Transcript for Bolton: '4 countries' could interfere in midterm elections
Inteigence officials, en former CIA dtors have lost their security cleances before when they E the rules or broke the la what happened this week is brand W. The first time a president personally revoked the security clearance of a former official not for mishandling classified information. There's no evidence of THA but for speak out again the president. And as the president tol"the Wall Street urnal" it was retaliation for Jo Brennan's involvemt in the Russia investigation with the CIA. I call it the rigged wch hunt and these people led it, said I think it's thing that had to be done. President trump is threatening take action against others blames for the Russia investigation and his unprecedente actions have drawn an unprecedented response from dozens of former intelligence officials, including CIA ctors dating back to Reagan administration. It's a remarkable rebuke that raises aious question. What does it mean R national rity when the intelligence community and the commander-in-chief appear to be at war. Martha Raddatz discusses this issue and much more with the president's national security adviser John Bolton. Good morning, Martha Repor good morning, George. It W a wide-ranging interview. Weked a lot about foreign policy, the hot spotaround the world, North Korea and Russia, but I Ted the interview by asking him about president trump king the security clearance of John Brennan. Ambassador Bolton, thanks for doing this interview with us day.I know you're head on to Geneva and Ukraine this week with lots of importantues to talk AUT -- Russia, north Korea -- but I want to start with another issue that is in the roof national security anat is president trump revoking the security cleae of John Brenna should that have been done? Well, this is a decision for the president. It's something that I ink was originaluggested by senator Rand Paul, perhaps others.I was aware of it along with, I think, most of the president's other senior nional security visers a few weeks ago. He obviouslyade his decisi and we go on from there. He cited his authority to protect the nation's classified informatioas a reasoand also referred to Brennan's what he calledatic behavior, wd outbursts on the intert and telesion. What does this have to doith protecting classified nation? I think senator richaurr, the chairman of the sena intelligence committee who I don't think anybod being a gopher for the trump administration had some very trenchant observation brennaor since he left the CIA and I think also os behavior while he was at the CIA. Was my VI at the time that he and others in the Obama administration were politicizing telligence. I think that's a very daous thg to do. I think especially for senior intelligence oials, career intelligence officials who come out of the gernment, to keep thatall of separation tween intellce and policy and I don't think Brennan has followed that. You know, whr he actually used classified information, I think people would be able to determine but I ththat's a serious problem. Are there spefic examples that you think he used classified intelligence to politicize? No.but there is a line and somebody can S it. I know from my own expnce in the bushinistration after I left, I was accused by a senior state apartment official of criticizing the admiration'spolicy on north Korea and using sified information. And it happened he was half right.I was criticizing the bush administration but I W not using classified iormation. Had I been, it would have been a dierent story. I ae that John Brennan says the same thg, that he se classified information. Would you have been I ident Obama had revoked your securilearance for criticizing him which you D frequently? Because I didn't use classified informati there either. Thera line and I think it's clear some people can cross it. But let me be clear here. You're not sure whether John Brennan used classif information? You haveo specific examples? In terms of wt he said since he left, I T a number of people have commentedhat he couldn't be in the position he's of criticizing prest trump and S so-called collusion with Russia unless diuse classified information. But I don't know the specifics. Wh do know is when was director of the CIA was very troubled by his conduct, statements he made in public, and by what I thought was his politicion of the inlligence community. So the line to you for people F they use classified information but you're not reallre whether he did. I there's any kind of conduct I think TRE are lotsf grounds to have your security C revoked for behavior that calls into question Y ability to hold the material in confce. Jusa couple more his. The criticism this move has been very widespread. CIA directors Bob Gates, George tenant, miael Hayden, all of whom served under repuican presidents expressing outrage they called it an inappropriate attempt to sfle free spe based political views, writing that this action is quite cly a signalo other rmer and current officials. Are those concerns valid? Well , as I said a moment ago, I've been through T mylf and had the senior state department officl whose name I'll let for now persisted and tried to G my clearance pulled because had been critical of his rformance and others, yes, I would hav objected to it. I don't think political disagreement alone is sufficnt, but I think in the case especially of a senior inteence community official who violates the separation between intelligence and policy, I think those woconstitute grounds. But John Brennan can look at television, Hean look at open source and he certainly has testified in fnt of congss. Those are a things that a lot of people who have security clearances outside of adnistrations do. For me T issue is whether he abused information that he obtained while he war of cr that he may have obtainerhaps erroneously or incorrecafter he left. Okay, just the last one on this. President es go way beyond Brennan. He says this raises questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our tion's most sensitive secrets long after their time in government has ended. You know that a lot of these people -- let's take bill Mcraven who was also criticized. Letake me. I have done that as well, but I think it's certainly appropriate in a time when we'eeing what I believe are unprecedented leaks of highly classified information to look the qution of how many people have