John R. Bolton
John R. Bolton
|27th United States National Security Advisor|
|Assumed office |
April 9, 2018
Ricky L. Waddell
|Preceded by||H.R. McMaster|
|25th United States Ambassador to the United Nations|
August 2, 2005 – December 31, 2006
|President||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||John Danforth|
|Succeeded by||Zalmay Khalilzad|
|3rd Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs|
May 11, 2001 – July 31, 2005
|President||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||John D. Holum|
|Succeeded by||Robert Joseph|
|18th Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs|
May 22, 1989 – January 20, 1993
|President||George H. W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Richard S. Williamson|
|Succeeded by||Douglas J. Bennet|
|United States Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division|
|Preceded by||Richard K. Willard|
|Succeeded by||Stuart M. Gerson|
|United States Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs|
|Preceded by||Robert A. McConnell|
|Succeeded by||Thomas M. Boyd|
|Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development for Program and Policy Coordination|
|Preceded by||Alexander Shakow|
|Succeeded by||Richard A. Derham|
John Robert Bolton
November 20, 1948
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Christine Bolton (m. 1972–1983)
|Education||Yale University (BA, JD)|
|Years of service||1970–1976|
John Robert Bolton (born November 20, 1948) is an American attorney, political commentator, Republican consultant, government official and former diplomat who serves as the 27th National Security Advisor of the United States. He began his tenure as National Security Advisor on April 9, 2018. Bolton served as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations from August 2005 to December 2006 as a recess appointee by President George W. Bush. He resigned at the end of his recess appointment in December 2006 because he was unlikely to win confirmation from the Senate, which the Democratic Party had gained control of at the time.
Bolton is a former senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), senior advisor for Freedom Capital Investment Management, a Fox News Channel commentator, and of counsel in the Washington, D.C. office of the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. He was a foreign policy adviser to 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Bolton is also involved with a number of politically conservative think tanks, policy institutes and special interest groups, including the Institute of East-West Dynamics, the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Project for the New American Century, Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, the Council for National Policy, and the Gatestone Institute, where he served as the organization Chairman until March 2018.
Bolton has been called a "war hawk" and is an advocate for regime change in Iran, Syria, Libya, Venezuela, Cuba, Somalia, Yemen and North Korea and repeatedly called for the termination of the Iran deal. He was an early supporter of the Iraq War and continues to back this position. He has continuously supported military action and regime change in Syria, Libya, and Iran. A Republican, his political views have been described as American nationalist, conservative, and "neoconservative". Bolton rejects the last term and uses the term "pro-American" instead.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 US National Guard and Army Reserve service
- 3 Career
- 4 Under Secretary of State
- 5 Ambassador to the United Nations
- 5.1 Views on the United Nations
- 5.2 2005 nomination, Senate confirmation hearings
- 5.3 Democrats' filibuster
- 5.4 Accusations of false statement
- 5.5 Recess appointment
- 5.6 Term at the UN
- 5.7 2006 nomination
- 5.8 Termination of service
- 5.9 Support for Bolton
- 6 American Enterprise Institute
- 7 Presidential candidacies considered
- 8 John Bolton Super PAC
- 9 National Security Advisor
- 10 Political positions
- 11 Personal life
- 12 Bibliography
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Early life and education
Bolton was born on November 20, 1948, in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Virginia Clara "Ginny" (née Godfrey), a housewife, and Edward Jackson "Jack" Bolton, a fireman. He grew up in the working-class neighborhood of Yale Heights and won a scholarship to the McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland, graduating in 1966. He also ran the school's Students For Goldwater campaign in 1964.
Bolton attended Yale University, earning a B.A. and graduating summa cum laude in 1970. He was a member of the Yale Political Union. He attended Yale Law School from 1971 to 1974, where he shared classes with his friend Clarence Thomas, earning a J.D. in 1974.
US National Guard and Army Reserve service
During the 1969 Vietnam War draft lottery, Bolton drew number 185. (Draft numbers corresponded to birth dates.) As a result of the Johnson and Nixon administrations' decisions to rely largely on the draft rather than on the reserve forces, joining a Guard or Reserve unit became a way to avoid service in the Vietnam War, although 42 Army Reserve units were called up with 35 of them deployed to Vietnam shortly after the Tet offensive in 1968–69. Before graduating from Yale in 1970, Bolton enlisted in the Maryland Army National Guard rather than wait to find out if his draft number would be called. (The highest number called to military service was 195.) He saw active duty for 18 weeks of training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, from July to November 1970. After serving in the National Guard for four years, he served in the United States Army Reserve until the end of his enlistment two years later.
He wrote in his Yale 25th reunion book: "I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost." In a 2007 interview, Bolton explained his comment in the reunion book saying his decision to avoid service in Vietnam was because "by the time I was about to graduate in 1970, it was clear to me that opponents of the Vietnam War had made it certain we could not prevail, and that I had no great interest in going there to have Teddy Kennedy give it back to the people I might die to take it away from."
From 1974 to 1981, Bolton was an associate at the Washington office of Covington & Burling; he returned to the firm again from 1983 to 1985. Bolton was also a partner in the law firm of Lerner, Reed, Bolton & McManus, from 1993 to 1999. Bolton was executive director of the Committee on Resolutions in the Republican National Committee from 1983 to 1984. Bolton was formerly involved with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Federalist Society, National Policy Forum, National Advisory Board, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, New Atlantic Initiative, and Project on Transitional Democracies.
