John Bolton, 68, has served in four presidential administrations and was most recently the UN Ambassador for President George W. Bush. (On Tuesday, Trump announced his nominee for secretary of state — ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who has strong ties to Russia.)
In 2012, Bolton appeared on Frank Gaffney's radio show. Gaffney, who is behind the anti-Islam conspiracy group Center for Security Policy, is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.” In particular, Gaffney believes that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated all levels of US government.
Bolton's came on the show as former Rep. Michele Bachmann asserted that the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated the government, focusing her attack on Hillary Clinton’s aide, Huma Abedin. Members of her own party — including John McCain and even her own presidential campaign chief — criticized her for the assertion.
Gaffney, in a question to Bolton, first recounted Bachmann’s call for an investigation and then asked, “What do you make of this controversy and particularly the criticisms, the vicious criticisms, that have been mounted against these folks for their warnings from within their own ranks?” Bolton responded by saying, "What is wrong with raising the question?" His full answer:
What I think these members of Congress have done is simply raise the question, to a variety of inspectors general in key agencies, are your departments following their own security clearance guidelines, are they adhering to the standards that presumably everybody who seeks a security clearance should have to go through, are they making special exemptions? What is wrong with raising the question? Why is even asking whether we are living up to our standards a legitimate area of congressional oversight, why has that generated this criticism? I’m just mystified by it.
And as a keynote speaker at a conference in August 2016 called “Islam and Western Civilization: Can they Coexist?,” Bolton joked that Obama was “Muslim king of the Muslim world,” like King Abdullah II of Jordan.
An assistant for Bolton said he is not currently doing interviews.
He was the US Permanent Representative to the UN during the Bush administration from 2005-2009. He served as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs.
Trump signaled his approval of Bolton as early as the summer of 2015, in an interview with Meet the Press, calling Bolton a “tough cookie.”
“I mean, I like Bolton. I think he’s, you know, a tough cookie, knows what he’s talking about.”
While Trump and Bolton share similar views on many issues, they especially align on foreign policy and threat of terrorism. In general, Bolton's broader views on terrorism and the Muslim world aren't unusual among conservative Republicans.
After President Obama gave a speech on June 14, 2016 — in which he said, “There is no magic in the phrase ‘radical Islam,’” and criticized Trump for relying heavily on the phrase in the wake of the shooting attack at a gay club in Orlando — Bolton called the Obama’s comments snarky and attacked his tone.
“This is a failure of presidential leadership,” Bolton said on Fox News’ Outnumbered. “Forty-nine innocent people have been killed. The country is in pain. It wants leadership, it wants to hear from the president what we’re going to do to prevent this from happening. And instead, we get a lecture from one of the most narcissistic individuals ever to hold that job about what’s wrong with the rest of us who don’t have the tolerance that he does for people who he thinks are being unfairly criticized.”
He added, “Snark in a president is not an admirable trait.”
A month later, he upped his criticism of Obama. “His heart’s not in this,” Bolton said of the president’s dedication to protecting the US from terrorism, after the terror attacks in Nice, France in July.
“The president doesn’t believe in this struggle,” Bolton said to WND. “He doesn’t believe the terrorists are waging a war against the U.S. and the rest of the West. He thinks it’s a law-enforcement matter. I can predict with confidence, although with sadness, he will not do a single thing differently.”
Bolton believes the threat of terrorism should be at the top Trump’s foreign policy priorities, according to an article he wrote for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review outlining five areas of foreign policy focus.
“First, and almost certainly the highest national-security priority for voters last Tuesday, are the closely related threats of radical Islamic terrorism and the Middle East's spreading chaos,” Bolton wrote days after the election. “Obama's unwillingness even to acknowledge radical Islam's ideological basis, let alone his failure to counteract its multiple dangerous manifestations, has left us increasingly vulnerable to terrorist attack.