New York (CNN Business)A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
People have been talking about John Bolton for weeks. Reporters have been quoting from his book for days. President Trump and his allies have been attacking him from Twitter to TV. The DOJ’s lawyers have been challenging him in court.
Now he gets his say. Tuesday is publication day, lest anyone forget. There’s a big spread in Monday’s USA Today, a “Morning Edition” interview Monday morning, Bret Baier and Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, “The View” and Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, and on from there.
The federal court case and the questions about potentially classified material have risked obscuring the holy-you-know-what nature of this book. ABC’s prime time special — Martha Raddatz’s sit-down with Bolton — re-centered the conversation. Bolton called Trump “naive and dangerous.” He said he hopes Trump is remembered as a “one-term president.” ABC published the interview transcript on ABCNews.com.
Earlier in the day on ABC, “This Week” played a clip of Raddatz saying to Bolton, “You describe the president as erratic, foolish, behaved ‘irrationally,’ bizarrely, ‘you can’t leave him alone for a minute,’ he ‘saw conspiracies behind rocks’ and was ‘stunningly uninformed.'” Bolton responded to the summary, “I don’t think he’s fit for office. I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job.”
After the clip aired, moderator Jon Karl said, “Martha, we just never have heard something like that from somebody in a president’s inner circle while that president is still in office.”
“And I think that’s what you have to remember,” Raddatz said, “this is an extraordinary interview, really a jaw-dropping interview, because he is talking about a sitting president. And he was there, as you know well, Jon, for 17 months.”
“And in this White House 17 months is an eternity,” Karl commented.
Trumpworld will continue to attack Bolton’s character mercilessly — but the facts about his government service and the gravity of his statements about a sitting president should stay front and center.
“Keep your eye on the ball: Bolton’s shocking allegations”
When I said on TV that John Bolton’s book contains at least a week’s worth of news cycles, this is what I was getting at. CNN’s John Avlon writes: “Trump and his partners in the conservative media are busy trying to attack Bolton’s credibility, despite the fact that he’s been on the right’s side as a conservative hardliner for decades. On the left, liberals are feeding this frenzy because they are frustrated that Bolton did not testify during the impeachment trial.” But “none of it should distract one bit from the shocking substance of what Bolton says he saw in the White House. Because these revelations deserve to carry the weight of history behind them — credibly painting a portrait of the most amoral, autocratic and unprepared man to ever serve as president of the United States…”
Sneak peek at Bolton’s next two interviews
In an interview and photo shoot with USA Today’s Susan Page, Bolton held up his book — “unmistakably mimicking Trump’s controversial photo op” with a Bible in front of St. John’s Church. Page’s story is online now.
Steve Inskeep’s NPR interview with Bolton will be released at 5am ET Monday. In an excerpt I obtained, Bolton says “The Room Where It Happened” is “really, in a sense, is a book about how not to be president….”
“These people should be executed”
Bolton’s book alleges that Trump talked tough about throwing journalists in jail to uncover their sources. “These people should be executed. They are scumbags,” Trump said, according to Bolton’s recollection.
Guy Snodgrass, former chief speechwriter for James Mattis, author of “Holding the Line,” told me he also heard Trump speak that way. He recounted a “ten minute tirade” when the president said a WaPo reporter “should be thrown in jail,” and “what he ultimately winds up at the end saying is: ‘You know, in the good old days, if you had a traitor, you know what you would do? You would just line them up in the street and have them shot.'”
“That kind of language, of course,” Snodgrass said, “is not something you want to hear your commander in chief saying about freedom of the press, about members of the press who are seeking to inform the American public.”
About the court case…
A federal judge rejected the DOJ’s attempt to block the book’s publication, but revealed some “major risks for Bolton,” CNN’s Katelyn Polantz reported. The admin may very well succeed in its effort “to claw back proceeds from the book, including from any movie and TV rights, and other consequences for disclosing classified information…”
>> Related: A thorough thread by Jonathan Peters: “Coverage of the effort to prevent distribution of Bolton’s book should note Trump’s remarkable record of attempting to interfere with speech/press activities — and either failing or not following through…”
“Room” is the No. 1 nonfiction book of 2020 on Amazon
Bolton’s book is the top-selling nonfiction book of this year so far, according to Amazon’s chart, and that’s thanks solely to pre-orders…
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