Before joining the George W. Bush administration, Bolton was senior vice president for public policy research at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, from 1997 to 2001. Between 1997 and 2000, Bolton also worked pro bono as an assistant to James Baker in Baker's capacity as Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan's personal envoy to the Western Sahara. He has run the John Bolton PAC and the John Bolton Super PAC since 1998. Since 2006, he has been a paid Fox News contributor and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. For 2017, he reported an income of $569,000 from Fox News. Bolton was a contributor to The Weekly Standard, an American conservative opinion magazine, from 1997 to 2000, and again from 2014 to 2016.
From 2013 until March 2018, Bolton was chairman of the Gatestone Institute, a nonprofit organization that has been criticized for disseminating false anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim information, where Bolton published articles on Iran and other topics. He was of counsel in the Washington office of Kirkland & Ellis from 2008 until his appointment as National Security Advisor in 2018. In 2018, the White House reported that Bolton's total income for 2017 had been $2.2 million which included $569,000 from Fox News and $747,000 in speaking fees from, among others, the Victor Pinchuk Foundation (a Ukrainian NGO), Deutsche Bank, and HSBC.
During the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, his governmental roles were within the State Department, the Justice Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. He was a protégé of conservative North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms.
His Justice Department position as an assistant attorney general required him to advance Reagan administration positions, including opposition to financial reparations to Japanese-Americans held in World War II-era internment camps; the insistence on Reagan's executive privilege during William Rehnquist's chief justice confirmation hearings, when Congress asked for memos written by Rehnquist as a Nixon Justice Department official; shepherding the judicial nomination process for Antonin Scalia; and the framing of a bill to control illegal immigration as an essential drug war measure. He was also involved in the Iran–Contra affair.
Bolton's government service included such positions as:
- Assistant secretary for International Organization Affairs at the Department of State (1989–1993), where he coordinated the successful effort to rescind the United Nations resolution from the 1970s that had equated Zionism with racism, and also played a major role in supporting the efforts of the U.S. Mission to obtain UN resolutions endorsing the use of force to fight Iraq's invasion of Kuwait;
- Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division (1988–1989);
- Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs, Department of Justice (1985–1988);
- Assistant administrator for program and policy coordination, USAID (1982–1983); and
- General counsel, USAID (1981–1982).
While working for USAID, Lynne Finney, a legal adviser for the agency, alleged that Bolton threatened to fire her for refusing to lobby for the deregulation of baby formula in developing nations.
In January 1998, Bolton signed the Project for the New American Century's letter to President Bill Clinton urging regime change in Iraq and stating "American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council."
Between 1999 and 2001, he served on the board of the Committee for International Religious Freedom.
During the George W. Bush administration, Bolton served as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (2001–2005) and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (2005–2006).
Under Secretary of State
Bolton worked as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, sworn into this position on May 11, 2001. In this role, a key area of his responsibility was the prevention of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Bolton led the George W. Bush administration's opposition on constitutional grounds to the International Criminal Court, negotiating with many countries to sign agreements, called Article 98 agreements, with the U.S. to exempt Americans from prosecution by the court, which is not recognized by the U.S.; more than 100 countries have signed such agreements. Bolton said the decision to pull out of the ICC was the "happiest moment" of his political career to date.
Weapons of mass destruction
Bolton was instrumental in derailing a 2001 biological weapons conference in Geneva convened to endorse a UN proposal to enforce the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. "U.S. officials, led by Bolton, argued that the plan would have put U.S. national security at risk by allowing spot inspections of suspected U.S. weapons sites, despite the fact that the U.S. claims not to have carried out any research for offensive purposes since 1969."
In May 2002, Bolton gave a speech entitled "Beyond the Axis of Evil" in response to President Bush's State of the Union Address. In it, he added three more nations to be grouped with the aforementioned rogue states: Cuba, Libya, and Syria. The criteria for inclusion in this grouping were: "state sponsors of terrorism that are pursuing or who have the potential to pursue weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or have the capability to do so in violation of their treaty obligations."
Also in 2002, Bolton is said to have flown to Europe to demand the resignation of Brazilian José Bustani, head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and to have orchestrated his removal at a special session of the organization. The United Nations' highest administrative tribunal later condemned the action as an "unacceptable violation" of principles protecting international civil servants. Bustani had been unanimously re-elected for a four-year term—with strong U.S. support—in May 2000, and in 2001 was praised for his leadership by Colin Powell.
He also pushed for reduced funding for the Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program to halt the proliferation of nuclear materials. At the same time, he was involved in the implementation of the Proliferation Security Initiative, working with a number of countries to intercept the trafficking in weapons of mass destruction and in materials for use in building nuclear weapons.
According to an article in The New Republic, Bolton was highly successful in pushing his agenda, but his bluntness made him many enemies. "Iran's Foreign Ministry has called Bolton 'rude' and 'undiplomatic'." In response to critics, Bolton states that his record "demonstrates clear support for effective multilateral diplomacy." Bush administration officials have stated that his past statements would allow him to negotiate from a powerful position. "It's like the Palestinians having to negotiate with [Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon. If you have a deal, you know you have a deal," an anonymous official told CNN. He also "won widespread praise for his work establishing the Proliferation Security Initiative, a voluntary agreement supported by 60 countries".
Bolton spawned controversy when, in a 2003 speech cleared by the State Department, he described North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as a "tyrannical dictator" and saying that, for North Koreans under Kim's rule, "life is a hellish nightmare." In response, a North Korean spokesman said "such human scum and bloodsucker is not entitled to take part in the talks." Congressional Democrats argued that Bolton's words at the time were undiplomatic and endangered the talks. Bolton later wrote that he had been looking for a "hammer" to "shatter" the Clinton Administration's 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea, an implement he found when the country's uranium enrichment program came to light. Critics argued that Bolton's record of allegedly politicizing intelligence would harm U.S. credibility with the United Nations. President Bush said he wanted John Bolton because he "can get the job done at the United Nations." Bolton recalls that his 'happiest moment at State was personally 'unsigning' the Rome Statute,' which had set up the International Criminal Court.
