Transcript for Bolton: Mueller indictment 'strengthens' Trump's hand ahead of Putin summit
Earlier this morning I spoke with white house naonal security adviser John Bolton. He joine from trum turnberry in Scotland where the T enjoyed UND of golf this morning ahead of big summit tomorrow in Finland. Thank you for joining us, ambassador bol Gla be with Y. This suit comes jter Robert Mueller's indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials. Does the president feel blindsided or undermined by the timing of that indictment coming just as he's aboutsi presidentutin? Quite the contrary. The president was brieon this indictment coming. I spoke with him about it. He was perfectly pd to have it come before the meeting th Putin. I D say, in ct strengthens his hand. It showshat the just system, the department of aware of thes Russian efforts in elect meddling and I think the prescan put this on th table and say, this is aio matter we need to talk about it. Now you have sn the indictment Lou detailat happened here, do you he any doubt that pu himself knew wwa at the very least? Well, I can tell you when I met th president Putin a F weeks agto prepare for the lsinki meeting, he made it plain thatsaid the rsian S not involved and he was very cleh his translator that that's the word that he ted. W we'll ha to see given these are allegations concerning gru agents obviousart of the Russian state what he says about it now. Bse is theranway that you could have 12 officials, some of them quite senior in russmielligence, carry out an operation to mine a U.S. Presidentia election and that Putin himself would not know? Find that in any way crible? I find it hard to believe but th what one the purpose ofhis meeting is so the president can see eye to eye with predent Putin ask him about it. Will the president ask put to extradite those 12 dividuals who have been indicted? Well, you know, I know a number of democratic senators have called for extradition. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume none of them are lawyers, because the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia it's pretard to imagine how th would hap I knome othersavlled for uns to take steps to try and arrest these individuals. I think that is certainly mething thdepartment of justice will try and do. It's always possibha could go to inol international association of chiefs police, give them what are called red notices to issue arrest warrants in other countries, but, you know, the apartment of justice, their public. They did not put it under se whicmes that theve given notice to the named defendants that Ty could be ted. So it makes itder to achve the arrest, but I'm sure the dertnt will puue the Normal channels that it can to try aning these ople to trial. B extraditi treaty or not, theresident cousk or even demand of Putin that he turn those individuar.will he dohat? You know, I think it's pretty sillthe president to demand something that he can't get legally, and this is a very serious matter U know, thrussians take the position, you can like it or not like I that theiconstitution forbids them to extradite Russian citizens. They have an agreement with the Europeans that looks a lot like an extradion treaty. Ropeans havequently trd to use that to the russis to extradite theationals a they flat out refuse do it. So I think for thesident to demand thing that is going to happen puts the prident in a weak position and think the ent has made it very clear he intends to approach this discussion from a tion of stng. If the president -- if put is unwilling towat the Russian state, because this was no Russian acts, it was, as you pointed out, this is Russian intelligencess military igence, if pu is unwilling to acknowledge the Russian state's effort to interfere in ourctions, cayou really trust him on anything else? I an, I thinit was you who said the last time presi trump met with president Putin, negotiate with today's Russia at ur peril. Well, you know, I always love to have statements that I made in mcaty as a private citizen repeated back to me. I'm glad your researchers had to look iit. I hope they found it an edifying experience. I think E esident wi Hales as he chooses. Think he'll it to president Putin. Said he's G to do THA he'll listen to president Putin's response, and we'll go from there. Well, let me ask you as the national secy to the president, do you think that prent trump ould trust Vladimir Putin? Look, I said this before. I'll say it again. I'the nationec adviser. I'm not the national security decisionmake I give -- it's a privile give my advice to the president. I don't discuss it publicly. 