clearances, how many people received this very sensiti information both inside the vernment a in the case of former oials. So I don't S that there would be anything wrong if it were determinedgo that way to review the policies about form officials having clearances. Sometimes it can be useful. In my case, my clearance was active time when I was a member board of directors a company that did classified work for the government and was felt important tt some of the rectors be able to access that information. There were other times when I was a vilian that my classification was -- my security clearance was dormant and I think that's apriate too. Looking aat picy ovell I think might well with a good idea. I want to move on to ruia and your trip overseas. On the agenda ter this week a meeting in Geneva Russ's national security adviser to follow up on hels. Is there anything specific you want from that meeting Well, the meeting came about really as a result of the meetinof presidentrump and president Putin in Helsinki. They decide that two national secuty councils should get together reviving an idea of having working groupthat was set up by my predecessor, H.R. Mcmaer. I've spoken with Jim Mattis and Mike po about that. We've agreed thawhat we can do on the mting on Thursday is look at the broad nge of issues that might be open for discussion between washing and Moscow and try a plan it out ystemic way. I'll gck and report to the president and my colleagues in the national security council and we'll see what comes of the eating and what the best way ahead is. Since the put meeting, president trumhas directed you and the rest of the natial curity team to make election meddling a priority. Weave clear evidence in 2018 election that Russia is still trying to interfere. If Russia, as they tend to do, keeps denying they interfered, how do you have a product conversation AUT that? Well, I'm sure 'll have a discussion about it on Thursday. I had a diussion about it myself witpresident Putin when I weo Moscow originally to prepare the groundwork for his meeting with president trump president trump raised it with president putin.you keep raising it and we'll E what their response is. But it not simply a question of speaking with the Russians. At the president's direction we had press confence in the white housbriefing room a couple weeks ago now with self and four of the heads of the operating encies and departments that deal with ts to L out at least as much as we could in a nonclassified environment WHE were Doi and there are a lot of Thi wee doing the can't talk about specifically. Includes both defensive and offensive cyber operations to ect the integrity of the election process. Presint trump tweeted this weekend that all of the fools that are so focused on loo only at Russia suld start also looking in anoth direction, China. Just to be clear, have you seen credibvidence of the Chinese ddling in our elections in E past or are doinso now? Ishis a general national security concern? It's a sufficnt national security concern about Chinese medd, Iranian meddling and north Korean meddling that we're taking steps to Y and prevent. So all four of those countries ally. But have you seen anything in the past scifically to China? I'm not going to get into what I've seen or hat seen T I'm telling you looking at the 2018 electioose are the four countries we're most concerned about. The director of the NSA seem to indicate that H been direed to conduct fensive cyber operations in reonse to any kind oection medd. Would that mean what would he do? Well, I think ians exactly what hplied and again, this classified matter. I can't get into what we've been doing T it's been certainl priori of mine to make sure that we're using the full range of ourabilities to protect T just the elect but a whole range of vulnerable systems in the United States, vulnerable to cyber rfare operations in the governme and in the pte sector. Think that's something that's very important because what we want is not war in C space. We want peacin cyber space, and to dat I think you nd to establish structures deterrence so that our adversaries who have conduct cyber operations against us who are contemplating it ce to undetand they will pay a much er price if they do that than if they simply refrain. That's wffensive cyber operations are potential so impot. If you'rmply always on defense you're not going to create structures of deterrence which is what we a to do. On Syria, the siton in Syria was a topic in Helsinki as well with Putin. I know you'll be dis today with prime minister Netanyahu. Especially about getting I out Syria. Where do we stand on that? Certainly thebjective of the United States, of Israel, president Putin said it was Russia's objective, is to get Iranian MILI surrogates ou of the orations that they're in in both Syria and Iraq and frankly to end Iran's support for Hezbollah. I think the president'cision to whdraw from the Ira nuear deal H put a real crimp inhe Iranian economy. I think the feeling it in their capaty for the Iranian revolutionary guards to conduct offensive operations in the region here and in Yemen as well. Buthink this is part of the problem with the Iranian regime generally and why it's such a threat to peace and set not just because of its nuclear program bubecause of its mitary operations and its support for terrorist so that's certaiy on the agenda here in Israel. Do Youst Russia to do this? Well, I T president pin was very candid in his comments to prest trump and to mas well. He doesn't think -- They sahey would get rid chemical weapons? They weren't all gone. One I at a time. He said he didn't have the same interest as Iran in Syria and that he would like to about ways to get out of I. I think it's clear THA beli for example, on the subject of chemical weapons as British inigence and law enforcement concluthat Russ was behind the attack on the skri in Salisbury using the ilgal chemical weapons agentf chuck someonths ago. President ump took strong action, expeing over 60 Russian diplomats. In strongly about the use of these illegal sanctions haeen imposed on Russia recently. We feel very songly about the use of thesellegal chemical weapons. Th why the president twice strun Syria. Is Assad remaining in power acceptable outcome? He interests that we're pursand Iraq is thfinal destruction of the ISIS territorialiphate dealing with T ISIS territorthreat and getting Iran back into gettingts