In 2002, Bolton accused Cuba of transfers of biological weapons technology to rogue states and called on it "to fully comply with all of its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention." According to a Scripps Howard News Service article, Bolton "wanted to say that Cuba had a biological weapons capacity and that it was exporting it to other nations. The intelligence analysts seemed to want to limit the assessment to a declaration that Cuba 'could' develop such weapons." According to AlterNet, Bolton attempted to have the chief bioweapons analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the CIA's national intelligence officer for Latin America reassigned. Under oath at his Senate hearings for confirmation as ambassador, he denied trying to have the men fired, but seven intelligence officials contradicted him. Ultimately, "intelligence officials refused to allow Bolton to make the harsh criticism of Cuba he sought to deliver", and were able to keep their positions. Bolton claims that the issue was procedural rather than related to the content of his speech and that the officers, who did not work under him, behaved unprofessionally.
Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman alleged that Bolton played a role in encouraging the inclusion of statement that British Intelligence had determined Iraq attempted to procure yellowcake uranium from Niger in Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address. These statements were claimed by critics of the President to be partly based on documents found to be forged. Waxman's allegations could not be confirmed as they were based on classified documents.
Bolton stated in June 2004 congressional testimony that Iran was lying about enriched uranium contamination: "Another unmistakable indicator of Iran's intentions is the pattern of repeatedly lying to ... the IAEA ... when evidence of uranium enriched to 36 percent was found, it attributed this to contamination from imported centrifuge parts." However, later isotope analysis supported Iran's explanation of foreign contamination for most of the observed enriched uranium. At their August 2005 meeting the IAEA's Board of Governors concluded: "Based on the information currently available to the Agency, the results of that analysis tend, on balance, to support Iran's statement about the foreign origin of most of the observed highly enriched uranium contamination." In his book Surrender Is Not an Option (2007), Bolton criticizes the Bush administration for changing its foreign policy objectives during the start of the administration's second term.
Critics allege that Bolton tried to spin intelligence to support his views and political objectives on a number of occasions. Greg Thielmann, of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), was assigned as the daily intelligence liaison to Bolton. Thielmann stated to Seymour Hersh that, "Bolton seemed troubled because INR was not telling him what he wanted to hear ... I was intercepted at the door of his office and told, 'The Under Secretary doesn't need you to attend this meeting anymore.'" According to former coworkers, Bolton withheld information that ran counter to his goals from Secretary of State Colin Powell on multiple occasions, and from Powell's successor Condoleezza Rice on at least one occasion.
On May 28, 2008, at the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, the British activist George Monbiot attempted to make a citizen's arrest of Bolton, for his role as an architect of the Iraq War. The attempt was unsuccessful, and Monbiot was ejected by security personnel.
Ambassador to the United Nations
On March 7, 2005, Bolton was nominated to the post of United States Ambassador to the United Nations by President George W. Bush. As a result of a Democratic filibuster, he was recess-appointed to the post on August 1, 2005. Bolton's nomination received strong support from Republicans but faced heavy opposition from Democrats due initially to concerns about his strongly expressed views on the United Nations.
Holding a 10–8 majority in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (tasked with vetting ambassadorial nominees), the Republican leadership hoped to send Bolton's nomination to the full Senate with a positive recommendation. Concern among some Republicans on the committee, however, prompted the leadership to avoid losing such a motion and instead to send the nomination forward with no recommendation. In the full Senate, Republican support for the nomination remained uncertain, with the most vocal Republican critic, Ohio Senator George V. Voinovich, circulating a letter urging his Republican colleagues to oppose the nomination. Democrats insisted that a vote on the nomination was premature, given the resistance of the White House to share classified documents related to Bolton's alleged actions. The Republican leadership moved on two occasions to end debate, but because a supermajority of 60 votes is needed to end debate, the leadership was unable to muster the required votes with only a 55–44 majority in the body. An earlier agreement between moderates in both parties to prevent filibustering of nominees was interpreted by the Democrats to relate only to judicial nominees, not ambassadorships, although the leader of the effort, Sen. John McCain, said the spirit of the agreement was to include all nominees.
On November 9, 2006, Bush, only days after losing both houses to a Democratic majority, sent the nomination for Bolton to continue as representative for the United States at the UN. He said: "I believe that the leaders of both political parties must try to work through our differences. And I believe we will be able to work through differences. I reassured the House and Senate leaders that I intend to work with the new Congress in a bipartisan way to address issues confronting this country."
Views on the United Nations
Bolton has been a strong critic of the United Nations for much of his career. In a 1994 Global Structures Convocation hosted by the World Federalist Association (now Citizens for Global Solutions), he stated,
There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that's the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along.
He also stated that "The Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost ten stories today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."
When pressed on the statement during the confirmation process, he responded, "There's not a bureaucracy in the world that couldn't be made leaner." In a paper on U.S. participation in the UN, Bolton stated "the United Nations can be a useful instrument in the conduct of American foreign policy."
Bolton was also one of the signers of the January 26, 1998, PNAC letter sent to President Bill Clinton urging him to remove Saddam Hussein from power using U.S. diplomatic, political and military power.