'S going to make the decision how to hdle this. So let me play you something that the president said at H press conferenitera may. I call it the rigged witch-hunt. I think that really hurts our country, and it really hurts our tih Russia. So I'm tr to undersnd here. U said thathis indictm strengthens the prent's hand and yet evfter he wa briefed on what was happening, he calleit a rigge witch-hunt. Is he suggesting anythingllegitimatabout this indictment? I think what he is suggest is that his political opponents in tnited states for well over year and a have been trying to say that somehow he's dupe of thrussian in services, that he an agent of the Kremlin, that compromiseby Russia, that he's linked to Russia. Thate takes or from Vladimir Putin. I mean really the conspiracies abu as you caage and justubjects of people's imagination. That's what he's talking about. This indictment, a product of the departmentjustice, prably met T department ofjustice gueles which S that prosers have toelve that it's more -- substantially more likely than not that they caooyond a reasonable doubt as to E element of the offenses B charged and that, I think, is what strengthens the esident's hand going in to Vladimir Putin, that's the strengththe evident tt thpartment has accumulated. That's what he has to answer. The direcof national intelligen, Dan coats, just said that Russia is the most aggressive for actor in efforts ivide America, and then he said this, the warning ts are bliinred again. The digital intr that serves this country is literally under attack. He even coed these rsian efforts to 9/1o the tuation ahead of 9/11. W ncerned are you that Russia will try Toth again, will try to again undeine an americaection? Well, I think we're quite concerned Abou. The president has riefed on this previously rtment of justice includ the bpartment of homeland sit ese briefis have been ongoing. You've heaecretary O home srstjen Nielsen explain many of the efforts she's undertaking to prevent this happening, certaiy to the city of our electoral systems in each of the on that we catalk aboutecse th're classied obviously you're not going to alerur rsor those tg to rrupt the action process to what we'reoing. But I init's very ear the prdetermined T we're not going to have any our wh the integrity of our electoral ocess.'me you saw several Democrats calling on the president tocel the suit. We alsard from sat John McCain who said sident trump not prepato hold pucountable, the summi Helsinki should not be move forward. Obvisly the summs moving forward.e ove forward. Obviously the summit is moving M forward. Obviously the summit is moving fomove forward.obviously the summit is moving forward. But will the president hold Putin accotable and I T me just ask him if he did it or the Russians did it. With the evidence that it was Russian interference, Russian government interference with our Elon? Welook, you he two indictments by the justice dertment already.I think thrussians are well aware of that. How this conversation is goi twrties. We have asked and the Russians have agreed that it will be basically unstructured. We are not loo for concrete deliverables her it's very portant that with president Putin. That's how this is going to start off and I might seat every European leader that we've met with on this trip including most recently on Friday prim minister Theresa may of the United Kingdom has said they support this meeting going forward. The British hanificant concerns about the Russian use of a chemical agent against people here in great Britain and as they pointed that constitutes a chemical weapons attack against a nuclear power. Prime minister may was very strong in her conversation with the prident about, and I'm sure the president has that Inell. E to be a lot of very difficult issues on the agenda here with president Putin raise all hem. So there are C frome of our allies about the president offering concessito president put can we just quickly go through three of these? Will the president recognize Russia's annexation of crimea or does hle that ou Look, that is not the policy of thenited states, and I might say there are a lot of ople raise a lot of cons about a lot of things. We could sit here and address a whole raof them. I thinthesident is going into this meeting determined advance the national interests of theted states. That's what he was elected to do So, let me do two of th rs then. E oint mility exercises with our -- with Russian's baltic neighbor will he rule out ending those? Are those going to continue? That's not on the agenda. And withdrawing U.S. Troops ia? That's -- look, the whole situ in Syria will be a discussion that the two leaders will have in large part because it'setng more seous, but I think the president's made it cleaatere until the ISIS territorial caliphate is removed and as long as the Iranian menacetinues throughout the Middle East. I want to you about Putin and freedom of the press. Vladirutin and H government have jailed journalists. There have even accusations there have been -- they've carried out murders of journalists critical of the Russian E. We hear pridt trump -- don't he kind of contribute to that authoritarian effort to dermine a free press WWE hear him brand legitimatws Ni fe, legitimate news stories as fake. That contrib exactly the kind of undermin free presthat we see ofussia? No, I don't think that has anhing to D with it andet's just be clear, Franklin Roosevelt met with Joseph St at aimwhen activy in Russia was a lot worse than it is today. I'm not excusing pnt conduct but it didn't seem to bother frank liveoosevelt a libel Democrats weren't bothered at the time when he met with stalin.so let's T and have me historical perspective her not act