DURHAM, N.C. — John Bolton, the former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, suggested on Monday that his unpublished book contained far more revelations than just the campaign to pressure Ukraine for help with domestic politics but said he was fighting “censorship” by the White House.
In his first public appearance since the Senate impeachment trial where Republicans refused to hear his testimony, Bolton said that the White House was trying to keep him from publishing important parts of his new memoir by terming them classified. He said he was pushing back but feared that a pre-publication review could stop the book from being published next month.
“For all the focus on Ukraine and the impeachment trial and all that, to me, there are portions of the manuscript that deal with Ukraine, I view that like the sprinkles on the ice cream sundae in terms of what’s in the book,” Bolton told an audience at Duke University during a forum on foreign policy on Monday evening. “This is an effort to write history and I did it the best I can. We’ll have to see what comes out of the censorship.”
“I’m hoping ultimately I can get the book published,” Bolton said at another point. “I hope it’s not suppressed.” Reminded that the president had assailed him on Twitter, Bolton said: “He tweets, but I can’t talk about it. How fair is that?”
Bolton refused to go into the details of the Ukraine matter that led to Trump’s impeachment, and he did not offer an opinion about the outcome of the trial that acquitted the president. But he broke sharply from Trump on foreign policy, describing the president’s efforts on North Korea, Iran and Venezuela as “failing” and criticizing his former boss for not being strong enough in countering Russia.
Bolton was a key figure in the dealings with Ukraine, according to witnesses during the House inquiry. Fellow officials testified that Bolton had objected to the suspension of security aid to Ukraine and to the pressure campaign to get Ukraine to help incriminate Trump’s Democratic rivals, referring to it as a “drug deal” and warning that Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, was a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”
In the book, Bolton writes that Trump told him during a meeting in August that he did not want to release the $391 million in congressionally approved security aid for Ukraine to help it defend against Russian aggression until Ukrainian leaders agreed to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats, according to people familiar with the manuscript.
Bolton offered to testify in the Senate impeachment trial if subpoenaed, but Senate Republicans blocked an effort to hear his account even after reports were published about his book. Trump disputed Bolton’s recollections, but White House lawyers said it did not matter even if he was right because it would not add up to an offense meriting removal from office.
While the White House has asserted that the book contains classified information that will have to be excised before it can be published, Bolton’s lawyer has maintained that the book, “The Room Where It Happened,” contains no such secret information and should be released as scheduled on March 17.
Some House Democrats have talked about subpoenaing Bolton to testify on their side of the Capitol even though the trial is over, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders have indicated that they do not want to proceed with such a move at this point, turning their attention instead to bread-and-butter issues they believe will appeal to voters.
The president, on the other hand, has remained fixated on Bolton, railing about him in private conversations with friends and advisers and complaining about what he sees as the former aide’s betrayal.