The November 15, 2005, Washington Times article "Can the U.S. find a substitute for the U.N.?" noted that Bolton advocates "a revolution of reform" at the UN. Specifically, he called for:
- The five permanent members of the UN Security Council to work more closely to craft powerful resolutions and make sure they are enforced, and to address the underlying causes of conflicts, rather than turning them over to the Secretariat and special envoys;
- A focus on administrative skills in choosing the next secretary-general; and
- A more credible and responsible Human Rights Commission.
Bolton noted that the U.S. had the option of relying on regional or other international organizations to advance its goals if the U.N. proves inadequate.
2005 nomination, Senate confirmation hearings
On April 11, 2005, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reviewed Bolton's qualifications. Bolton said that he and his colleagues "view the U.N. as an important component of our diplomacy" and will work to solve its problems and enhance its strengths, echoing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice words from a month earlier.
Republican committee chairman Richard Lugar of Indiana criticized Bolton for ignoring the "policy consequences" of his statements, saying diplomatic speech "should never be undertaken simply to score international debating points to appeal to segments of the U.S. public opinion or to validate a personal point of view." The committee's top Democrat, Joe Biden of Delaware, compared sending Bolton to the UN to sending a "bull into a china shop," and expressed "grave concern" about Bolton's "diplomatic temperament" and his record: "In my judgment, your judgment about how to deal with the emerging threats have not been particularly useful," Biden said.
Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia said that Bolton had the "experience," "knowledge," "background," "and the right principles to come into the United Nations at this time," calling him "the absolute perfect person for the job."
Russ Feingold, a Democrat on the committee from Wisconsin, asked Bolton about what he would have done had the Rwandan genocide occurred while he was ambassador to the United Nations, and criticized his answer—which focused on logistics—as "amazingly passive."
According to Newsday, Lincoln Chafee, then a Republican from Rhode Island, "may be pivotal for Bolton's nomination." His initial remarks were cautiously favorable: "You said all the right things in your opening statement." Chafee stated that he would probably support Bolton "unless something surprising shows up."
According to an Associated Press story on the hearing, "[T]hree protesters briefly interrupted the proceedings, standing up in succession with pink T-shirts and banners, one reading: 'Diplomat for hire. No bully please.'" These protesters were part of a group advocating representation in the Senate for residents of the District of Columbia that is known for such demonstrations at a variety of hearings.
On April 12, 2005, the Senate panel focused on allegations discussed above that Bolton pressured intelligence analysts. Calling Bolton a "serial abuser, " former State Department intelligence chief Carl W. Ford Jr. said, "I've never seen anybody quite like Secretary Bolton ... I don't have a second, third or fourth in terms of the way that he abuses his power and authority with little people." Ford contradicted Bolton's earlier testimony, saying: "I had been asked for the first time to fire an intelligence analyst for what he had said and done." Ford also characterized Bolton as a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy", implying that he was always ready to please whoever had authority over him, while having very little regard for people working under him.
Lugar, who criticized Bolton at his April 11 hearing, said that the "paramount issue" was supporting Bush's nominee. He conceded that "bluntness ... may be required", even though it is not "very good diplomacy". Chafee, the key member for Bolton's approval, said that "the bar is very high" for rejecting the president's nominees, suggesting that Bolton would make it to the Senate.
Erosion of Republican support
|Wikinews has related news: U.S. Senator Voinovich allows Bolton nomination to pass to full Senate vote|
On April 19, Democrats, with support from Voinovich, forced Lugar to delay the committee vote on Bolton's nomination until May. The debate concerning his nomination raged in the Senate prior to the Memorial Day recess. Two other Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee, Chafee and Chuck Hagel, also expressed serious concerns about the Bolton nomination.
Asked on April 20 if he was now less inclined to support the nomination, Chafee said, "That would be accurate." He further elaborated that Bolton's prospects were "hard to predict" but said he expected that "the administration is really going to put some pressure on Senator Voinovich. Then it comes to the rest of us that have had some reservations."
On April 20, it emerged that Melody Townsel, a former USAID contractor, had reported to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Bolton had used inflammatory language and thrown objects in the course of her work activities in Moscow. Townsel's encounter with Bolton occurred when she served as a whistleblower against a poorly performing minority contractor for USAID, IBTCI. Townsel told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff that Bolton had made derogatory remarks about her sexual orientation and weight, among other workplace improprieties. In an official interview with Senate Foreign Relation Committee staff, Townsel detailed her accusations against Bolton, which were confirmed by Canadian designer Uno Ramat, who had served as an IBTCI employee and one of Townsel's AID colleagues. Time magazine, among other publications, verified Townsel's accusations and Ramat's supporting testimony, and Townsel's story was transcribed and entered into the official Senate committee record. Townsel, who was an employee of Young & Rubicam at the time of her encounter with Bolton, continued working for the company on a variety of other USAID projects.
On April 22, The New York Times and other media alleged that Bolton's former boss, Colin Powell, was personally opposed to the nomination and had been in personal contact with Chafee and Hagel. The same day, Reuters reported that a spokesman for Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said that the Senator felt the committee "did the right thing delaying the vote on Bolton in light of the recent information presented to the committee." On April 28, The Guardian reported that Powell was "conducting a campaign" against Bolton because of the acrimonious battles they had had while working together, which among other things had resulted in Powell cutting Bolton out of talks with Iran and Libya after complaints about Bolton's involvement from the British. It added that "The foreign relations committee has discovered that Bolton made a highly unusual request and gained access to 10 intercepts by the National Security Agency ... Staff members on the committee believe that Bolton was probably spying on Powell, his senior advisers and other officials reporting to him on diplomatic initiatives that Bolton opposed." However, Rich Lowry pointed out that "During the same four-year period, other State Department officials made roughly 400 similar requests."
