Bolton says his best seller about Trump is ‘a book about how not to be president’

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

People have been talking about John Bolton for weeks. Reporters have been quoting from his book for days. President Trump and his allies have been attacking him from Twitter to TV. The Justice Department’s lawyers have been challenging him in court.

Now he gets his say. Tuesday is publication day for “The Room Where It Happened,” lest anyone forget. There’s a big spread in Monday’s USA Today, a “Morning Edition” interview Monday morning, interviews with Bret Baier and Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, visits to “The View” and “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” on Wednesday, and on from there.

The federal court case and the questions about potentially classified material may have obscured the holy-you-know-what nature of this book. Sunday’s prime time special on ABC — Martha Raddatz’s interview with Bolton — re-centered the conversation.

Bolton called Trump “naive and dangerous.” He said the Trump White House’s “scatter shot” decision making process “is a danger for the republic.” And he said he hopes Trump will be a “one-term president.”

ABC published the full interview transcript on

Earlier in the day on ABC, “This Week” played a clip of Raddatz saying to Bolton, “You describe the president as erratic, foolish, behaved ‘irrationally,’ bizarrely, ‘you can’t leave him alone for a minute,’ he ‘saw conspiracies behind rocks’ and was ‘stunningly uninformed.'” Bolton responded to the summary, “I don’t think he’s fit for office. I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job.”

After the clip aired, moderator Jon Karl said, “Martha, we just never have heard something like that from somebody in a president’s inner circle while that president is still in office.”

“And I think that’s what you have to remember,” Raddatz said, “this is an extraordinary interview, really a jaw-dropping interview, because he is talking about a sitting president. And he was there, as you know well, Jon, for 17 months.”

“And in this White House 17 months is an eternity,” Karl commented.

Trumpworld will continue to attack Bolton’s character mercilessly — but the facts about his government service and the gravity of his statements about a sitting president should stay front and center.

“Keep your eye on the ball: Bolton’s shocking allegations”

When I said on TV that John Bolton’s book contains at least a week’s worth of news cycles, this is what I was getting at. CNN’s John Avlon writes: “Trump and his partners in the conservative media are busy trying to attack Bolton’s credibility, despite the fact that he’s been on the right’s side as a conservative hardliner for decades. On the left, liberals are feeding this frenzy because they are frustrated that Bolton did not testify during the impeachment trial.”

But “none of it should distract one bit from the shocking substance of what Bolton says he saw in the White House,” Avlon writes. “Because these revelations deserve to carry the weight of history behind them — credibly painting a portrait of the most amoral, autocratic and unprepared man to ever serve as president of the United States.”

Sneak peek at Bolton’s next two interviews

In an interview and photo shoot with USA Today’s Susan Page, Bolton held up his book — “unmistakably mimicking Trump’s controversial photo op” with a Bible in front of St. John’s Church. Page’s story is online now.

NPR host Steve Inskeep’s interview with Bolton aired Monday morning. “This really, in a sense, is a book about how not to be president,” Bolton said.

Inskeep asked, “Why do you write that the president seemed to be practicing, quote, ‘Obstruction of justice as a way of life?'”

“Well, I think there were numerous instances where he did things involving American national interest, sometimes in the judicial context, sometimes in other contexts, that mixed impermissibly his personal political interests with the national interest,” Bolton said. “I think that was true in Ukraine and a number of other areas, Halkbank, Huawei, ZTE. These are issues that I think are very troubling.”

The full transcript is on

“These people should be executed”

Bolton’s book also alleges that Trump talked tough about throwing journalists in jail to uncover their sources. “These people should be executed. They are scumbags,” Trump said, according to Bolton’s recollection.

Guy Snodgrass, former chief speechwriter for James Mattis, author of “Holding the Line,” told me he also heard Trump speak that way. He recounted a “ten minute tirade” when the president said a Washington Post reporter “should be thrown in jail,” and “what he ultimately winds up at the end saying is: ‘You know, in the good old days, if you had a traitor, you know what you would do? You would just line them up in the street and have them shot.'”

“That kind of language, of course,” Snodgrass said, “is not something you want to hear your commander in chief saying about freedom of the press, about members of the press who are seeking to inform the American public.”

About the court case…

Over the weekend a federal judge rejected the Justice Department attempt to block the book’s publication, but revealed some “major risks for Bolton,” CNN’s Katelyn Polantz reported. The administration may very well succeed in its effort “to claw back proceeds from the book, including from any movie and TV rights, and other consequences for disclosing classified information.”

>> Related: A thorough thread by Jonathan Peters: “Coverage of the effort to prevent distribution of Bolton’s book should note Trump’s remarkable record of attempting to interfere with speech/press activities — and either failing or not following through.”

“Room” is the No. 1 nonfiction book of 2020 on Amazon

Bolton’s book is the top-selling nonfiction book of this year so far, according to Amazon’s chart, and that’s thanks solely to pre-orders.