Colbert spars with John Bolton over Trump ‘revelations’: ‘How could you be naive?’

Stephen Colbert
Stephen Colbert went to bat with President Trump’s former national security advisor, John Bolton, on “The Late Show” Tuesday.
(Scott Kowalchyk / Associated Press)

John Bolton, President Trump’s former national security advisor, virtually stopped by “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” this week, presumably to promote his buzzy new book, “The Room Where It Happened.” But Colbert had other ideas.

During a tense conversation about politics and morals, Colbert challenged Bolton on his early support of Trump and the president’s dealings with other divisive world leaders. And, of course, he brought up Bolton’s controversial decision to withhold his scathing allegations against Trump until the publication of his memoir — months after Trump’s impeachment trial.

“You didn’t have to go into government, and you didn’t have to go into the Trump administration,” Colbert said Tuesday night. “You had to know that that was a whirlpool of chaos in there. ... Why did you go in knowing how chaotic it was? Did you think that chaos was a ladder that you could climb and do the right thing?”


“I certainly heard all the stories, but I had also spoken with Trump, before he was elected, after he took office, and it was my belief that this could be overcome,” Bolton replied. “I entered aware of the problems but optimistic that they could be overcome, and the book is a story, perhaps, about how I was wrong about that.”

In “The Room Where It Happened,” a first-person account of Bolton’s 16-month stint in the White House, Bolton bears witness to a number of alleged transgressions, including Trump asking Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help him get reelected by buying more American soybeans and wheat.

Bolton says he couldn’t, “in good conscience,” vote for Trump again after what he’s seen, despite previously doubting that Trump’s White House was “that bad.” But that wasn’t enough for Colbert, who argued “the shocking revelations” in Bolton’s book “really shouldn’t be shocking.”

“How did you not know beforehand that he was just callow?” Colbert pressed. “You’re an international negotiator. How could you be naive? You’ve dealt with the worst people in the world.”

“You’ve really insulted me now by calling me naive,” Bolton said. “Look, I thought it was possible to work with somebody. I thought, surely they would want to learn about the complexities of arms control negotiations and that sort of thing. ... that turned out not to be true.”

Bolton’s “The Room Where It Happened” is available as of Tuesday.

Former national security advisor John Bolton skewers President Trump and White House insiders in ‘The Room Where it Happened.’

June 20, 2020