Also on May 11, Newsweek reported allegations that the American position at the 7th Review Conference in May 2005 of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty had been undercut by Bolton's "absence without leave" during the nomination fight, quoting anonymous sources "close to the negotiations".
On May 26, 2005, Senate Democrats postponed the vote on Bolton's UN nomination. The Republican leadership failed to gain enough support to pass a cloture motion on the floor debate over Bolton, and minority leader Harry Reid conceded the move signaled the "first filibuster of the year." The Democrats claimed that key documents regarding Bolton and his career at the Department of State were being withheld by the Bush administration. Scott McClellan, White House press secretary, responded by saying, "Just 72 hours after all the good will and bipartisanship (over a deal on judicial nominees), it's disappointing to see the Democratic leadership resort back to such a partisan approach."
The failure of the Senate to end debate on Bolton's nomination provided one surprise for some: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) voted against cloture for procedural reasons, so that he could bring up a cloture vote in the future. (Although Voinovich once spoke against confirming Bolton, he voted for cloture.) Senator John Thune (R-SD) voted to end debate but announced that he would vote against Bolton in the up-or-down vote as a protest against the government's plans to close a military base (Ellsworth) in his home state.
On June 20, 2005, the Senate voted again on cloture. The vote failed 54–38, six votes short of ending debate. That marked an increase of two "no" votes, including the defection of Voinovich, who switched his previous "yes" vote and urged President Bush to pick another nominee (Democrats Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson voted to end debate both times). On June 21, Frist expressed his view that attempting another vote would be pointless, but later that day, following a lunch at the White House, changed his position, saying that he would continue to push for an up-or-down vote. Voinovich later recanted his opposition and stated that if Bolton were renominated he would have supported the nomination.
Accusations of false statement
On July 28, 2005, it was revealed that a statement made by Bolton on forms submitted to the Senate was false. Bolton indicated that in the prior five years he had not been questioned in any investigation, but in fact he had been interviewed by the State Department's Inspector General as part of an investigation into the sources of pre-war claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. After insisting for weeks that Bolton had testified truthfully on the form, the State Department reversed itself, stating that Bolton had simply forgotten about the investigation.
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On August 1, 2005, Bush officially made a recess appointment of Bolton, installing him as Permanent US Representative to the UN. A recess appointment lasts until the next session of Congress ends or until the individual is renominated and confirmed by the Senate. During the announcement, Bush said, "This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about U.N. reform." Democrats criticized the appointment, and Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Bolton would lack credibility in the U.N. because he lacked Senate confirmation. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed Mr. Bolton, but told reporters that the new ambassador should consult with others as the administration continued to press for changes at the United Nations.
Term at the UN
The Economist called Bolton "the most controversial ambassador ever sent by America to the United Nations." Some colleagues in the UN appreciated the goals Bolton was trying to achieve, but not his abrasive style. The New York Times, in its editorial The Shame of the United Nations, praised Bolton's stance on "reforming the disgraceful United Nations Human Rights Commission", saying "John Bolton, is right; Secretary-General Kofi Annan is wrong." The Times also said that the commission at that time was composed of "some of the world's most abusive regimes" who used their membership as cover to continue their abusiveness.
Bolton also opposed the proposed replacement for the Human Rights Commission, the UN Human Rights Council, as not going far enough for reform, saying: "We want a butterfly. We don't intend to put lipstick on a caterpillar and call it a success."
Bush announced his intention to renominate Bolton for confirmation as U.N. ambassador at the beginning of 2006, and a new confirmation hearing was held on July 27, 2006, in the hope of completing the process before the expiration of Bolton's recess appointment at the end of the 109th Congress. Voinovich, who had previously stood in opposition to Bolton, had amended his views and determined that Bolton was doing a "good job" as UN ambassador; in February 2006, he said "I spend a lot of time with John on the phone. I think he is really working very constructively to move forward."
Over the summer and during the fall election campaign, no action was taken on the nomination because Chafee, who was in a difficult re-election campaign, blocked a Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote. Without his concurrence, the SFRC would have been deadlocked 9–9, and the nomination could not have gone to the Senate floor for a full vote. Bush formally resubmitted the nomination on November 9, 2006, immediately following a midterm election that would give control of the 110th Congress to the Democratic party. Chafee, who had just lost his re-election bid, issued a statement saying he would vote against recommending Bolton for a Senate vote, citing what he considered to be a mandate from the recent election results: "On Tuesday, the American people sent a clear message of dissatisfaction with the foreign policy approach of the Bush administration. To confirm Mr. Bolton to the position of U.N. ambassador would fly in the face of the clear consensus of the country that a new direction is called for."
Termination of service
On December 4, 2006, Bolton announced that he would terminate his work as U.S. representative to the UN at the end of the recess appointment and would not continue to seek confirmation. His letter of resignation from the Bush administration was accepted on December 4, 2006, effective when his recess appointment ended December 9 at the formal adjournment of the 109th Congress.
The announcement was characterized as Bolton's "resignation" by the Associated Press, United Press International, ABC News, and other news sources, as well as a White House press release and President Bush himself. The White House, however, later objected to the use of this language. Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino told CBS News "it is not a resignation." The actual language of the President's written acceptance was: "It is with deep regret that I accept John Bolton's decision to end his service in the administration as permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations when his commission expires." However, at press conference, the president said, "I received the resignation of Ambassador John Bolton. I accept it. I'm not happy about it. I think he deserved to be confirmed." Some news organizations subsequently altered their language to phrases such as "to step down," "to leave," or "to exit."
