
Referring to the administration's North Korea policy, Bolton told the audience that "it was perfectly evident it was going to fail."
"There is not a single piece of evidence that the government of North Korea has made a strategic decision to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons," he added
On Iran, Bolton made clear he wanted the administration to take further steps.
"I don't think we are applying maximum pressure," Bolton said.
He said the sanctions enacted by the Trump administration have had "a very significant effect" but made clear he would like the US to explicitly push for regime change in the country. — CNN
Of course, the Duke University audience was no doubt hoping for more personal anecdotes dishing on Trump and the prospect of addressing the Ukraine angle to the prior impeachment proceedings.
As expected, Bolton spoke sparingly on this:
Asked about Trump’s tweets about him, Bolton is reported to have said he could not comment, pending a White House review of the manuscript for his forthcoming book. “He tweets, but I can’t talk about it. How fair is that?” he said, according to one reporter present.
When asked on Monday what it was like to staff Trump’s 2018 meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Bolton reportedly said: “To pursue the right policies for America, I was willing to put up with a lot.”
“I’m not asking for martyrdom,” he added. “I knew, I think I knew, what I was getting into.”
"For all the focus on Ukraine and impeachment trial: to me there are portions of the manuscript that deal with Ukraine — I view that as the sprinkles on an ice cream sundae, in terms of the book. This is an effort to write history. I did the best I can... We'll see what happens with the censorship," Bolton said.