EXCLUSIVE – Former national security adviser John Bolton says that if he decides to run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, “I would get in to win it, not simply to make a point.”
Bolton’s comments, in an exclusive interview Friday with Fox News Digital, come four days after he said on social media that he’s “prepared” to get into the White House race if other potential Republican contenders don’t “repudiate” former President Donald Trump’s controversial comments from last week suggesting the “termination” of parts of the Constitution in order to “throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT.”
“What started the process really on very accelerated basis was Trump’s statement about terminating the Constitution to put him in the presidency or hold a new election and the relative lack of comment by many of the by the potential Republican [presidential candidates],” Bolton said, as he took aim at his former boss as well as some potential future rivals.
In the two years since his loss to President Biden, Trump has repeatedly made unproven claims that his defeat was due to massive voter fraud, which he alleges resulted in a “stolen” election. Trump’s latest controversial comments came after Elon Musk released the “Twitter Files,” which gave a glimpse of the social media company’s internal communications about the censorship of a New York Post story regarding Hunter Biden’s personal laptop in October 2020, just ahead of the presidential election. Trump last month announced a 2024 bid to try to win back the White House.
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“I view it really as roughly equivalent to saying he [Trump] wants to overthrow the government,” Bolton argued. “That’s what happens when you terminate the Constitution and for him to say that, as somebody who took an oath when he became president to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution is advance warning that even if he took that oath again, he wouldn’t mean it.”
Responding to Bolton, Taylor Budowich, who heads up MAGA Inc., the top Trump-aligned super PAC, told Fox News that “Never Trump RINO John Bolton doesn’t have the guts to challenge Donald Trump, who—despite Bolton’s best efforts—led America into one of the most peaceful and safe periods in our nation’s history.”
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While some GOP leaders, including former vice president and potential 2024 contender Mike Pence, have criticized Trump over the latest comments, Bolton emphasized, “If we’re ever going to move beyond Trump, we need to do it in a definitive way. And I think part of leadership is being willing to go out front to make the point so that others know that you’re prepared to make hard decisions. So as I say, I was disappointed that the field didn’t really do that.”
Pointing to some of the other possible 2024 GOP contenders — who also were top officials in the Trump administration — Bolton argued that he’s “not sure they’ve been critical of Trump in a significant way. There’s a lot of nuance in much of what they say, and I know what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to walk what they see is a tightrope between Trump supporters and Trump opponents. . . . You’ve got to be more definitive than that.”
Asked about the reaction he’s received, Bolton shared that he’s had “a lot of conversations and emails and things like that with people that say, ‘Let me know if you get it. I want to help,’ and so that’s all very encouraging.”
Bolton — who tested the waters in the 2016 cycle with trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, historically the first two states to vote in the GOP’s presidential nominating calendar — said he’s “done the homework before” and realizes “how heavy a lift campaigning is.” He added, “I can take the holidays to mull it over some more.”
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“I do know how, how complex a task this is,” he added. “So I’m going to take the time I need to take, and that’s why I’m having a lot of conversations.”
Bolton said that if he does launch a campaign, the timetable would be the first quarter of next year. He added that “if others begin to declare, there’s no advantage for most of the rest of the field to hold back.”
And Bolton said that “one of the things I’m assessing” is whether he’d have the fundraising support to launch a credible presidential campaign.
“My view is, if I get in, it’ll be to win it. And it certainly requires having some prospect of getting enough money to be a credible candidate. I think that’s absolutely foundational. So that’s one of the key things that I’m looking at right now.”
Trump’s candidacy kick-off event last month at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, was widely criticized, not only by Democrats but also by some fellow Republicans. Some in Trump’s political orbit told Fox News that the early announcement was intended in part to clear the field of potential rivals and help the former president avoid the growing net of legal entanglements, but it appears to have failed on both accounts.
Trump also appears to be the victim of self-inflicted wounds, from his heavily criticized dinner last month at Mar-a-Lago with the antisemitic rapper Ye — formerly known as Kanye West — and white nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes, to the widely panned social media post about the Constitution.
The defeat on Tuesday of Trump-endorsed Herschel Walker by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia’s crucial Senate runoff election was the latest setback of a Republican nominee handpicked and supported by the former president in the midterm elections. Walker’s loss followed high-profiles losses by Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz, Arizona’s Kari Lake and Blake Masters, Wisconsin’s Tim Michels, Nevada’s Adam Laxalt and Michigan’s Tudor Dixon.
Bolton charged that Trump’s “conduct in the month has been incoherent, but that’s been my experience with Trump most of the time I was in the administration.”
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