In a Jan. 6 interview, John Bolton says he helped plan coups


Former White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said Tuesday it was a “mistake” to believe the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol was part of a “carefully planned coup d’état” by President Donald Trump.

“That’s not how Donald Trump does things,” Bolton told Jake Tapper on CNN’s The Lead. “It’s going from one half, one huge idea to the other, one plan that falls through and another comes up – that’s what he did.”

Bolton then claimed he had first-hand experience orchestrating coups. “As someone who’s helped plan coups – not here, but, you know, other places – it takes a lot of work, and that’s not the point [Trump] did,” Bolton told Tapper.

Bolton’s comments were unusual as US officials have generally avoided using the term “coup d’état” when discussing US foreign policy matters. The comments went viral, with a clip on Twitter with more than 2 million views as of early Wednesday.

Bolton’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Washington Post.

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Tapper later urged Bolton to elaborate on his “expertise on planned coups” and asked if they were “successful coups”.

Bolton responded that he wrote in his 2020 memoir about the United States’ support for an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in 2019.

“Not that we’re all that involved,” Bolton said, “but I’ve seen what it takes for an opposition to try to overthrow an illegally elected president and they failed.”

Tuesday’s comments were a departure from Bolton’s earlier comments on Venezuela. “This is clearly not a coup,” he told reporters in 2019.

A longtime Republican hawk, Bolton was Trump’s national security adviser for 17 months before a tumultuous departure in 2019. Prior to that, he had a key arms control role during the George W. Bush administration, serving as ambassador to the United Nations in 2005 and 2006, advocating the 2003 invasion of Iraq and months before joining the Trump administration regime change in Iran.

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His comments about coup planning came as the House inquiry into the Jan. 6 attack and presented evidence Tuesday that Trump was spurring far-right extremists to march to the Capitol and had secret plans to send his supporters there.

Bolton told Tapper that the former president’s false claims about voter fraud were unjustifiable. However, he argued that Trump’s actions were “not an attack on our democracy.”

“It’s Donald Trump looking out for Donald Trump,” Bolton said. “This is a one-off event.”

Tapper pushed back, arguing, “You don’t have to be brilliant to attempt a coup.”

Bolton then said he had a history of plotting coups abroad and that that was not what Trump had done, arguing that the former president was “just stumbling from idea to idea.”

“The notion that Donald Trump is half as competent as the Venezuelan opposition is ridiculous,” Bolton later added.

Referring to Bolton’s stated summary of coup planning, Tapper said he felt there were “other things you’re not telling me.”

Bolton replied, “I think — I’m sure there is.” In a Jan. 6 interview, John Bolton says he helped plan coups

James Brien

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