Support for Bolton
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During his confirmation hearings in 2005, letters with signatures of more than 64 co-workers and professional colleagues were sent to Senator Richard Lugar, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in praise of Bolton and contradicting other criticisms and allegations concerning his diplomatic style and his treatment of colleagues and staff.
In late 2006, when his nomination was again before the Committee, another letter signed by professional colleagues supporting the renomination was sent to Senator Lugar. A Wall Street Journal op ed by Claudia Rosett on December 5, 2006, said in part, "Bolton has been valiant in his efforts to clean up UN corruption and malfeasance, and follow UN procedure in dealing with such threats as a nuclear North Korea, a Hezbollah bid to take over Lebanon, and the nuclearization of Hezbollah's terror-masters in Iran. But it has been like watching one man trying to move a tsunami of mud."
American Enterprise Institute
After leaving the George W. Bush Administration, Bolton returned to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research as a Senior Fellow, with research areas in foreign policy and international organizations. In Bolton's time at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, he spoke against the policy of rewarding North Korea for ending its nuclear weapons program. He said the policy would encourage others to violate nuclear non-proliferation rules so that they could then be rewarded for following the rules they'd already agreed to.
On episodes of Fox News in May and June 2008, Bolton suggested that Israel might attack Iran after US elections in November. In January 2009, he proposed a three-state solution to the Arab Israeli conflict in which "Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty." In 2010, Bolton co-founded the Friends of Israel Initiative with 12 other international figures. In June 2011, he dismissed Palestinian claims to statehood as a "ploy".
On July 27, 2009, Bolton was appointed to the board of directors for EMS Technologies, Inc. (ELMG), a Georgia-based tech company that subcontracts for many DOD contractors.
In July 2013, Bolton was identified as a key member of Groundswell, a secretive coalition of right-wing activists and journalists attempting to advance political change behind the scenes through lobbying of high-level contacts.
Criticism of the Obama administration
In 2009, Bolton likened the President to Æthelred the Unready, "the turn of the first millennium Anglo-Saxon king whose reputation for indecisiveness and his unsuccessful [effort] ... to buy off Viking raiders made him history's paradigmatic weak leader." In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Bolton contended that Obama's efforts on international issues are nothing more than "dithering."
In September 2011, when the Obama administration declared the death of Al Qaeda target and American-born radical Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, Bolton commented "I think it's important as individual Al Qaeda figures and other terrorists are killed that we not read more into it than there is. Consider this analogy if you were around in the 1920s and somebody said, my God, Vladimir Lenin is dead. The Bolsheviks will never recover from this ... So while Al-Awlaki's death is significant, I would not read cosmic consequences into it."
Bolton caused a controversy on December 17, 2012, when he claimed on Greta Van Susteren's show on Fox News that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faked a concussion to avoid testifying before Congress regarding the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, that killed four Americans including the sitting ambassador. Bolton stated "When you don't want to go to a meeting or conference or an event you have a 'diplomatic illness'. And this is a diplomatic illness to beat the band."
In 2010, he wrote a foreword for the book The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America, while maintaining close relations with its authors, conservative bloggers, activists, and commentators Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Bolton endorsed their book, writing: "This book carries forward the ongoing and increasingly widespread critique of Barack Obama as our first post-American president. What it recounts is disturbing, and its broader implications are more disturbing still."
People's Mujahedin of Iran
Prior to it being de-listed by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2012, Bolton spoke in favor of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (also known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK), in at least one case being paid to do so. MEK has a long anti-American history. According to the State Department, the MEK "[f]ollow[s] a philosophy that mixes Marxism and Islam."
On January 25, 2011, Bolton drew a standing ovation at a MEK conference in Brussels for his support of the MEK, giving a speech in which he "backed MEK's legitimacy, and the notion of removing it from the list of terrorist organizations".
In May 2018, Joanne Stocker, a journalist and researcher studying the MEK, told Richard Engel of the MSNBC that she estimates Bolton was paid "on the low-end, $180,000". Bolton's office has refused to comment on the matter.
According to the 5 U.S.C. app. § 101-required 'US Public Financial Disclosure Report' (2018) for Bolton, released by Al-Monitor, he has received $40,000 of speaking fee for "Global Events--European Iranian Events" on 1 June 2017, the same day he made a speech for the MEK in a gathering in Paris, France.
Presidential candidacies considered
Bolton considered running for president in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. He had received attention in conservative circles, including the cover of the December 31, 2010 issue of National Review magazine. He told Politico: "As I survey the situation, I think the Republican field is wide open. I don't think the party's anywhere close to a decision. And stranger things have happened. For example, inexperienced senators from Illinois have gotten presidential nominations."
In an interview with National Review, Bolton said:
Individual liberty is the whole purpose of political life, and I thought it was threatened back then' and 'I write, I give speeches, I appear on television-but the only way in contemporary American circumstances to make those issues as salient as they should be is to run for president.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, Bolton said:
I'm obviously not a politician. I've never run for any federal elective office at all and, you know, it is something that would obviously require a great deal of effort.
He wants to be president of the United States, or, at the very least, a provocative contender for the Republican nomination in 2016. 'My hypothesis is that voters are practical and they care more about national security than the media seems to believe; I think, right now, especially after two terms of President Obama, they want a president who has the know-how to lead during a crisis, a president who can defend our national interests, he says.
