DURHAM, North Carolina — President Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton accused the White House of “censorship” as he made his first public appearance since explosive details about Ukraine were leaked from his draft memoir.
Speaking to a capacity audience at Duke University on Monday, he complained that Trump was free to tweet about policy while he faced legal action if he spoke out, but said he hoped his book would not be suppressed despite a prepublication review and promised many more details from his time working for Trump.
His knowledge of the president’s Ukraine strategy was just “sprinkles on the ice cream sundae.”
“This is this is an effort to write history, and I did it the best I can,” he said. “We’ll have to see what comes out of the censorship.”
His use of the word provoked gasps among some in the 1,200-strong audience.
Last month, it emerged that Bolton, in his book, alleges that the president directed him to help with his pressure campaign to obtain damaging information on his Democratic rivals from Ukraine.
Bolton’s memoir, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, is due to be published on March 17, 2020, by Simon & Schuster.
Speaking onstage to Peter Feaver, professor of political science at Duke, Bolton, by his own admission, “ducked” questions about his instructions from Trump. He said the administration’s prepublication review meant that he could not discuss details for fear of legal action.
“I say things in the manuscript about what he said to me. I hope they become public someday,” he said. “He tweets, but I can’t talk about it. How fair is that?”
The legal battle over his book meant he avoided question after question. When asked whether he agreed with Trump’s characterization of his July 25 phone conversation, the call that sparked a whistleblower complaint, with President Zelensky of Ukraine as “perfect,” he demurred, saying, “You will love chapter 14.”
A small number of protesters gathered outside the venue, distributing leaflets detailing Bolton’s support for the Iraq War and other conflicts.
It marked his first public appearance since leaked details from his draft memoir rocked the president’s Senate impeachment trial. In the manuscript, Bolton claimed that Trump told him critical military aid to Ukraine would be suspended until the country’s government announced investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden.
The revelation, just as the White House legal team was about to begin its defense of the president, triggered fresh Democratic calls that Bolton be called to give evidence. If true, the claim would undermine a key part of the White House defense: that the suspension of aid was separate to the request to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy company.
Trump quickly denied the claims.
“In fact, [Bolton] never complained about this at the time of his very public termination,” he tweeted. “If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”
Bolton was Trump’s third national security adviser and left the job in September after a series of policy clashes over Afghanistan and North Korea.
In his appearance at Duke, he repeated previous complaints that the Trump administration was not tough enough on Iran and North Korea, which had been able to pursue nuclear weapons for two years while American officials hoped for a breakthrough.
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