Donald Trump‘s former national security advisor John Bolton made an appearance on the Late Show on Tuesday evening to promote his tell-all memoir The Room Where it Happened, but things took an awkward turn when host Stephen Colbert condemned the “international negotiator” for being “naive” enough to ever work with the U.S. president.
In the midst of the in-depth, 25-minute spanning interview, Colbert asked Bolton, 71, what “fellow long-term conservative Republicans” say about Trump “behind closed doors.”
“When the cameras are off, what is the conservative opinion of Donald Trump?” the 56-year-old TV personality asked of Bolton — who served as part of the Republican leader’s administration for 17 months between 2018 and 2019, but also as the 25th U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006.
Bolton suggested that no matter their opinions of the 73-year-old, the conservatives would prefer Trump to a “Democratic subject,” or opponent, like Hillary Clinton in 2016 and current candidate for the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden.
“I think that many of them, in fairness to Trump, look at the comparison — as I did in 2016 with Hillary Clinton — with Joe Biden and say, ‘Whatever we think of him, he’s not going to be a Democrat subject,'” Bolton said about backing Trump, during the June 23 interview.
The late-night host continued: “What could be worse in Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden’s philosophy than betraying your country to a hostile, foreign leader, sir?”
“Trust me, I understand that point,” said Bolton, before being cut off again.
“But will you answer that question?” asked Colbert.
“Yeah, I’m trying to,” Bolton replied with a laugh.
“What I thought in 2016 was, ‘We at least have to try it out.’ So I voted for Trump,” he added.
Bolton continued: “Having experienced 17 months of working with him, I can’t, in good conscience, do that again and that’s why I’m not gonna vote for him and I’m not gonna vote for Biden.”
“I guess what’s exasperating is there is absolutely nothing that Donald Trump has done that is surprising to me,” said Colbert.
“Everything you think about Donald Trump is probably true, because he’s not deep enough to get your socks wet in,” he joked. “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?” Colbert asked of Bolton.
“I couldn’t believe it was that bad. I know other people say they saw it from the beginning …” the former adviser responded before being interrupted once more.
“But you’re an international negotiator,” said Colbert. “How could you be naive? You’ve dealt with the worst people in the world.”
“You’ve really insulted me now by calling me ‘naive,'” said an unimpressed Bolton.
Of working alongside Trump, he concluded: “Look, I thought it was possible to work with somebody. I thought surely they would want to learn about the complexities of arms control negotiations and that sort of thing and as I detail in the book, that turned out not to be true.”
Last Saturday (June 20), a federal judge ruled that Bolton could move forward in publishing The Room Where it Happened despite efforts by the Trump administration to block its release due to concerns that classified information could be exposed.
Of the book, Trump tweeted: “(Bolton) broke the law by releasing classified Information (in massive amounts). He must pay a very big price for this, as others have before him. This should never to happen again!”
Following the interview, Bolton took to Twitter expressing no regret in making his appearance on the Late Show. His exposé book was released the same day.
The former adviser also retweeted a clip of the interview in which Colbert asks him how he felt about not sharing key information requested by the U.S. Congress for Trump’s impeachment trial earlier this year.
— With files from the Associated Press