John Bolton: Trump’s Only Mistake Was Not Firing Comey on January the 20th

AP/Alex Brandon

On Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton told SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam that he would “absolutely” have fired FBI Director James Comey if the decision was his to make.

“My only criticism of the Trump administration decision was that they should have fired him on January the 20th,” Bolton added.

“I speak as an alumnus of the Department of Justice in the Reagan and early Bush 41 administrations. I was assistant attorney general first for the head of the Office of Legislative Affairs, and then head of the Civil Division, the department’s largest litigating division. I’ve dealt with the FBI when I was at Justice. I’ve dealt with them continuously in my days at the State Department on counterintelligence and other issues. I’ve dealt with them in their background investigation of judicial nominees. It was one of my principal responsibilities in legislative affairs at the Justice Department,” he recalled.

“I know the FBI well, and I have enormous respect for it. James Comey disgraced the FBI by his conduct of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and many, many other things that have never become public, but that agents talk about in private conversations,” Bolton declared.

“This was always about the greater glory of Jim Comey,” he said. “It’s perfectly clear that the way he handled the Clinton email investigation, both in terms of his erroneous legal interpretation of the applicable statutes, but also most critically his July 5 news conference and his subsequent letters to Congress in October and November, reopening and then closing the investigation, were a gross violation of unambiguous Department of Justice policies about not commenting on ongoing investigations.”

“It applies to investigators as well as prosecutors, and there’s a reason for this,” Bolton explained. “It’s not just a policy that you don’t talk about investigations and prosecutions. The rule is, you either indict someone or you close the file.”

“Why is that important?” he asked. “I think it has constitutional foundations: the presumption of innocence for the average citizen, the requirement that guilt be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, that an accused defendant have the right to confront witnesses against him. There’s nothing in that series of constitutional projections that allows prosecutors or investigators to comment on the behavior of an individual citizen, other than in a court to prove up an indictment.”

“I have nothing good to say about Hillary Clinton’s conduct on the email scene, but it was not James Comey’s business to give a review of her behavior,” Bolton declared. “That’s the real interference in the election. Subsequent the letters and things that flowed from that really all come from that initial mistake. That’s why honestly it’s the case that if Hillary had been elected, she would have been justified in firing Comey on the 20th of January.”

“All of this business about the firing being an effort to somehow undercut the Russia investigation is utter nonsense. Jeff Sessions, who was a campaign surrogate for the Trump campaign, is recused from the Russia investigation. The Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who is a career Justice Department prosecutor, is acting Attorney General for that purpose. The FBI investigation has not been impeded at all. There is absolutely no evidence of that. This is all media speculation and hype,” he said.

“I just hope that the Department of Justice and the White House stand firm on this, because there is an important principle at stake. Substantively, it was right to fire Comey for the protection of 300 million presumed innocent until proven guilty Americans, that investigators and prosecutors don’t get to dish on you in public if they feel they can’t indict,” he maintained.

Bolton said there was no question Hillary Clinton, or perhaps outgoing President Barack Obama, would have fired Comey if she had won the election.

“What Comey did, as outlined in Rosenstein’s memo that accompanied the Sessions recommendation to the president that Comey be fired, is unanswerable,” Bolton contended. “And you can bet that the media and the Democratic politicians who are condemning Trump today would have leapt to her defense and said it was entirely justified.”

“I hope that my own principles would have sustained me to the point where I would agree because it would have been justified,” he added. “It’s Comey’s conduct here that’s the center of the issue. It’s not whether Trump had an effective media strategy on Tuesday night. It’s not whether they should have gotten Comey on the phone first. It’s not because he was meeting with the Russian foreign minister the next day.”

“Look, timing is never good on these things,” Bolton said. “The best timing was January the 20th. Every day that goes on after that is a little bit worse. The idea that Trump should have waited 90 or 180 days before firing Comey…”

He laughed as Kassam interjected and said Trump’s critics might as well insist he give the FBI director four years’ notice. “Let’s not leave him in there, precisely,” Bolton concurred.

Bolton said the Comey firing is “not even close to” a Watergate-level scandal, as some critics have claimed.

“I know those people at the FBI. They are tough, they are patriotic. They tend to skew conservative in their voting patterns,” said Bolton. “But when it comes to law enforcement, nothing gets between them and the truth. The idea that the Trump administration or anybody else from a political background could affect them, could intimidate them, is just ludicrous. It’s just ludicrous.”

“This whole notion that you have to have an independent counsel and an independent set of investigators is just a way to politicize prosecutions,” he said. “The fact is, this investigation of Russia – the Trump campaign connection, whatever it is – will go on utterly unimpeded, and if anything with even more determination on the part of the career prosecutors and FBI investigators that they’re not going to be interfered with. They’re going to get to the truth, whatever the truth is. This will strengthen their resolve.”

“Why not appoint Eric Holder the independent counsel? I mean, let’s get right to it. How about Loretta Lynch? They’re both unemployed now,” Bolton suggested sarcastically.

Kassam turned to international news, asking Bolton about Turkey’s strenuous objections to the Trump administration’s stated plan to arm and support Syrian Kurdish forces in the upcoming battle to recapture the Islamic State capital of Raqqa. Turkey maintains the Syrian YPG militia is linked to the violent PKK separatists in Turkey, and could pass American weapons to them.

“I would not arm them,” Bolton said. “I understand what the logic is, that we have armed Kurds in Iraq against the Islamic State. But the fact is, not all Kurds are equally favorable toward a Western view of responsible government. The PKK is a terrorist and communist organization.”

“I think this is simply carrying on unfortunately from the Obama policy of how to destroy ISIS, and I think it’s the wrong way to go,” he advised.

“I don’t have much sympathy, if any, for Erdogan,” he said of Turkey’s president. “I do have sympathy for Turkey, and I’m very worried these same weapons we’re giving them now are going to be turned against Turkish civilians down the road. We’ve got a very difficult alliance management problem here with Erodgan. I do think he has authoritarian tendencies. I worry that he’s being seduced by Putin. But I think we’ve got to grit our teeth and think of Turkey rather than Erdogan, and see if we can see it through here.”

“I think we need a completely new strategy to defeat ISIS,” Bolton recommended. “I don’t think we want to do it in any kind of way that strengthens other terrorist groups, including those among the Syrian opposition. I don’t think we want to do it in a way that strengthens the Iranian axis of power – including the Baghdad government sadly, the Assad regime, and Hezbollah, which is pretty much the direction that the Obama strategy was going in.”

“There’s a lot to correct here. I certainly share the view that we want to destroy the caliphate at the earliest possible opportunity, but arming this particular group I think is a mistake,” he said.

Kassam asked Bolton what he thought of Henry Kissinger’s presence in the Oval Office on Wednesday when President Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“I’ve spoken to him before. In the interests of full disclosure, I try and speak to him fairly frequently myself,” Bolton said of Kissinger. “I think hearing his insights is a plus for any president. That doesn’t mean that I agree with him on everything, and I rather doubt that President Trump agrees with him on everything. But few people have been through what Kissinger went through and have the insight. Anybody who’s got some spare time should read all three volumes of his memoir of his days in the White House and the State Department.”

“What got me most about that meeting was the instant pivot by Democrats and the press to say, ‘There it is! Henry Kissinger, tainted by his association with Richard Nixon!’ They just can’t restrain themselves,” Bolton marveled.

Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.


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