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Stephen Colbert and John Bolton's heated interview: 'You've really insulted me now'

·4 min read
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On the day his new book, The Room Where It Happened, was released, John Bolton appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert where the former national security advisor and Colbert got into a heated debate, beginning with Bolton’s reason for supporting President Trump in 2016.

To his credit, Colbert kicked off the interview by asking Bolton if he has a thick skin. When Bolton indicated that he did, Colbert said, “Good, that’ll make this interview easier.” “Fair warning,” Bolton replied with a smile.

It first began getting heated when Bolton explained why he chose to support Trump in 2016.

“Look at the comparison, as I did in 2016 with Hillary Clinton,” Bolton said, “look at the comparison with Joe Biden, and say whatever we think of him [Trump], he’s not going to be a Democrat subject, especially these days, to the pressure of the left. Look, I bought that argument in 2016…” Colbert laughed, then interrupted Bolton, saying, “No he’s going to be subject to the pressure of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping [Just minutes earlier, Bolton said many world leaders, including Putin and Jinping believe they can manipulate Trump]. He’s a person willing to sell out the interests of the American people for his own reelection. What could be worse in Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden’s philosophy than betraying your country to a hostile foreign leader, sir?”

Bolton said he voted for Trump in 2016 thinking he was worth trying out, but that he won’t vote for either Trump or Biden in the upcoming election, saying he can’t in good conscience vote for Trump again after spending 17 months working in the White House. Bolton has gone so far as to say he hopes Trump is a one-term president for the sake of the country. Colbert was clearly frustrated by Bolton’s reasoning because he doesn’t think Trump’s that hard to figure out.

“I guess what’s exasperating is there is absolutely nothing that Donald Trump has done that is surprising to me,” Colbert said. “My rule is, everything that you think about Donald Trump is probably true because he’s not deep enough to get your socks wet in. He’s incredibly readable, that’s why when he ran casinos, the house lost. There’s nothing to learn about him. That’s why he’s essentially a boring person.”

Following the diatribe, Colbert asked Bolton, “How did you not know beforehand that he was just callow?” “I couldn’t believe it was that bad,” Bolton answered. “And I know other people say they saw it from the beginning…” “But you’re an international negotiator,” Colbert interrupted. “How could you be naive? You’ve dealt with with the worst people in the world” “You’ve really insulted me now by calling me naive,” Bolton replied before going on to admit he was wrong about Trump. “Look, I thought it was possible to work with somebody. I thought surely they would want to learn about the complexities of arms control and negotiations and that sort of thing. And as I detail in the book, that turned out not to be true.”

In the book, Bolton claims that Trump has committed multiple impeachable offenses, including the quid pro quo with Ukraine that led to his impeachment, which several Republicans agreed had happened but voted to acquit the president anyway. But Bolton blamed the Democrats for the failed conviction because of how they handled the impeachment, and he made a point that Colbert had to agree with.

“You’ve already said that it was a fair case against him and that it’s an impeachable offense,” Colbert said. “All you’re saying is that today’s Republican Party, far from not being invited into a bipartisan process, are merely so toxic and so partisan that even though they know he is guilty, they will not do what is best for the American people.” “No, I think it was the Democrats who created this scenario,” Bolton replied. “They wanted to hurry so that the impeachment process did not affect the Democratic presidential nomination.” Colbert conceded that Bolton was right. “I agree with you there,” Colbert said. “That was a mistake”

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on CBS.

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