National security adviser John Bolton said on Aug. 5 that any alleged disconnect between President Donald Trump and officials in his administration is a false narrative promoted by the media.
Bolton made the comments in response to a question about an apparent difference between the comments made by senior administration officials at the White House on July 2 and the president’s own rhetoric at a rally shortly after.
“I know that there is this narrative in the press that there is a disjunction between the president and the rest of his administration,” Bolton said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Bolton then likened the media to a “group of birds sitting on a telephone wire.”
“One would fly off, and then they would all fly off, and that’s what this narrative I think is all about.”
Bolton was presented with a clip of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen saying that “our democracy itself is in the crosshairs” of foreign-influence efforts, specifically those from Russia.
The clip was juxtaposed with a pair of quotes from a subsequent rally, where Trump said he had “a great meeting” with Russian President Vladimir Putin and that his administration’s agenda is being “hindered by the Russian hoax.”
Bolton explained that by “Russian hoax,” Trump referred to another false media narrative which suggests, without evidence, that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to unfairly win the 2016 presidential election. While the collusion allegation has been the subject of investigations by the FBI, Congress, and the media for over a year, no evidence of collusion has surfaced.
The media has often conflated “collusion” with “meddling,” without drawing a clear distinction between the two. While there is no evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia, plenty has been found regarding Russian meddling. Special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted more than two dozen Russians for meddling in the election. Those indictments mention nothing about collusion.
Trump has publicly acknowledged that Russia meddled in the 2016 election and categorically denies the collusion allegations. Bolton and Nielsen were among the five top administration officials who affirmed the same during the White House briefing with reporters on July 2.
“The president knew exactly what was going to be said at that meeting on Thursday,” Bolton said, referencing the press conference where Nielsen made her comments. “He’s the one that directed it be held.”
The officials described a clear threat of Russian and foreign-influence attempts ahead of the 2018 midterm elections and what the Trump administration is doing to address it.
“He felt it was important that the American people hear it directly from the people responsible for election security at the federal level, hear what they were up to.”
According to Bolton, Russia tops the list of countries working to interfere in the 2018 elections. Compared with 2016, Russian activity is down this year, he said. He also warned of a broader effort by Russia and other foreign actors that goes beyond the specifics of any particular election.
“I think that’s troubling, too, and something we need more focus on,” Bolton said.
Trump regularly criticizes a number of mainstream media outlets that continue to push the Russia-collusion narrative. He is also unhappy about Mueller’s continuing investigation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Mueller took over the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign last year. Trump’s frustration with the probe stems, in part, from his belief that the agent who led the FBI probe showed extreme bias and spoke of stopping Trump from becoming president. The same agent, Peter Strzok, briefly worked on the Mueller investigation before text messages revealed some disparaging comments and he was removed.
“The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Aug. 5. “I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!”