like we the attention span of fruit flies. But wmi I'm not asng whether or not it's legitimate or appropriate for hi meet withlamir pun. I'm asking if the president brandieal news organizati rtories as not reacontributetos effort that we see fthe Russians and from other authoriaine a free press? Of course not. Really honestly, Jonathan, I think thtion is silly. Wel let me ask you about -- And don't say I'm attack freedom of tress. I just characterized your question. Okay, well, you were also and white Hou press secretary announced that your appearance would go rwusa CNN repoer, quote, disrespected the president and prminister M at the joint press conference. Is it really approte to deny a news oizsso a white house official because a reportrik a question at a press conference? Look, in reality I don't seek T the pres I don't talk to them. I appear when I'm D to and 'M not -- if I'm not asked to appear, I don't do it, and I don't communicate them eitheryond out if you consulted your friends in the Washington press corps whom I don't communicate with. Okaet me ask U about atsident -- the witssia. He said that Russia, that Putin ot an enemy. He is mpetitor and he's somebody that he hopes will be a friend. All of that may be true, but isn't it also true that Putin, ay's Russia N adversary of the United States? Yeah,re are certainly adversarial aspects of it. There's nouestion about it. But the phrase peer competitor has often been use aracterize U.S. Relations with China, with with others. So I thought the president was on the mark there.dent in hieting with nato said that the U.S. Could go it alone or do our own thing if nato es don't P more into the collective defense.t -- would president lyr withdrawinom nato, withdrawing sut from naf our allies don't put in more? Look, that's not exactly what he said. I was there in every conversation he had in Brussels on this ect and I ard him him. He made a very important point, natoa collect dse orzation. To be strong together, all 29 allies have ull their ir share of the burden. They ackedge that. They also acknowledge that they have not done so. And they acknowledge what I ink is theosimportant point of all here, THA president trump, unlike any of prrs, has finally made this burden sharing issue somethof importae and the impromptu meg that we D in seursday, the prime minister or one of the euroan countriaid expressly referring to president Obama, you know, he would come here, and 'D say, oh, yeah, we need your defense expenditures equal 2% gdp by 20 ho-hum, and then he'd Mon. I an that was co which I heard from other European leaders as well T they knew president Obama was just goi through the mns. So, of course, hng the president of the United States just going through the motions, that's they responded. 'Vomsident trump. He'tem to go through the motions. He wants to live up to the commitment that thade and I think vis O understand this. Every nato ally agreed at cardiff,ales, in 2014 to hit the 2% target by 2024. Noboas ever sa tt they didn't rch they weren't coerced by the United States to do that. They agrd to it of T own frill. And they should up to it. The United States anr taxpayers should not be subsidizeuropean welfare states are not wing to spend on their own dse. I think the president's T policy her Before you go I want to ask you about North Korea. Of crs the summi siapore, the president said, quote, there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea. At we have seence that summit and there are reports of the north Koreans actively trying to deceive us abouthe extenttheir nucleaogram and,f course, we had secretary Pompeo's visit to Pyongyang. He wasn't even able to meet with Jong-un. Did not appear to beer prtive meet. Given what we have seen since gapore sumsn't whhe preside said about there no longer being a nuclear at from noh Korea at very least wildly premature? Come what he S saying icot at if north a lives up to the commitments that it made on denuclearization, then it no longer be a THR the teere will be what North Korea actually made in Singapore that they say they still upho and that now they need to fulfill. I mean actually the quote was there no longer ale threat from North Korea. Thcommitmentor any of that. Hink it was R what he meant. Well, let me ask you. You think they're meeting their commitments? Any indicion that they are on a path towards meetinose commitments? I think that's what secretary Mike po was doin his meetings. He's got a very tough job. We're all tryg to helpim out, and he's going to work it thh. Okay, one last question -- Well,re's anoth topic. E last queion. There's been many attempts to try to charactwhat the ump doctrine is. One that I saw recently was, quote,o friends, no enemies. Does that sound to you like the trump doctrine how would yot it? I T it sounds like a cheap shot, Jonathan. Looki'm a burk conservative. I don't do doctrines unless I I have to. I think the present believes inonald reag's apprch of peacthugh strength and I think that's what he's carrying out. All right. Ssador johbolton, th president's national security tdo And when we come back, two central pls in the 26
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