A blunt Colbert asked how the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. couldn't see how "incurious" and "callow" Trump really was before joining the administration.

By Nick Romano
June 24, 2020 at 09:04 AM EDT
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Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton is making the promotional rounds for his new book, The Room Where It Happened, which put him in the crosshairs of Stephen Colbert this week. While interviewing Bolton on The Late Show Tuesday night about his time in the White House and the numerous accusations of ineptitude against President Donald Trump, Colbert did not hold back in prodding Bolton about his logic and morals.

The late-night host repeatedly questioned Bolton's apparent lack of foresight. "You didn't have to go into government and you didn't have to go into the Trump administration," he said early on. "You had to know that that was a whirlpool of chaos in there. Even those of us looking in from the inside who never got to go in could see that. Why did you go in knowing how chaotic it was?"

"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, that you could set up an orderly process to advance what I thought were policies that Trump felt comfortable with."

Even as Colbert asked about the claims in the book, the Late Show host would sprinkle in commentary. He said the "revelations" "shouldn't be shocking because they seem so true-to-form for Donald Trump." After Bolton explained how foreign leaders like Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping could allegedly manipulate Trump because the president apparently didn't learn the facts of what he was talking about, Colbert again questioned Bolton's hindsight. "But none of that could be surprising because you saw from the campaign how he was a completely incurious person who had no interest in knowledge or the truth," Colbert mentioned.

As the questioning went on, Colbert laid in a bit further. Asked about what conservatives at large think of Trump behind closed doors, Bolton said, "Look at the comparison as I did in 2016 with Hillary Clinton, look at the comparison with Joe Biden and say whatever we think of [Trump], he’s not gonna be a Democrat subject, especially these days, to the pressure of the left..."

"No, he’s gonna be subject to the pressure of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping!" Colbert exclaimed, echoing Bolton's own statements from earlier. "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's response was that he felt the country at least needed to "try it out" with Trump, but after working with him for several months, he won't be voting for him in this year's election. He won't be voting for Biden, either.

"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 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. How did you not know beforehand that he was just callow?"

"I couldn’t believe it was that bad, and I know other people say they saw it from the beginning..." Bolton began but was cut off by Colbert.

"But you're an international negotiator!" the host said. "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,” replied Bolton, remaining calm. “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.”

Watch the full interview above.

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