John Bolton offered more criticism of his ex-boss on Wednesday, asserting that Donald Trump’s White House did not behave like “normal” presidential administrations and admonishing him over the alleged improper removal of classified materials from the West Wing.
The former national security adviser spoke to a gaggle of reporters at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC, where he was attendng a conference hosted by Iranian opposition figures.
“Look ... normal administrations, of which that was not one ... make provisions for them to be able to access documents that they used or came across,” said Mr Bolton in response to a question from The Independent. “There are any number of ways to do it, that would allow for classified documents to be accessed by a former president under conditions of security.”
Mr Bolton pointed out that a SCIF, or Sensitive Compartmented Informaton Facility, would have been set up at Mar-a-Lago during the Trump presidency as it was at Mr Bolton’s own home for the viewing of classified documents. Such secure rooms would have made the documents as safe as they would have been in any government-run building, he contended.
But that isn’t what appears to have occurred here, Mr Bolton continued, leading to his admonition of the former president.
“He didn’t need to sneak it out of the White House,” said Mr Bolton. “From all we can tell, he never made any effort to ask. And I think that’s part of the problem.”
The former White House official would’t say whether he thought it was possible, as The Washington Post reported, that documents concerning topics related to nuclear materials had been part of the trove of documents sought by the Justice Department. But he went on to condemn what he characterised as a hyper-partisan environment under which the DoJ is being forced to work.
“We live in very unusual times, and I’m worried that the [DoJ] is under such pressure now, pressure from the president’s party to prosecute, pressure from Trump supporters not to prosecute, it’s left the department in a very, very difficult position.”
“I think all of us who believe in the rule of law and don’t want to see the procedures violated...have to think of ways to help the department in the public, political part of this issue, explain better what they’re doing. There’s a lot of creativity, but we need to find better ways to do it. Because the department is completely paralysed in the political arena now.”
His comments betray more of a concern for the DoJ and its personnel that many in his party, including on Capitol Hill, have presented following the execution of a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago last week. Many members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, are threatening time-consuming and costly investigations of the DoJ, while further-right members of the party like Marjorie Taylor Greene have howled for the FBI to be defunded.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned of a growing threat of extremist violence against law enforcement in a joint memo over the weekend, directly attributing it to the Mar-a-Lago raid. At least one act of violence has already broken out: A man died after attacking an FBI office in Ohio, leading to a shootout with law enforcement in a cornfield. The Biden White House has attempted to respond to the growing outrage on the far-right with an attempt to distance itself completely from the investigation being headed by Merrick Garland, the attorney general, and has insisted that the president is not being briefed on the issue and is learning of new developments through news reports.