John Bolton, National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump, joined Brian Kilmeade on The Brian Kilmeade Show to discuss the Trump Administration reimposing sanctions on Iran, how nobody in the Trump administration, including President Trump, have “stars in their eyes” about North Korea changing their behavior, what it was like on Air Force One after President Trump’s press conference with Vladimir Putin and putting sanctions on Turkey over imprisoning American pastor Andrew Craig Brunson for nearly two years.
BRIAN KILMEADE, HOST, FOX NEWS: Will the president get the rest of the world to go along? Let’s ask that to John Bolton, National Security Advisor. Mr. Bolton, welcome back.
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Glad to be with you.
KILMEADE: You must feel very comfortable, you’ve always been kind to the show and now that you got the additional power, I can’t wait to get your insight. What makes you feel as though that you can reestablish that the tight sanctions that were there before President Obama cut this deal?
BOLTON: Well the – the sanctions that the United States had imposed over the years against Iran were really very stringent. There were additional sanctions that came in as a result of security council resolutions, those are not coming back into effect because of Obama’s Iran deal.
But the fact is America really is the driving force in the world economy and the sanctions that took place at midnight, the others on oil in particular that’ll come back in 90 days, we think have already had a significant effect.
You know, global businesses have to plan ahead and six months may seem like a long time to you and me, but the businesses that plan in decade long cycles, that – that really is a very short period of time.
So we’ve seen the impact in Iran, the currencies going through the floor, assets are – are leaving the country rapidly as people with assets try and get them out before the economy crashes, and average people are in demonstrations all over Iran protesting the deterioration of the economy.
So we think it’s significant and – and there will be more to come.
BOLTON: Well I know (ph) too that the country’s running to gold right now and they are trying to get money, for example, out of a Hamburg central bank and the Hamburg bank said no.
They wanted $375 million out, so they are feeling the squeeze and their currency is plummeting, but they don’t care, they’re not in legitimate elections, they’re not looking for four more years in power.
They’re not worried about the balance of power in their house of representatives. How do you get through to leadership?
KILMEADE: Well I think you’re – you’re absolutely right. Elections in Iran are sort of farces, people act as though President Rouhani is the person really in charge. Obviously he’s not, it’s what they call the supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini and the – the other mullahs who – who really run the country and the revolutionary guards.
It’s sort of a military theocratic dictatorship. But the fact is that when your entire population is dissatisfied with – with the regime, you’ve got a problem. And I think that’s the kind of problem they face now.
You’ll remember back in December there were demonstrations against the regime in over 100 towns and cities around the country. And who were these people, they were workers, shop keepers, small business people, farmers.
The original demonstrations didn’t involve the educated middle class in Tehran. Now they do, by the way, because the dissatisfaction has spread that far. So I think we’re going to be putting significant pressure on Iran, I don’t expect we’re going to stop with the sanctions that are coming back in today and in 90 days I think Congress in particular, they’ll be looking for other sanctions.
Because remember, it’s not just Iran’s nuclear weapons program that we object to, although that’s the centerpiece of today’s action, it’s their support for international terrorism, it’s their ballistic missile program, it’s their hostile military activity in Iraq and Syria and Yemen and elsewhere around the Middle East. These are bad actors and Tehran and they haven’t changed their behavior at all despite all the benefits Obama conferred on them through the nuclear deal.
KILMEADE: So, you’ve got to understand from the — and you told us on television today that you were talking to the European leaders about this more than almost anything else.
But, from their perspective, I understand their frustration. Wait a second; you basically cut us out of the Iran negotiations. It was John Kerry and Zarif one-on-one. Then you told us this is the best deal we can get and we signed onto it.
Now you come in and we weren’t thrilled with the deal, then you come in and say, I’m ripping up that deal. And even — it’s still the same country, but we have a different administration now. Have they expressed that frustration to you?
BOLTON: Well, not really like that. I mean look, the — in any event the answer is, that’s how democracy works. Hillary Clinton would have continued nuclear deal, she was defeated by a president who said in the course of the campaign that the Iran nuclear deal was probably the worst diplomatic negotiation in all of American history.
So, I mean, he made it a central part of his foreign policy platform in the campaign itself and the Europeans were told what was coming. I’ve been in, as I said earlier on “Fox and Friends,” I’ve been in continuous discussion with the Europeans.
Mike Pompeo has been in discussions with them, we all have been, Steve Mnuchin, to explain what we were going to do and why we were going to do it. And we got out of the deal because we thought it was highly dangerous for the strategic interest of the United States.
