I watched John Bolton’s entire interview as he tried to sell his book. As an experienced trial attorney, three things stood out to me very clearly about his attempt to persuade America to believe his story and version of events.
First, burden shifting
Similarly to the impeachment hoax, Martha Raddatz as the questioner flatly presumed that Bolton’s claims were true and the entire interview was shaped to put President Trump on the defensive. Rather than press Bolton as the claimant to prove his theories based in fact and evidence, both Raddatz and Bolton cleverly shifted the burden to Trump to disprove Bolton’s claims.
In court, the person bringing the claim or accusation bears the burden of proof and burden of production. In simple terms, this means a claim has to be backed up. A person cannot just make accusations without sufficient evidentiary support. Bolton offered nothing more than his opinion, couched in terms such as “I think,” “It appeared to me,” and other speculative qualifiers.
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Unfortunately, the court of public opinion bears no rules of evidence or standards of proof (and Bolton is literally banking on that), but any reasonable person critically thinking about any issue should apply these evidentiary standards as common sense and require a claimant like Bolton to provide support and proof rather than make hollow claims and burden shift.
Second, credibility of the witness
In court, when evaluating the claims of a witness, the credibility of the witness matters. Have they ever lied previously? What is their overall reputation for truth and veracity? What is their potential motive or conflict of interest in what they claim?
None of this mattered to Raddatz, and Bolton was presented in the interview as stellar, truthful, distinguished person, with nary a motive to lie. This is flat out dishonest, as Bolton absolutely has credibility issues, not to mention a clear motive to generate revenue from his “tell-all” fable.
Bolton was not confirmed by the Senate to prior posts based on character issues, and was fired by President Trump from his position, so clearly has to contend with the appearance of being a disgruntled ex-employee who simply wants to sell a bunch of books and profit off of a narrative that paints the Trump Administration in a bad light.
Further, Bolton shrugged off his nondisclosure agreement, pretending that the law doesn’t apply. Raddatz didn’t press him why he didn’t abide by the DOJ and NSC procedures to ensure that no national security issues were revealed, just took his word for it that he, in his own judgment, didn’t reveal anything classified.
Judge Royce Lamberth held in his opinion contemplating the DOJ attempt to hold Bolton to the terms of his NDA, “Defendant Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States. He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability.” The judge went on to say that “Bolton was wrong.” Although the judge found that it was too late to remedy any harm already incurred by distribution of the book, this is damning finding from a court of law, not just a court of public opinion.
In an objective context, these huge credibility issues severely undermine Bolton’s story and anything he says should be taken as self-serving. Not only should Bolton have to fulfill the burden of proof, but he should be held to a very high standard of evidence sufficiency because he lacks credibility.
Third, fact versus perception
This entire interview revealed Bolton to be a deep state, swampy establishment Republican who worked for prior establishment Republicans and showed that he had no appreciation or understanding that Donald Trump was elected in large part because he is not an establishment Republican. Donald Trump is a citizen president, which is what the Founders anticipated for the American Presidency when they wrote Article II and did not require any prior government or military experience of our Commander-in-Chief.
But Bolton doesn’t talk about any of that. Instead, he expresses shock that President Trump does things a differently than what Bolton had come to expect from the establishment, and in Bolton’s view, that’s a negative. But that’s simply his perception. Of course Donald Trump is going to do things differently, and President Trump’s base and the many Americans who ardently support him view him as “draining the swamp” and shaking up the establishment that’s in Washington. Far from being a negative, that’s the whole point.
Yet at one moment, Bolton expressed dismay that President Trump would hear from “outsiders” and “friends.” Again… So what? Bolton reveals himself as an elitist who thinks that Trump has to play by beltway establishment rules. But it’s Trump who was elected, not John Bolton. Bolton’s arrogant perception of the Trump White House being different than a “typical” Administration presumes that Trump wanted to be the same as every prior Administration. Newsflash—he doesn’t. And that’s a GREAT THING to his voters.
Bolton advances this perception of non-establishment as a factual statement of chaos in the Trump Administration, when really it’s merely his own view of how things “should” be run. In court, there is a difference between fact and perception. Just because someone perceives an event in a certain way does not mean that their perception is true. Further, reasonable people can disagree. That’s why the President has multiple advisers and also why our Constitution vests all executive authority in the President. Not a national security adviser. Disagreement ends when the President makes his call.
Obviously Bolton had different opinions on how to run foreign policy than President Trump, which is why he was fired. This difference in opinion doesn’t automatically mean that Bolton’s perception of events is correct simply because he says so. In fact, when you serve at the pleasure of the President, it means his final judgment is correct because that’s what the Constitution provides.
Nothing Bolton offered was based in fact. All he did was advance his perception, which in context of the Constitution is meaningless.
Verdict: case dismissed
This interview was worse even than I anticipated because it lacked any objective reason or argument to take Bolton seriously. It’s all his opinion and perception, to which any reasonable person should simply respond, so what? Bolton lacks credibility and lacks elected office, and his book is clearly replete merely with his own establishment swamp views that don’t amount to the “bombshell” report that the anti-Trump media (also with credibility issues) pretend it is.
If Bolton were a plaintiff in a court of law making the claim that President Trump’s White House is “chaos,” he would utterly fail to prove his case and would be summarily dismissed. The court of public opinion should render that verdict also and ignore Bolton’s sad attempt to sell his schtick, and also Americans be very concerned with his desire to sell books over comply with the legal process to protect national security interests.