On Wednesday, September 30, 2015, Freedom Capital Investment Management appointed Bolton as a senior advisor to oversee the firm on international security, financial and political risks.
John Bolton Super PAC
In 2013, Bolton set up the John Bolton Super PAC. It raised $11.3 million for Republican candidates in the 2014 and 2016 elections and spent $5.6 million, paying Cambridge Analytica at least $650,000 for voter data analysis and digital video ad targeting in support of the campaigns of Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and of former U.S. Senator (R-MA) Scott Brown's unsuccessful 2014 bid for a U.S. Senate seat for New Hampshire. In September 2016, Bolton announced that his Super PAC would spend $1 million on (R-N.C.) Senator Richard Burr's reelection effort by targeting ads at "social media users and Dish Network and Direct TV subscribers".
The Center for Public Integrity analysed the John Bolton Super PAC's campaign finance filings and found that they paid Cambridge Analytica more than $1.1 million since 2014 for "research" and "survey research". According to Federal Election Commission filings, Cambridge Analytica was paid more than $811,000 by them in the 2016 presidential election; in the same election cycle, the Super PAC spent around $2.5 million in support of Republican U.S. Senate candidates.
Bolton stated that he aims to raise and spend $25 million for up to 90 Republican candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. In January 2018, Bolton announced a $1 million advertising campaign in support of Kevin Nicholson's bid for the Republican nomimation to run against incumbent Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. The Super PAC ran an ad campaign in the Green Bay area in January 2018; on March 19, 2018, the Super PAC announced a two-week $278,000 television and radio ad campaign in the Milwaukee area.
After Bolton was appointed National Security Advisor in March 2018, the John Bolton Super PAC and the John Bolton PAC announced that their political activities were suspended temporarily, effective March 31, 2018. The Super PAC's FEC filings showed a balance of $2.6 million in unspent donations at the end of March 2018.
National Security Advisor
Speculation on position (2016–2017)
In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt during the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign, Republican nominee Donald Trump named Bolton as a possible choice for Secretary of State. Appearing on Fox News' Fox and Friends on December 1, 2016, Bolton admitted he was being considered as a Secretary of State candidate for the incoming Trump administration. Several Trump associates claim Bolton was not chosen, in part, due to Trump's disdain for Bolton's signature mustache.
The evening of December 10, the BBC cited NBC reports that "sources close to Mr Trump [were] ... saying that Mr Tillerson is likely to be named next week" and that former UN ambassador John Bolton "will serve as his deputy".
Bolton has supported theories about the health of Hillary Clinton and about her aide Huma Abedin, and in December 2016 Bolton stated that the conclusion of the United States Intelligence Community that Russian hackers intervened to help elect Donald Trump in 2016 may have been a "false flag" operation. In a subsequent interview on Fox News, Bolton criticized the Obama administration's retaliatory sanctions as insufficient and suggest that the US response should "make them [the Russians] feel pain".
President Trump interviewed Bolton and three others to determine who would fill the position of National Security Advisor vacated by Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn. The position ultimately went to H. R. McMaster. Trump "made a point on Monday of praising Mr. Bolton and saying that he would find a position for him in his administration eventually." Bolton was seen at the White House on the evening of March 6, 2018, presumably to be interviewed as a candidate for national security adviser.
The New York Times reported on March 22, 2018, that John Bolton would replace National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, which was confirmed by Trump in a tweet on March 22, 2018. Bolton began his position as National Security Advisor on April 9, 2018. The New York Times wrote that the rise of Bolton and Mike Pompeo, coupled with the departure of Rex Tillerson and General McMaster, meant that Trump's foreign policy team was now "the most radically aggressive foreign policy team around the American president in modern memory", and compared it to the foreign policy team surrounding George W. Bush, notably with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
On April 10, 2018, Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert resigned at Bolton's request, and Bolton said he is considering a merger of the NSC with the Homeland Security Council. During his first week in office Bolton requested and obtained the resignations of multiple National Security Council employees including NSC spokesman Michael Anton (April 8), deputy national security adviser Nadia Schadlow (April 10), and deputy national security adviser Ricky L. Waddell (April 12). CNN reported in September 2018 that Bolton had significantly shrunk the number of NSC personnel, cutting it to under 300.
On September 10, 2018, in his first major address as National Security Advisor, Bolton criticized the International Criminal Court, saying it lacks checks and balances, exercises "jurisdiction over crimes that have disputed and ambiguous definitions," and has failed to "deter and punish atrocity crimes." Calling the ICC a threat to "American sovereignty and U.S. national security," Bolton said it is "superfluous," given that "domestic judicial systems already hold American citizens to the highest legal and ethical standards." He added that the U.S. would do everything "to protect our citizens" should the ICC attempt to prosecute U.S. servicemen over alleged detainee abuse in Afghanistan, and it would bar ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the U.S. and sanction their funds. He also criticized Palestinian efforts to bring Israel before the ICC over allegations of human rights abuses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
In 2018, Bolton requested that the Pentagon provide the White House with options for military strikes against Iran. According to the New York Times, Bolton "intensified the administration’s policy of isolating and pressuring Iran — reflecting an animus against Iran’s leaders that dates back to his days as an official in the George W. Bush administration. As a private citizen, he later called for military strikes on Iran, as well as regime change."
As national security advisor, Bolton eliminated the kinds of internal policy debates that his predecessor H. R. McMaster had in place. The New York Times writes that this change in practices contributed to Trump's sudden and erratic decision to withdraw the United States from Syria in January 2019.
As National Security Advisor, Bolton advanced policies skeptical and hostile toward international organizations. By his first year as National Security Advisor, Bolton had reshaped the National Security Council and become influential within the Trump Administration.
