John Bolton believes Putin thinks he can play President Trump ‘like a fiddle’

The former national security adviser speaks to ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz about Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
4:30 | 06/18/20

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Transcript for John Bolton believes Putin thinks he can play President Trump ‘like a fiddle’
We're going to turn now to that ABC news exclusive tonight. Martha Raddatz landing the first interview with president trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton. His new book is due out next week, the white house is now suing to stop it. Tonight here, the first details from the book now emerging. Bolton claiming the president asked China's president for help with his re-election. Tonight, you will hear what Bolton believes Vladimir Putin thinks about president trump. And what Bolton revealed about holding security aid from Ukraine. And why did Bolton wait to reveal it now? Here's Martha Raddatz tonight. Reporter: The accusations are explosive. John Bolton, at the president's side for some of our country's most vital national security decisions, calling trump "Erratic", "Irrational," foolish," and "Stunningly uniformed." Believing Finland was part of Russia, unaware Britain is a nuclear power, and, said Bolton, trump was not always truthful. Is the president lying? Yes, he is. And it's not the first time, either. Reporter: Bolton also saying the president was marked by foreign leaders, from north Korea's Kim Jong-un, to Russia's Vladimir Putin. Bolton telling us in an exclusive interview the Russian leader, like others, was eager to meet trump alone, without advisers, so he could flatter and manipulate. How would you describe trump's relationship with Vladimir Putin? I think Putin thinks he can play him like a fiddle. I think Putin is smart, tough. I think he sees that he's not faced with a serious adversary here. I don't think he's worried about Donald Trump. Reporter: Donald Trump, as we say, sees himself as a dealmaker. What happened to the dealmaker in those situations? Well, the president may well be a superb dealmaker when it comes to Manhattan real estate. Dealing with arms limitation treaties on strategic weapons, dealing in many, many other international security issues are things far removed from his life experience. When you're dealing with somebody like Putin, who has made his life understanding Russia's strategic position in the world, against Donald Trump, who doesn't enjoy reading about these issues or learning about them, it's a very difficult position for America to be in. Reporter: Bolton was criticized for not testifying during the president's impeachment last year, saying now it was because the focus was too narrow and politicized and that congress should have investigated trump for additional possible impeachable offenses, charging that trump attempted to intervene in criminal probes with foreign adversaries as "Personal favors to dictators he liked." In his new book, out June 23rd and in our interview, Bolton also says he heard first-hand from trump that security aid to Ukraine was directly tied to his requests that Joe Biden and others be investigated by the Ukrainian president, which Bolton he himself says he found "Deeply disturbing." Bolton saying he was alarmed at what he described as "Obstruction of justice as a way of life." Adding that foremost on trump's mind at all times was re-election. "I am hard pressed to identify any significant trump decision during my tenure that wasn't driven by re-elecion calculations." Is one example, says Bolton, the president, asking China's president XI to buy soybeans and wheat to help win the support of formers, quote, pleading with XI to ensure he'd win. And Martha Raddatz with us live tonight from Washington, and Martha, there's going to be so much to unpack from your interview Sunday night, but one question I know you asked and John Bolton knows many Americans want to know, why he didn't reveal some of this during the president's impeachment trial. Because in the book and in your interview, Bolton claims he heard first-hand from the president that security aid to Ukraine was directly linked to requests to investigate Joe Biden and others. So, why now? Reporter: Well, David, he says he did not like the way the Democrats were running the hearings and didn't think his testimony would make a difference. That is something I press him on repeatedly in our interview and, by the way, David, Bolton is not at all surprised that the president is trying to stop the release of the book. David? Martha, thank you. And that takes us straight to

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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