John Bolton, who was former President Donald Trump’s national security adviser for more than a year, said Monday he was “absolutely considering” launching a 2024 presidential bid — in large part to challenge Trump.
Bolton said in a speech on NBC News’ Meet The Press Now that the “one thing” that would spur him on to run is “to make it clear to the people of this country that Donald Trump is unacceptable as a Republican candidate.”
Bolton called it “un-American” for Trump to “challenge the Constitution” as he proposed over the weekend to end the nation’s top law to put him back in the White House.
Bolton, who has been a regularly vocal Trump critic since leaving his administration in September 2019, called the former president’s statement “an existential threat to the republic itself.”
Trump, who has routinely peddled false claims of widespread voter fraud since his 2020 defeat by President Joe Biden, claimed in a social media post Saturday, “Massive fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the repeal of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”
Trump appeared to retract that statement Monday, saying it was “fake news” to claim he wanted to “‘cancel’ the Constitution.” In follow-up posts, Trump declared in capital letters, “IF AN ELECTION IS IRREVERTLY FRAUDULENT, IT SHOULD GO TO THE RIGHTFUL WINNER, OR AT LEAST RESTORE.”
Bolton dismissed Trump’s clarifications, saying his opinion was “not only wrong and outrageous, but disqualifying.”
“If Donald Trump were to take the oath of office again, God forbid he would either lie about upholding, protecting and defending the Constitution, or maybe he wouldn’t say it at all,” Bolton said. “You can’t have that approach. You can’t contradict that. This is fundamental for the Republic.”
Bolton called on GOP leaders to denounce Trump, who is currently the only Republican announcing his candidacy in the 2024 presidential election. Numerous other Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Trump’s ex-Vice President Mike Pence, are expected to prepare to run for the GOP nomination.
The Biden administration said attacks on the Constitution should be “universally condemned.” However, many top Republicans have avoided publicly addressing Trump’s remarks when asked for comment.
Bolton, noting that many Republican leadership roles are currently under scrutiny, said any potential candidate should dismiss Trump’s remarks.
“And frankly, if they don’t, there’s one thing that would make me want to get into the presidential race that I’ve watched in previous elections, and that’s to make it clear to the people of this country that Donald Trump is unacceptable as the Republican nominee,” Bolton said.
Pressing for those comments, Bolton confirmed he would “absolutely” consider entering the 2024 race. In order to become a presidential candidate, one must not only declare support for the constitution, but also resistance to “people who would undermine it”.
Referring to the House of Representatives’ defunct Committee on Un-American Activities, Bolton said, “I think when you question the Constitution itself, as Trump did, that’s un-American.”
He urged other Republicans to say the same. “I don’t understand why they aren’t saying it now,” he said.
Almost all GOP voters “disagree that Donald Trump is more important than the Constitution,” Bolton said. “What does a candidate have to lose by appealing to 95% of the Republican Party base?”
He said he wants to see “Shermanesque statements” denouncing Trump by other potential candidates, and if he doesn’t “then I’ll seriously consider getting in”.
When asked about his thoughts on the 2024 race and what his potential campaign might look like, Bolton predicted that national security issues will dominate this election cycle. “The isolationist virus that Trump unleashed must also be addressed,” he added.
Bolton contrasted Trump, a “whiner,” with the “more optimistic” message from the late GOP President Ronald Reagan. The former national security adviser said his potential presidential platform could be “very Reaganesque.”
Bolton described his politics as “fairly libertarian” and said he was “not a social conservative”.
He added that he believes the field for the 2024 presidential election will be “very crowded” and that he could make a decision on whether to run “sooner than some would think”.