I do sympathize with the Europeans, I’ll tell you this, on the way John Kerry and Barack Obama negotiated it and I’ve heard from some of the Europeans, as you say, they did feel cut out. So, I sympathize with them in that regard.
But look, the president is responsible for pursuing the best interest of the United States. That’s what he’s doing. We’d like the Europeans to come along with us. We haven’t stopped talking to them and we’re all still in agreement on the fundamental point, which is we don’t Iran with deliverable nuclear weapons.
And by the way, just one last point there, that’s why they’re completely with us on stopping Iran’s ballistic missile program.
And I think that’s also why you’re going to see in Congress over the next several months and even next year, additional legislative sanctions proposed against Iran because of the ballistic missiles, because of the terrorism.
I don’t think Congress is done and frankly neither are we. We’re going to look for ways to increase the pressure on Iran to make unprecedented.
KILMEADE: All right, let’s switch to North Korea, because we have a situation where they’re now mad at us. They said, hey, we gave you the three hostages back, we gave you the remains back, we did what we were supposed to. Where’s our get, what do we get besides the military exercises being shelled at least for one cycle? What do we get?
North Korea is asking that. What is your response John Bolton?
BOLTON: Well look, I think the release of the three hostages was the right thing to do. We deeply appreciate the return of the remains, although I’d note, there may be 5,000 to 6,000 other sets of remains, Americans who are unaccounted for from the Korean War.
What civilized nations do, is they don’t take innocent civilians hostage as bargaining chips and negotiations and at the end of a war they return the bodies of those who are fallen. That’s just what civilized countries do.
So, have the North Koreans done it? That’s right. Should they just voluntarily send back all of the remains, not just for the United States but South Korean soldiers who fell, Australians, others who were part of the U.N. coalition. The real issue here is denuclearization.
Kim Jong Un pledged that to South Korean President Mon Jae-in at Panmunjom on April 27. He pledged it to President Trump on Singapore on June 12, and we’re still waiting for them to take real steps towards denuclearization. The sooner North Korea does that, and Kim Jong Un himself told President Moon of South Korea back in April, they could do it in a year. The sooner they do it, the sooner the sanctions will come off.
So, North Korea holds the – holds the answer here. If – if they want to walk through the door that President Trump has opened, they’re free to do it.
KILMEADE: But we know the Russians took in 10,000 North Korean workers. And that’s a major source of revenue. We know too that they’re beginning to get supplies from China, and now the U.N. says we’re no longer going to hold off sending in humanitarian supplies.
So it’s easing the pressure. Marco Rubio says this, cut 13 (ph).
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FL: What I’m about to tell you I hope I’m wrong about, but I do not believe that he is ever going to give up his nuclear arsenal. What I do believe he will do is a series of unilateral concessions that do not undermine his capabilities in the long term.
For example, I think he’s more than willing to tear apart facilities that are no longer necessary for old missiles, because he’s not newer ones that work better. I believe he has undisclosed sites that he thinks he can shield from the world.
I believe that – that he – he believes that even if he gets rid of some of the things – new enrichment capability, he already has existing weapons and existing enriched capabilities that he can hide from the rest – from the world.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
Is – is he wrong?
BOLTON: No, I – I agree with everything that Senator Rubio said, and that’s why I’ve said repeatedly there’s nobody in the Trump administration starting with the president who has stars in their eyes about North Korea.
The president having watched the failure of prior negotiations, the six party talks in the Bush administration, strategic patience in the Obama administration, the agreed framework in the Clinton administration, he’s seen 25 years of failure in getting North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program.
He’s not going to fall for those North Korean tricks. He’s – he’s – he’s made it very clear to Kim Jong-un that if he walks through the door there’s a different life ahead for the people of North Korea and – and it’s up to them to do it.
But this isn’t going to last forever, we – we see the same pattern in – in other countries. They try and take advantage of our good will, they try and string the thing out to continue their nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
We want to give North Korea a full opportunity to – to fulfill their commitment to denuclearize, but we’re very well aware of all the tricks they’ve used in the past.
KILMEADE: All right, you know, that – that is true. But do you feel as though President Trump is wrong when he says this? Cut 12 (ph).
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES: We’re doing well in North Korea, we have our – as you know, we have our hostages back.
There’s been no nuclear testing. There’s been no missiles or rockets flying beautifully over Japan.
