“President Donald Trump is not “fit for office” and doesn’t have “the competence to carry out the job,” his former national security adviser John Bolton told ABC News in an exclusive interview.
In an explosive new book about his 17 months at the White House, Bolton characterizes Trump as “stunningly uninformed,” ignorant of basic facts and easily manipulated by foreign adversaries.”
“”There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s reelection,” Bolton told ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz.
“He was so focused on the reelection that longer-term considerations fell by the wayside,” he added.”
“Bolton was Trump’s longest serving national security adviser, accompanying the president to his two summits with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, his infamous meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and several key meetings with China’s Xi Jinping, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other world leaders on the sidelines of major events, like the G-20.
He departed the White House on Sept. 10 — saying he submitted his resignation letter after months of disagreement with the president, who countered that he fired Bolton first.”
“Trump pushed back on Bolton’s criticism and defended his foreign policy decisions late Wednesday, telling the Wall Street Journal, “He is a liar,” and, “Everyone in the White House hated John.”
A hard-liner on North Korea who has advocated for a preemptive strike on the country’s nuclear facilities, Bolton was particularly aghast at Trump’s diplomatic outreach to Kim, writing, “I was sick at heart over Trump’s zeal to meet with Kim Jong Un.”
Asked about Trump’s three meetings with Kim in particular, Bolton told ABC News, “There was considerable emphasis on the photo opportunity and the press reaction to it and little or no focus on what such meetings did for the bargaining position of the United States.””
“Trump has continually touted his strong relationship with Kim despite any progress on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and renewed military tensions between the North and America’s ally, South Korea.
Bolton blasts what he sees as Trump’s confusion of personal relationships with good foreign relations in his book”
“Bloomberg’s support grew more than three times as fast in markets where he advertised than where he didn’t, and in the week before his disastrous debate performance on Feb. 19, he registered 15 percent support in these markets compared with 6 percent in other markets.”
“On its own, Bloomberg’s experiment shows TV advertising can’t swing an entire election. It could not overcome Bloomberg’s lack of charisma or skill as a debater. Bloomberg’s campaign did show, however, that advertising can have a measurable, double-digit impact on the polls and vault a candidate into the top tier. That’s not nothing.”
“the novel coronavirus came, and President Trump did nothing for week after week, month after month. We sit, still, in the void where a plan should be, forced to choose between endless lockdown and reckless reopening because the federal government has not charted a middle path. Instead, we wake to presidential tweets demanding the “liberation” of states, and laugh to keep from crying when the most powerful man in the world suggests we study the injection of disinfectants. Trump has let disaster metastasize into calamity. The feared collision of global crisis and presidential recklessness has come, and it is not close to over.”
“much of any presidency takes place in the murky realm of risk. Imagine that there are 10 horrible events that could befall the country in a president’s term, each with a 1 in 40 chance of happening. If a president acts in such a way that they all become much likelier — say, a 1 in 10 chance — he may never be blamed for it, because none of them may happen, or because the one that does falls during his successor’s term. But in taking calamity from reasonably unlikely to reasonably likely, he will have done the country terrible harm.
The logic works in reverse, too. A president who assiduously works to reduce risk may never be rewarded for their effort because the outcome will be a calamity that never occurred, a disaster we never felt. We punish only the most undeniable of failures and routinely miss the most profound successes.”
“Of late, I’ve been thinking back to 2017, when Trump began a war of tweets with North Korea, the world’s most irrational nuclear regime. “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N.,” Trump wrote. “If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”
Trump’s behavior stunned even Republican allies. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), then the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, warned that the president was treating his office like “a reality show” and setting the country “on the path to World War III.”
But World War III didn’t happen. Trump and Kim Jong Un deescalated. They met in person and sent each other what Trump later called “beautiful letters.” The fears of the moment dissolved. Those who warned of catastrophe were dismissed as alarmist. But were we alarmist? Or did Trump take the possibility of nuclear war from, say, 1 in 100 to 1 in 50?
Moments like this dot Trump’s presidency. His withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal dissolved the only structure holding Iran back from the pursuit of nuclear weapons. What’s followed has been not just a rise in tensions but a rise in bloodshed, culminating with Trump’s decision to do what both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama chose not to do and assassinate Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani. The end of that story is as yet unwritten, but possibilities range from Trump’s gamble paying off to Iran triggering a nuclear arms race — and perhaps eventually nuclear war — in the Middle East.
Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, alongside his routine dismissals of the NATO alliance, similarly force us to imagine the future probabilistically. In both cases, Trump says he is simply being a tough negotiator, forcing the better deals America deserves. In both cases, unimaginable calamity may — or may not — result. The verdict will not come by Election Day. We will have to judge the risks Trump has shunted onto future generations.
Of the many risks that Trump amplified through lack of preparation, reckless policymaking, or simple inattention, a pandemic is the one that came due while he was still president. But it is not the only one lurking, nor is it somehow a charm against other disasters befalling us. Moreover, the coronavirus itself raises the risk of geopolitical crises, of financial crises, of disasters both expected and unexpected, manifesting.
Trump, in his daily rhetoric and erratic mismanagement, is placing big, dangerous bets, but he will not cover the losses if they go wrong: It’s America, and perhaps the world, that will pay, in both lives and money.”
“Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who originally ran Trump’s transition team, relayed to Lewis a telling comment Trump made about the pre-administration planning, which he considered a waste of time. “Chris,” he said, “you and I are so smart that we can leave the victory party two hours early and do the transition ourselves.”
Each day, the president of the United States receives the President’s Daily Brief: a classified report prepared by US intelligence agencies warning of gathering threats around the globe. US intelligence agencies warned Trump of the dangers of the novel coronavirus in more than a dozen of these briefings in January and February. But Trump “routinely skips reading the PDB and has at times shown little patience for even the oral summary he takes two or three times per week,” reported the Post.
Two problems build amid this kind of executive impatience. First, the president is unaware of the nation’s constantly evolving risk structure. Second, the bureaucracy he, in theory, manages receives the constant message that the president doesn’t want to be bothered with bad news and does not value the parts of the government that produce it, nor the people who force him to face it.
It is, in fact, worse than that. “The way to keep your job is to out-loyal everyone else, which means you have to tolerate quackery,” Anthony Scaramucci, who served (very) briefly as White House head of communications, told the Financial Times. “You have to flatter him in public and flatter him in private. Above all, you must never make him feel ignorant.”
In March, speaking at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters, Trump unintentionally revealed how much time his underlings spend praising him, and how fully he absorbs their compliments. “Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’” Trump boasted. “Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.””
” “When the president stands on top of a table and says, ‘This is super important, super urgent, everyone must do this,’ the government works moderately effectively,” Ron Klain, who managed the Obama administration’s Ebola response, told me. “That’s the best case. When the president is standing up and saying, ‘I don’t want to hear about it, I don’t want to know about it, this doesn’t really exist,’ well, then you’re definitely not going to get effective work from the government.””
“we conflate the unlikely and the impossible. This pandemic, if nothing else, should shatter that conflation. It is hard to pretend the worst can’t happen when you haven’t been able to enter a store or see your parents for six weeks. And let’s be clear: coronavirus is not the worst that can happen. The H5N1 virus, for instance, has a mortality rate of 60 percent, and scientists have proven that it can mutate to become “as easily transmissible as the seasonal flu.”
Even scarier is the possibility of human-engineered pandemics. As bad as the coronavirus is, Bill Gates told me, “it’s not anywhere near bioterrorism — smallpox or another pathogen that was intentionally picked for a high fatality rate as well as delayed symptoms and a high infectious rate.”
We play for the highest of stakes. We must do what we can to improve our odds.”
“No one bears a heavier burden in that respect than the US president. But Trump is reckless with his charge. That reflects, perhaps, his own life experience. He has taken tremendous risks, and if they have led him to the edge of ignominy and bankruptcy, they have also led him to the presidency.
But he has always played with other people’s money and other people’s lives. “The president was probably in a position to make riskier decisions in life because he was fabulously rich from birth,” says Murphy. “But it’s also true he has had a reputation for risk not backed up by reality. His name is on properties he doesn’t own. We think of him as taking risk in professional life, but a lot of what he does is lend his name to buildings with risks taken by others. He’s built an image as a risk taker, but it’s not clear how much risk he’s taken.”
In electing him president, however, we have taken a tremendous risk, and it isn’t paying off.”
““When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said at one point. “And that’s the way it’s gotta be. It’s total.”
Trump’s claim is false — governors have broad authority to close schools and businesses in their states.”
“The irony is that while Trump claims to have dictatorial power, state governors keep calling on him to do more to provide them with the medical supplies they need to make sure each Covid patient can receive adequate medical care. Characteristically, Trump on Monday lied about this state of affairs by claiming “nobody is asking for ventilators.” (Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan — chair of the National Governors Association — said on Sunday’s installment of This Week that “to say that everybody is completely happy and we have everything we need is not quite accurate.”)”
“conveying truthful information is not the point of these briefings. Instead, Trump’s objective is to reframe problems as the result of unfair media coverage and feed red meat to his base by sparring with reporters. On Monday, Trump attacked two female reporters — Paula Reid of CBS and Kaitlan Collins of CNN — when they dared to ask him questions about the government’s slow coronavirus response and his dictatorial statements, respectively.
“You are so disgraceful,” Trump admonished Reid at one point. “You know you’re a fake.””
“Republicans on Capitol Hill are standing firmly behind Trump because GOP voters and GOP activists and elites are demanding that they do so. There just isn’t much room to break with the president of your party if close to 90 percent of voters in the party approve of him and many of those voters get their news from sources strongly supportive of that president.
Why are Republican voters and elites so strongly aligned with Trump? There’s not a simple answer, but I think identity — rather than ideology — is a big part of it. Trump is defending the identities of people who align themselves with the GOP, and this is a more powerful connection and reason to back him than pure ideological concerns. In defending Trump, conservative voters are really defending themselves.”
“Burge’s analysis, published Thursday, finds that on issues ranging from border security to immigration detention, white evangelicals — a group that includes dozens of individual denominations, from the Southern Baptist Convention to the Pentecostal movement — are substantially more conservative than the average American and even the next most conservative religious group.”
“on the whole, the president’s views on immigration have drawn support from evangelicals, a key voting bloc that helped carry him to victory in battleground states in 2016. It’s a strategy that his campaign is hoping to replicate in 2020 and, so far, it appears to be working: Trump has a 75 percent approval rating among white evangelicals, compared to 42 percent among all Americans.”