Former national security adviser John Bolton urged congressional Republicans in a new interview to “acknowledge the reality” that Joe Biden is president-elect — predicting GOP lawmakers would survive any potential backlash from President Donald Trump if they broke with him over the 2020 election results.
In an interview with NPR that aired Friday, Bolton said Republicans “may not like” recognizing Biden as the winner of the White House race, “but the country deserves to give him the preparation he needs. A gracious president who kept the country’s interests first would acknowledge that.”
“All I’m saying is that showing disagreement with the president is not fatal to your political future. I’m not asking anybody to climb Mount Suribachi and plant the American flag on top of it,” Bolton added, referring to the iconic photograph of U.S. Marines raising the flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The remarks from Bolton — who was named the president’s top national security aide in April 2018 and emerged as a vocal Trump critic after leaving the administration in September 2019 — come as Republican congressional leadership and the vast majority of rank-and-file GOP lawmakers remain supportive of the Trump campaign’s ongoing legal challenges to the election results.
Bolton rejected that litigation and described the Trump campaign’s claims of widespread voter fraud as entirely baseless in his interview Friday. “The arguments that Trump and his campaign are making on the conspiracy to deny him reelection is this conspiracy is so vast and so successful, that apparently there’s no evidence of it,” he said.
Recent days have shown signs of some fissures in Trump’s support among Republicans, with a group of top GOP senators pushing for Biden to begin receiving high-level intelligence briefings — seemingly going against the White House’s efforts to slow the presidential transition process.
Bolton agreed that Biden and key members of the president-elect’s team “should have full access to intelligence briefings.” The “individual transition teams” at the State Department, the Defense Department and national security agencies should be allowed to “begin their work,” as well, Bolton said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has insisted, however, that the results of the election are unsettled, and suggested to reporters at a news conference Tuesday that the State Department’s transition protocols would be delayed for the time being. He also pledged that there would “be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar made similar comments in a CNBC interview Tuesday, when asked whether the White House coronavirus task force was communicating with Biden’s team. “We’re ready for that, if and when there’s a determination that there will be a transition,” he said.
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