AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
- Mike Pompeo accused John Bolton of “treason” and “scheming” against Trump’s agenda.
- He went on to call the former national security advisor “self-serving” and said Trump called Bolton a “scumbag loser.”
- Pompeo also suggested Bolton should be prosecuted for “spilling classified information” in his own book, but Bolton shot back that it was cleared by national security officials.
“Self-serving.” “Treason.” “Scumbag loser.”
Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state, is using a new political memoir to escalate his score-settling feud with another top Trump administration official, going so far as to claim that ex-national security adviser John Bolton should be prosecuted for his politically damaging insider’s account of the administration’s chaos and for “spilling classified information.”
“I hope I can one day testify at a criminal trial as a witness for the prosecution,” Pompeo writes in his book, “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love,” out Tuesday.
Pompeo, who was also CIA director during the Trump administration, is openly considering a run for the White House in 2024, meaning he may face former President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. In his new book, he reserves some of his most scathing criticism for Bolton — an erstwhile rival for power inside the White House who would go on to become one of the most strident Republican critics of Trump — accusing him of “constantly scheming to win for himself and no one else.”
Pompeo specifically takes aim at Bolton’s 2020 bombshell memoir, “In The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” which features accounts of Trump’s affinity for authoritarian leaders and his comment that it would be “cool” if the US invaded Venezuela.
Pompeo compares Bolton writing a memoir to Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency to reporters in 2013.
Bolton responded to Pompeo’s criticisms in an interview Monday on CNN, noting that his book had gone through a pre-publication review — including by the senior director for records access at the National Security Council — which found that it didn’t contain classified information. Trump administration officials then tried to pressure the NSC official to reverse the determination, she said in a letter through her attorney.
“If he didn’t know about it, it’s incompetence in writing the book for not checking out the facts before he put it down on paper,” Bolton said on CNN. “And if he did know about it, that’s malicious and well beyond reckless to say things like that.”
The criticisms in “Never Give an Inch” are in line with Pompeo’s previous comments on Bolton. Before Bolton’s book hit the shelves in 2020, Pompeo issued a statement calling Bolton a “traitor who damaged America by violating his sacred trust with its people.”
The former secretary of state also questions Bolton’s motives in his new memoir.
“At least Snowden had the decency not to lie about his motive,” Pompeo writes. “Bolton spun his book as an act of public service to save America from Donald Trump, but he could not even be honest that he just wanted to make a buck. His self-serving stories contained classified information and deeply sensitive conversations involving a sitting commander in chief. That’s the very definition of treason.”
To be sure, publicizing a meeting with the president is frowned upon by administration officials but not illegal — and Bolton has argued the gravity of the administration’s problems warranted disclosure.
Pompeo in his book also denied Bolton’s claim that the two men made a secret pact to resign together if Trump met with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Bolton, for his part, became a strident and public Trump critic after he was fired in 2019, an unprecedented turn for an ex-national security adviser. He has also floated a White House run of his own to stop Trump. Pompeo, meanwhile, had a reputation as one of Trump’s most loyal soldiers and had one of the longest tenures in Trump’s famously topsy-turvy administration.
Bolton’s 2020 memoir contained several barbs and anecdotes that were unflattering for Pompeo. Among other things, he wrote that Pompeo and other Trump advisors mocked Trump behind his back, including calling him “full of shit” during his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Former President Donald Trump listens to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the White House, on October 21, 2019.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
‘I’m talking about you’
Pompeo, who represented Kansas as a member of US House before joining the Trump administration, calls his dynamic with Bolton “too bad,” writing that he “respected his commitment to defending America.” But, he adds, he had also heard of Bolton’s “reputation for being tough to work with, and his inability to adapt his views.”
“He cared far more about taking credit and nurturing his ego than he did for executing the president’s directives, the very thing that is expected of him under the American constitutional order,” Pompeo writes. “If everyone had behaved as selfishly as Bolton had, very little would have gotten accomplished.”
Pompeo also accuses Bolton of repeatedly leaking to the press when he disagreed with Trump.
“Memo to John Bolton: I’m talking about you,” Pompeo writes.
He specifically takes issue with comments Bolton made about US policy on North Korea in 2018, when he said on TV that the US wanted to follow the Libya model of 2003 and 2004 on denuclearization. This comment was not in line with Trump’s thinking, Pompeo wrote, and the ex-president “blew a gasket” and subsequently shut Bolton out of the process.
Trump eventually fired Bolton in September 2019 over policy disagreements, saying on Twitter that Bolton’s services were “no longer needed at the White House.”
Pompeo writes that he was having lunch with reporters the day of the firing and got a note saying that the president needed to speak with him. He’d been scheduled to give a briefing on Iran that afternoon with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and knew they’d instead end up fielding questions about Bolton’s firing.
Pompeo asked Trump whether he should cancel the briefing. Trump replied: “Hell no! Don’t cancel. Bolton is a scumbag loser, tell them that.”
Reflecting back on how he was smiling at the press conference, Pompeo writes in his book that he and Mnuchin had “a bit of regret about displaying so much levity at that moment.”
“It was a serious thing to have a national security advisor depart, and it created turmoil,” he writes. He also explains that they were smiling “because the situation was a bit comical: Bolton claimed that he quit, but the president said he had fired Bolton.” On top of that, he adds, “we laughed about the predictability of the Washington press corp, always eager to report a story of palace intrigue.”
Promoting his book on Tuesday on CBS Mornings, Pompeo said he and his wife will make a decision about a 2024 run “in the next handful of months” and that Trump’s decision to run again wouldn’t affect his choice.
“All the folks who decide to run will present themselves and their ideas,” he said.