President Donald Trump said today that his former national security advisor, John Bolton, “crossed the line” in Venezuelan policy, and said his statements about North Korea “undermined” dialogue efforts with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“I disagreed with John Bolton in his attitudes about Venezuela. I think he crossed the line quite a bit, and I think it has been proven that I was right,” Trump said in response to a question from Efe in the Oval Office.
When questioned as to whether his doctrine regarding Venezuela could change now that Bolton has left office, Trump merely indicated that he has a “firm policy” toward that country.
“Venezuela is having a really bad time, and we are trying to help them in a humanitarian way,” said Trump, who hinted that his priority is that assistance and not to “crush the terrible regime” of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, as Bolton wanted.
However, despite Trump’s acknowledgement that he has had “very high-level” conversations with Chavismo, Trump refused to answer the question of whether he is willing to meet with Maduro, with whom he could coincide this month at the UN General Assembly.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” said the president, who insisted that he continues to work “with Colombia and Brazil” to help Venezuelans.
In recent months, Trump has shown signs of frustration at the lack of results in the campaign to overthrow Maduro, after the country began an international campaign in January to overthrow opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
The president accused Bolton last May of wanting to put him “in a war” in Venezuela, reported The Washington Post.
Trump also gave a more extensive explanation of why he fired Bolton on Tuesday, a controversial advisor with a reputation as an interventionist who had been with him for almost a year and a half.
“(Bolton) made some very serious mistakes, such as when he spoke of the ‘Libyan model’ for Kim Jong-un. That comment was not good, and it hurt us. I don’t blame Kim Jong-un for what he said after that,” Trump explained.
In May last year, Bolton said the White House wanted to follow North Korea’s “Libyan model,” referring to the 2003 agreement Washington signed with Tripoli to eradicate Libyan weapons of mass destruction, which irritated Pionyang and complicated plans for the first summit between Trump and Kim.
Trump also pointed out that Bolton “was not getting along with people in the administration,” which he considers “very important,” in an apparent reference to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, with whom the president has a close relationship.
He added that he is evaluating five candidates to replace Bolton and that he will make the announcement next week.
Among those who sound for the post are General Rick Waddell, a former Trump adviser who lived in Brazil for 12 years; Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser Keith Kellogg; and the head of Iran’s State Department, Brian Hook, revealed today an ally of the president, Senator Lindsey Graham.