Whatever will their number-one fan have to say about this? A fight over credibility and integrity between John Bolton and Donald Trump might have been tough to call in some quarters, but one wouldn’t think so about Fox & Friends. And yet, here’s Brian Kilmeade bristling at those calling Bolton a liar over the reported story from his memoirs, including the president:
Brian Kilmeade: "I don't like the idea of people making John Bolton out to be a liar. He's sat on this couch before. He's not a liar." pic.twitter.com/nowrpE6ul3
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) January 30, 2020
Kilmeade even throws some cold water on the supposed smoking-gun interview that “proves” Bolton was lying about his recollections of a quid pro quo. Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt appear delighted about the video that Trump tweeted yesterday with the comment “GAME OVER!”, but Kilmeade contradicts everyone:
KILMEADE: So that is a different take on the meeting. They were supposed to meet in Warsaw, but I think we had this problem — a natural disaster was looming, so the president sent the vice-president there. This could have all ended if they’d just met in Warsaw, but it wasn’t to be. So John Bolton had a different take there. Ah, I don’t like the idea of people making John Bolton out to be a liar. I don’t think — he sat on this couch before, he’s not a liar. They have a differing of opinion, but questioning his credibility? I don’t think there’s —
EARHARDT: You’re saying the New York Times, maybe whoever reported that, read the book and got something out of it that maybe John Bolton didn’t say?
KILMEADE: I would say that, but he could answer a question but not answer a question completely, and he could not be a liar.
This video from August 2019 is a slender reed in any sense. It’s plausible, although arguable, that Bolton may not have been aware of any quid pro quo issues until early September, when the whistleblower emerged. In this interview, Bolton wouldn’t have had an opportunity to deny one existed, because the interviewer wouldn’t have known about it at all in August. It’s not even clear when Bolton found out aid had been held up, although as national security adviser, one would think he’d have known immediately. Perhaps at the time he believed Trump’s claim that it was about corruption in general, not a trade-off for a probe of the Bidens specifically, a claim which only emerged shortly after this interview with Voice of America took place.
These attacks also have the potential for massively backfiring on Trump and Republicans. If they keep calling Bolton a liar, Bolton’s friends in the Senate — and he has quite a few — might join up with his opponents there to allow Bolton to appear to defend himself. Lindsey Graham issued a warning about this yesterday afternoon, in fact:
Sen. Lindsey Graham Statement on Trump’s tweets on Bolton: “I am concerned when John Bolton’s credibility is attacked, it makes it more likely some will feel the need to call him as a witness.” pic.twitter.com/c5UXQghK16
— Jason Donner (@jason_donner) January 29, 2020
Kilmeade’s brushback should serve as a reminder to Trump that Bolton has many friends on the Right and has been well respected for decades before Trump added him to the team. One reason Trump did that, recall, is that Bolton was so impressive on television shows like Fox & Friends analyzing national-security issues and talking tough about America’s enemies. Republicans are defending Trump now because of a corrupt process that led to a partisan impeachment, but they’re not going to trash their friends along the way to get there. Perhaps that’s why Trump hasn’t said much about Bolton since his “GAME OVER!” tweet yesterday afternoon.