He declared himself in an interview with Edward Luce of the Financial Times in 2007 to be a "Goldwater conservative", as opposed to being a neoconservative. He also pointed out that he was a follower of Edmund Burke. He also said "I have always been a conservative. The idea of big-government conservatism has more neocon adherents than from unmodified conservatives."
Unilateralism and sovereignty
Bolton is skeptical of international organizations and international law, believing them to endanger American sovereignty, and does not believe they have legitimate authority under the U.S. Constitution. He criticized the Obama administration's foreign policy for what he perceived as surrendering U.S. sovereignty. He also prefers unilateralism over multilateralism. In a 2000 article in the Chicago Journal of International Law, Bolton described himself as a "convinced Americanist", favoring it over what he described as "globalism". In his roles in the U.S. government, however, Bolton has been more pragmatic in his actions toward international organizations, though according to Foreign Policy, he effectively advanced his views on this subject during his tenure in the Trump Administration.
Bolton has criticized the International Criminal Court, seeing it as a threat to U.S. sovereignty. Bolton said: "If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly. We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system."
Bolton is a critic of the European Union. In his book Surrender Is Not an Option, he criticized the EU for pursuing "the endless process of diplomatic mastication" rather than satisfactorily solving problems, and he labeled the organization's diplomats as "EUroids". He has also criticized the EU for advancing what he considers liberal policies. Bolton campaigned in Ireland against further EU integration in 2008, and he criticized the Treaty of Lisbon for expanding EU powers. In 2016, Bolton praised the UK's referendum vote to leave the EU, and Axios reported in January 2019 that Bolton continued to advocate for a hard Brexit as National Security Advisor. In a March 2019 interview with Sky News, Bolton criticized the UK "political class" for not implementing the Brexit vote.
Bolton opposed the deal that George W. Bush made with then Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to eliminate the country's weapons of mass destruction program. He was in a key role during initial negotiations but his role became limited over time. According to a 2005 study, Bolton was intentionally kept out of the loop, so that a final agreement could be reached: "Bolton reportedly was unaware of the December 19 WMD agreement until very shortly before its public announcement. And after initially being given a lead role in implementing it, he pushed so hard to backtrack from the agreement that the British convinced the Bush administration to restrict his involvement in the Libya matter."
Bolton is known for his strong support for Israel. Bolton opposes the two-state solution of creating an independent Palestinian state alongside the existing state of Israel. Bolton supported moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in accordance with the Jerusalem Embassy Act, and he testified in front of Congress in 2017 on the matter.
North Korea and Iran
Bolton has advocated for pre-emptive strikes against North Korea and Iran. In 2008, Bolton said: "The idea here is not to have much larger hostilities, but to stop the Iranians from engaging in the hostilities that they're already doing against us inside Iraq. And they're doing much the same by aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan. So this is not provocative or preemptive, this is entirely responsive on our part." In 2018, Bolton stated: "Russia, China, Syria, Iran, North Korea. These are regimes that make agreements and lie about them. A national security policy that is based on the faith that regimes like that will honor their commitments is doomed to failure." He also said that "Our goal should be regime change in Iran."
Speaking to a meeting of Iranian exile group Mujahedin-e-Khalq in March 2018, Bolton stated that the Trump administration should follow the goal of regime change in Iran and that "before 2019, we here ... will celebrate in Iran." Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recounted the prediction by describing the U.S. official making the prediction as a "first class idiot", without naming anyone.
In 2013, after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had been granted asylum in Russia, Bolton said: "I think in order to focus Putin's thinking, we need to do things that cause him pain as well. And while I know that not having a chance to have a bilateral meeting with his buddy Barack Obama will cause Putin to lose sleep, it's not damaging Russian interests."
Russian Senator Aleksey Pushkov, former chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, said after Bolton's appointment: "Bolton, along with Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, was an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq. A supporter of jihadists for the sake of overthrowing [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad]. A great specialist in interventions and aggression, and adept at the use of force. McMaster is a general. Bolton is the ideologue of a new cold war, a convinced opponent of Russia."
In a June 2017 article entitled "Vladimir Putin looked Trump in the eye and lied to him. We negotiate with Russia at our peril," Bolton called Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections "a true act of war." As Trump's national security advisor in July 2018, Bolton referred to the investigation into the Russian interference as "the Russia witch hunt.".
Bolton criticized Washington's One-China policy, under which Taiwan is not recognized as an independent nation. He also said: "There's simply no excuse for the stealing of intellectual property, forced technology transfers it's sometimes called."
In a speech on November 1, 2018, Bolton praised Brazil's president-elect Jair Bolsonaro and Colombia's president Iván Duque Márquez, both right-wing conservatives, calling them "like-minded" partners. In the speech, he also framed Bolsonaro's recent election victory as a "positive sign" for Latin America, and he criticized Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua as a "troika of tyranny."
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On July 1, 2017 John Bolton, former State Department official and Trump supporter, addressed a large gathering of MEK supporters in Paris.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: John R. Bolton|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to John R. Bolton.|
- Profile at American Enterprise Institute
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- "John R. Bolton collected news and commentary". The New York Times.
- Works by or about John R. Bolton in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- The Creation, Fall, Rise, and Fall of the United Nations John Bolton's chapter from the Cato Institute book, Delusions of Grandeur: The United Nations and Global Intervention
- John Bolton interviewed by Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" from March 20, 2007
- John Bolton interview by Neal Conan on Talk of the Nation, May 1, 2007
- Audio interview with National Review Online and article