During a Monday appearance on Fox News, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton clarified a comment that brought him some criticism over the weekend.
John Bolton said that when he floated the idea of Russian hacking in the 2016 election as a “false flag operation,” he meant an operation carried out by other governments to implicate the Russians. Bolton was blasted for allegedly suggesting the Obama administration perpetrated the hacking and falsely blaming it on the Russians.
“I think it’s at least a question to be asked, whether or not this was a false flag operation with some foreign government other than Russia, where a foreign intelligence service conducts an operation and leaves evidence pointing the finger at somebody else,” Bolton said on Monday. He went on to suggest China, Iran, and North Korea as possible culprits.
“One point that’s important is, it’s not just what the cyber-fingerprints are in a counter-intelligence estimate like this. It’s political,” Bolton said. “The question is, so why would Russia leave fingerprints that it was trying to interfere in the election? I can see Russia easily trying to undermine trust and confidence in our political system generally, among Americans. But for them to be so inexpert that the trail can rapidly be taken back to them is just hard to understand.”
He said he was aware “there are reports out that I said on Fox yesterday that I thought the Obama administration had conducted the hack into the RNC and the DNC.”
“It’s typical bad reporting. I’ve never believed that. I didn’t believe that yesterday. I don’t believe it today,” Bolton declared. “What I do think the Administration has done consistently for eight years is politicize intelligence – as with Benghazi, where they tried to twist it that it was the Mohammed video instead of terrorists, as in the efforts in the Central Command to have junior intelligence officers modify their reports to fit the Obama narrative about terrorism.”
“So that’s why I think the suggestion made yesterday by John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schumer, and Senator Reed of Rhode Island to have some outside look at this makes sense,” he continued:
It could be Mike Pompeo, who I think is trusted by both sides of the aisle, hopefully the incoming director of the CIA. It bothers me that Obama’s rushing to get this report out before his administration ends, just as it bothered me that the intelligence community seemingly came to this conclusion so quickly and coincidentally in the middle of an election campaign.
In his previous Fox News interview with Eric Shawn, Bolton said, “I think if the facts prove out that Russia did try to influence our election, they should face very grave consequences – both so they never even think about it again, and so that nobody else ever thinks about it again.”
Precisely because he felt the consequences should be so grave, Bolton stressed the importance of being absolutely certain about the culprits before taking action.
“That’s why I say we have to know the facts here, and it’s not at all clear to me, just viewing this from the outside, that this hacking into the DNC and the RNC computers was not a false flag operation,” he said.
“Let’s remember what FBI Director James Comey said, dealing with Hillary’s homebrew server. He said we found no direct evidence of foreign intelligence service penetration, but given the nature of this, we didn’t expect to – meaning a really sophisticated foreign intelligence service would not leave any cyber-fingerprints,” Bolton recalled. “And yet, people say they did leave cyber-fingerprints in the hacks regarding our election. So the question that has to be asked is: why did the Russians run their smart intelligence service against Hillary’s server, but their dumb intelligence services against the election?”
“When you say ‘false flag,’ that’s a very serious charge,” Shawn said:
I mean, false flag by whom? Here’s the Washington Post, the Post reported the CIA has concluded that individuals with close ties to the Russian government hacked the emails. Intelligence officials have determined that Russia’s goal was to help Trump win, rather than simply undermine confidence in the election. Are you actually accusing someone here in this administration, or the intelligence community, of trying to throw something?
“We just don’t know,” Bolton replied. “But I believe that intelligence has been politicized in the Obama administration to a very significant degree.”
“But would the agents, the intelligence officials politicize this, to go so far, to something that could potentially damage the very issue of our Republic, and what we for 200-plus years have stood for?” asked Shawn.
“Well, now I think the whole thing is called into question, which is why the notion of some kind of independent investigation becomes so extremely important,” Bolton said. “I do think it’s critical to answer the question I posed: if you think the Russians did this, then why did they leave fingerprints?”
Later, he stressed that he believes the Russians have “both the capability and the intention” to interfere in a U.S., election and was not “by any means trying to exonerate them.” He also re-emphasized the importance of retaliation against whoever was responsible because “it is unacceptable for the American Constitution to be assaulted by foreigners in that way.”
“If the Russians or any other foreign government think that they can undermine the integrity of our elections, or defeat our Constitutional process, this is just as serious an attack as a military attack,” he said.
When Shawn brought up the false-flag hypothesis again at the end of the interview and called it “very disturbing,” Bolton said, “Well, we would want to know who else might want to influence the election, and why they would leave fingerprints that point to the Russians. That’s why I say, until we know more about how the intelligence community came to this conclusion, we don’t know whether it’s Russian-inspired or a false flag.”