Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton joined SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam on Friday’s Breitbart News Daily, where the conversation began with President Trump’s revised executive order on immigration and covered the Iran nuclear deal.
“I think the process it went through this time was obviously more careful, less hasty,” Bolton said of the order. “But honestly, I felt the first order, for all its flaws, was well within the president’s constitutional and statutory authority. I thought the Ninth Circuit decision that enjoined it on a nationwide basis was way, way out of line. It represented the court second-guessing what the president thought was a national security threat.”
“Throughout our history, courts have recognized they lack judicial competence in that area – unless you’re on the Ninth Circuit, in which case you’re fit to rule almost anything,” he said sarcastically.
Bolton thought President Trump “made adjustments to suit the nature of the litigation,” but dropping Iraq from the list of affected nations was not called for.
“Honestly, Iraq is no friend of the United States today,” he said. “It’s controlled, for all intents and purposes, by the Ayatollahs in Tehran. There are a lot of people in Iraq I would give asylum to in the United States, the famous case of interpreters and others who work with our military, absolutely; threatened Christian populations; and even some Sunni Muslims, who are the target of the Shia death squads that the Iranians have unleashed.”
“This shows why it’s a delicate balance that the Constitution gives to the political branches of government,” he observed. “There are a lot of other things we need to do to reduce the threat of terrorism. This executive order and its predecessor were never more than the first step.”
Kassam noted that the Treasury Department is “continuing to grant licenses to companies such as Boeing to pursue multi-billion-dollar deals with Iran” and asked if this was a practice Bolton would like to see changed.
“Absolutely,” Bolton replied. “This is one of the reasons why I have said for quite some time – really since the Iran nuclear deal was signed in the summer of 2015 – that the next Republican administration should abrogate the deal immediately or at least now that we’re 50 days into the administration, as soon as possible.”
“The longer it goes on with the consequences of the sanctions lifting and the rest of it, the stronger the ayatollahs grow and the more its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs can proceed essentially unimpeded,” he argued. “This is what happens in a transition when the new government doesn’t take power, because the bureaucracy continues on, as if it’s on autopilot. That’s what this licensing issue represents.”
Bolton said that “the personnel problem across the government is very real, and it stems in part from the slowness of the Senate in confirming the president’s nominees.”
“Until you get the top positions filled, it’s customary not to nominate subordinate positions in those respective departments,” he explained.
“But I’d say also this is important: you can’t come into the government with no philosophy and expect to understand immediately the direction you need to take on key issues like the Iran nuclear deal,” he continued. “If you don’t have a philosophy, if you don’t have a view, the risk is extraordinarily high that the bureaucracies at the State Department, the CIA, the Defense Department will co-opt the new secretary, the new head of the agency. The bureaucracy’s policies will become their policy, and then if the White House doesn’t resist, they’ll become the administration’s policy.”
“I don’t think that’s why people elected Donald Trump, honestly, and that’s why it’s so important to get a grip on the bureaucracy,” he urged. “It was often said, dating back to the Reagan administration, that personnel is policy.”
Bolton said it was not groundless paranoia to worry about the disruptive influence of Obama holdovers on the Trump administration, although he thought the notion of a “shadow government” or “deep state” was excessively conspiratorial.
“I think there’s certainly some element of Obama administration political appointees who have ‘burrowed in,’ as the saying goes, to the bureaucracy. But I personally do not believe there is a ‘deep state.’ I don’t think there is a cabal or a conspiracy,” he said.
“I think what you’re facing is a culture: a bureaucratic culture, let’s say, at the State Department – I wrote about this in my book after I left the government in the Bush administration – that has existed for decades, that is fundamentally divergent from a conservative or Republican foreign policy perspective. It’s a bureaucracy that’s absolutely expert at capturing and co-opting new political appointees who aren’t paying attention,” he contended.
“There’s a human element here, too,” Bolton added. “If you are a bureaucrat, and for eight years under Obama you’ve been doing a certain thing, you don’t get up every morning hating what you’re doing. You would have resigned, found another assignment, gone somewhere else. So for eight years, you’ve been doing this. In come the new guys and say, ‘Well, we’re not going to do that.’ In effect, a lot of people take that to be a criticism of what they’ve been doing for eight years. It is a criticism of the policy. It’s not a criticism of them, but that’s how they react. It’s instinctive. There aren’t memos. There aren’t meetings. It’s a cultural issue.”
Kassam concluded the interview by asking Bolton for his take on the political dynamics within the Republican Party as Obamacare repeal is debated.
“I have to say, I’m astounded that we’re at this point. We’ve been saying since Obamacare was adopted that the Republican position was to repeal it and replace it, and now we find that we don’t know what the replacement is. How can this be, after all these years?” Bolton exclaimed.
“The notion that somehow, we have to accommodate people who have been brought into the subsidy system by Obamacare, and we can’t do what we should be doing, which is reducing individual dependence on government subsidies – when did that become a Republican principle?” he asked.
Bolton said he was “utterly confused and dismayed that we’re in such disarray.”
His dismay was not much alleviated by Republican attempts to explain their repeal plan with PowerPoint presentations. “As soon as somebody turns their PowerPoint on, I turn off,” he sighed.
Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.