John Bolton, who was former President Donald Trump‘s national security advisor for more than a year, said Monday he is “absolutely” considering launching a 2024 presidential bid — in large part to challenge Trump.
Bolton, speaking on NBC News’ “Meet The Press Now,” said the “one thing” that would spur him to run would be “to make it clear to the people of this country that Donald Trump is unacceptable as the Republican nominee.”
Bolton called it “un-American” for Trump to “challenge the Constitution” when he suggested over the weekend that the nation’s supreme law could be terminated in order to put him back in the White House.
Bolton, who has periodically been a vocal Trump critic since departing his administration in September 2019, called the former president’s declaration “an existential threat to the republic itself.”
Trump, who has regularly spread false claims of widespread election fraud since his loss to President Joe Biden in 2020, claimed in a social media post Saturday that, “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”
Trump appeared to walk back that statement earlier Monday, saying it was “Fake News” to claim he “wanted to ‘terminate’ the Constitution.” In follow-up posts, Trump declared in all caps that “IF AN ELECTION IS IRREFUTABLY FRAUDULENT, IT SHOULD GO TO THE RIGHTFUL WINNER OR, AT A MINIMUM, BE REDONE.”
Bolton rejected Trump’s clarifications, saying his sentiment is “not merely wrong and outrageous, it is disqualifying.”
“Donald Trump, if he were to take the oath of office again, God forbid, would either be lying about preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution, or maybe he wouldn’t say it at all,” Bolton said. “You can’t have this kind of approach. It’s not something one can disagree with. This is foundational to the republic.”
Bolton called on GOP leaders to denounce Trump, who is currently the only Republican to announce his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election. Numerous other Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Trump’s ex-Vice President Mike Pence, are expected to be gearing up to run for the GOP nomination.
The Biden administration said attacks on the Constitution should be “universally condemned.” Many top Republicans, however, have avoided publicly addressing Trump’s remarks when asked for comment.
Bolton, noting that many Republican leadership roles are currently up for consideration, said that every prospective candidate should repudiate Trump’s remarks.
“And honestly, if they don’t, there’s one thing that would get me to get into the presidential race, which I looked at in prior elections, it would be to make it clear to the people of this country that Donald Trump is unacceptable as the Republican nominee,” Bolton said.
When pressed on those remarks, Bolton confirmed he would “absolutely” consider getting into the 2024 race. To be a presidential candidate, he said, one must not only declare support for the Constitution but also opposition to “people who would undercut it.”
Referencing the defunct House Un-American Activities Committee, Bolton said, “I think when you challenge the Constitution itself the way Trump has done, that is un-American.”
He challenged other Republicans to say the same. “I don’t see why they aren’t saying it right now,” he said.
Nearly 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 base of the Republican Party?”
He said he wanted to see “Shermanesque statements” denouncing Trump from other potential candidates, and if he does not, “then I’m going to seriously consider getting in.”
Asked for his views on the 2024 race and what his potential campaign might look like, Bolton predicted that national security issues will dominate that election cycle “The isolationist virus that Trump has let loose needs to be addressed, as well,” he added.
Bolton contrasted Trump, a “whiner,” with the late GOP President Ronald Reagan’s more “optimistic” message. The former national security advisor said his possible presidential platform might be “very Reaganesque.”
Bolton described his politics as “pretty libertarian” and said he was “not a social conservative.”
He added that he believes the 2024 presidential field will be “very crowded,” and that he might make a decision on whether to run “earlier than some would think.”