I think our relationship is very good with Chairman Kim and we’ll all see how it all works out, but there’s nothing like talking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Does the president tell you the personal relationship with Kim? Has anything intrigued you about their exchange? The letters, I know you can’t get specific, but the president repeatedly said since talking they’ve been very amiable with the negotiations have been wrought with, you know, rocky at best.
BOLTON: Yes, no, I think the president does have an excellent personal relationship with Kim Jong-un. I was there during the expanded bilateral meeting we had during the working lunch, spoke to Kim Jong-un myself, quite an experience.
But the president’s worked hard on this, he’s worked hard on it in the correspondence that he’s had since then, because I think he sees his effort as being in large part to say to Kim Jong-un don’t make the mistake that your predecessors have made.
You – you can make a different country in North Korea if you live up to your commitment to denuclearize. So he’s doing the best he can but ultimately it’s up to Kim Jong-un if he wants to walk through that door or not.
KILMEADE: What struck you from your first conversation? What was your takeaway from what you though, from after you were done through the translator, what you walked away with?
BOLTON: Well I think the – that Kim Jong-un’s clearly the central authority in North Korea. Very self confident and clear in his goals, and that’s why the exchange between the two leaders was important.
I think the president made it very clear to Kim Jong-un what the — what the options were and has worked hard before and since June the 12 in Singapore to convince Kim Jong-un to — to take the offer that’s on the table. The consequences of denuclearization for North Korea are enormous and positive and he just needs to get to performance.
KILMEADE: Couple of things. When — would you tell us at all, when the president got on Air Force One, he was under the impression that the press conference and the one-on-one with Vladimir Putin went well. Who had to tell him it didn’t and that you really had to come clarify the next day? And is it accurately to describe the president’s mood when he got on that plane to say he was upbeat?
BOLTON: Well, I think we were all upbeat from the actual conversations with Putin and his senior advisors. I think the president realized that — that because of what he said the next day, the misstatement that he made, just giving the wrong word gave the reverse meaning of what he wanted, he quickly corrected it and — and tried to explain why we needed to move on.
I think it’s been — you know, it’s obviously the subject of a lot of political dust in the air but the president remained focused on his conversation with Putin and the substance of that. And I think that’s ultimately what’s most important.
KILMEADE: You were told to make another appointment with Putin to set this up. Have you done it? Is there any progress to be made there?
BOLTON: Well, I’m going to be going to Geneva in a few weeks. Actually one of the outcomes of Helsinki — really, the only agreement was an agreement that the two National Security Council heads would meet again and talk about other areas for discussion between Russia and the United States. That could well involve discussion of another meeting. Although as the president said, it would be after the first of the year.
But we have a lot to talk to the Russians about and — and those are my instructions, will be — as I say, going to Geneva in the next couple weeks.
KILMEADE: Describe your relationship with Turkey. We put sanctions on them because of the way they were treating Christians, especially Pastor Andrew Brunson. He’s under house arrest right now. We understand Turkey sending some envoys over here to talk to us. Will you be in these talks? And this is a NATO ally that’s be — increasingly being hard to deal with. What’s your problem with Turkey?
BOLTON: Well, we — we’ve had a major effort underway here in the past couple weeks to get Pastor Brunson released. Secretary of State Pompeo, Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin, myself, the president, others, Vice President Pence all been involved in it. We’re working very hard on it. We hope to see him released form house arrest.
At least he’s out of prison but we want him back in the United States. We’re talking about a variety of ways to make that happen. We do see the Turkish relationship as important. Obviously it’s a NATO ally but we want to see it in its values and its actions consistent with western democracy and — and remain a part of NATO.
So there’s a lot to talk about. Our focus right now is on getting Pastor Brunson back to the United States.
KILMEADE: And they’re coming to town today, I think. Right?
BOLTON: Well, they’ve got a number of envoys. And as I say, the discussions are ongoing. Without getting into a lot of the specifics, we’re spending a lot of time on it. And (ph) we should be.
KILMEADE: John Bolton, you enjoying this job?
BOLTON: Yes, look, it’s — it comes at you kind of fast but there’s a lot going on and I’ve — I’ve worked in these areas for a long time. So as the president reminds me, I’m not just a Fox News commentator now, I’m actually in the job. So there you go.
KILMEADE: Right. Do you still have that huge brown bag that —
BOLTON: Of course. I won’t tell you what I carry in that huge brown bag.
KILMEADE: I know. We’ll never know. Thanks a lot, John Bolton.
BOLTON: OK, Brian. Glad to be with you.
KILMEADE: All right. Same here.