forces back into its own teory. That's what we're focused on. We're obsly concerned aboua number of things including humarian situation in the region. We'll be discussing here in Israel and witthe Russians in Geneva. And iant to turn to north Korea. It's been more than twnths since president trump and Kim Jong-un met in Singapore. You said North Korea has taken the necessary steps to denucleari in fact, there's evidence that they mayding another bm. Your view, is North Korea serious about follow through with this? I think it's important that beeves very strongly, he talks Abo it frequely that the north Koreans have not ted ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons recentlythat they've given back the remain of over 50 American service members. We'rying to identify who they are at this point. And I think secretary Pompeo will be returninto Pyongyang soon for his fouh visit. For direct talks with Kim jongn? Do you know that yet? I think the timing will be announced at an appropri point by the state department. But this is -- to fulfill th commitment that Kim Jong-un made in Singapore, that he had previously made to the south koans and to move on with the process of denucization remains our highest priori Okay, before the summit the administration talk goal opid denuclearization. Secretary Pompeo has said the ultima timeline for denuclearization will be set by chairman Kim at least in part and that we are now practicing patidiplomacy. That sounds a lot like Obama's. I think the idea the're suing the Obama administration policy in north Korea or any of the licies that failed before would contradict what esident trp has said repeatedly. T me just Y what our idea -- let's go back to what Pompeo just said. Let's go backwhat Kim johich is of greatest interest. On April 27th Kim jo-un met with president moon of south kore president moon poied out that the more rapidly north K denuclearizes, the sooner could cohen benefits of openness to foreign from Japan and south Korea, foreign investment any number of countries. President moon sait's get this done year. You think within a year, is that the time ame? And Kim jong-und yes. So the one-year period that we'vtalked about from the point where North Korea makes the strategic decision to denuclearize is something that the north and south koreanhave alreadreed to. Why is that significant president trump has gone out of his Y to hold the door open for Kim Jong-un. That's what the Singapore ING was about. But how long doou give the north Koreans for their rategic decision to denuclearize? Do they really understand that means shouldt have been written down? It's hard to believe they don't undend it. Secretary Pompeo has done extraordinary followup diplomacy after the Singapore meeting. As I say, we expect 'S going to resume in the near future. It's a hard task. I don't envyim but he's worked very hard at it ursue ident trump's goal O getting North Korea denuclearized. And we'll be patient for how long? I think we're count on North Korea following through on the commitments thathey've made. And I just want to end here on anistan. President ump campaigned on ending theafghanistan. In octobert will be 17 years we've been involved there. In this lastk you saw the Taliban try to take ghaz. Since 2009 it's the rst year for civilian casualties. Is his strategy really working than better than anybody else's has? Well, I think the prent's view has not changed since the campaign. Think he is determined to find a way to get a pceful resolutin Afghanistan. We've looked at several dierent possibilitto get the Taliban and others directly engaged withhe government of Afghanistan. There have been some signs that's moving in the R direction. Weave a new commander of the allied forces coming into Afghanistan in theext several weeks. He'll want to take a looat thecircumstances there. I don't rule outhat we'd have a change in of the things we're dointhere but the presidenview is that hll suppt the government of Afghanistan in its efforts to see if the tiban are fin ready talk seriously. It must be frustrating for you too becai feel like I' heard these arguments for 17 years, the same thg, the Taliban is desperate. Yeah. Well, what I remember over 17 year the attack on 9/11 and I thine administration is determined that it never hapn again.and that's theottom line, is the security of the united States. Ould you consi privizing there, using contractorinstead of U.S. Military? There have been me reports about that week. There are alws. I find them helpful. M always open to ideas but M not going to comment on what the inking is. That will ultimately be E president's decision. Thank you Verch, ambassor Bolton. Good luck wh your trip. Hank you, glad to be with you. Martha, you did cover a lot of ground with Mr. Bolton a we W him double D on the president's Deon to revoke John Brennan's secury clearance even thoughe didn't offer specifics on how classified informationht have been abused the. Up against that, those 70 intelligence officials who served for Democrats and Republicans sa this has crossea line. Y certainly have, George, and I K we have to go back to that and look at those S. Robeates, Michael Hayden. I'm sure turrent CIA director worked for most of those men over h0 years at E CIA so I think that is a very, very signifiter. You alave bill Mcraven. Let's talk about him, E retired admirawho is head of thin special operations forces, the man who led the raid, who coordited that raid that killed bin laden. Mcraven says these are mccarthy-era tactics that president trump is using. When I think about and I think about admiral Mcraven you've got a whole lot of people, a WHE lot of men and women who would followim where so he is someone you have listen to. His station is truly impecc. Martha, it also S this week the president's plans for that military de in November in Washington fell victito somehback from the military. It did. There were members of the mitary and veterans organions who said they wanted that mospent elsewhere. There were estimates some of them saying $90 million it WOU take to have that parade. And this didn't re start with the military. It started witesident trump wanting a military parade. They're nsive, they're extravagant and thesident has now changed his mindthat but blamed local officials in D.C. And those local officials, as Y know, George, cright back at him and saidhis was a
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