Donald Trump stands with his lips pursed as John Bolton looks directly into the camera from behind him.
Former President Donald Trump and former National Security Advisor John Bolton.Sean Gallup/Getty Images
  • John Bolton criticized his former boss on Newsmax Monday night.
  • Bolton pushed back against the host's rosy portrayal of the Trump administration on Russia.
  • "The fact is that he barely knew where Ukraine was," Bolton said.

Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton lambasted his old boss, former President Donald Trump, over his administration's legacy in the Russia-Ukraine conflict during appearance Monday night on the far-right Newsmax network's "Rob Schmitt Tonight."

When the host depicted the Trump administration's approach as "pretty tough on Russia, in a lot of ways," Bolton disagreed.

The former Trump national security advisor said the 45th president "did not" handle Russia better than President Joe Biden, as Schmitt asserted, and listed off a series of qualms he had about how Trump dealt with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We didn't sanction Nord Stream 2," Bolton said, referring to the Russian offshore natural gas pipeline running to Germany under the Baltic Sea, which was officially canceled last week by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

"We should have," Bolton continued. "We should have brought the project to an end."

After mentioning sanctions the Trump administration did enact on some Russian oligarchs, Bolton became more frank.

"But in almost every case, the sanctions were imposed with Trump complaining about it and saying we were being too hard," Bolton said. "The fact is that he barely knew where Ukraine was. He once asked John Kelly, his second chief of staff, if Finland were a part of Russia. It's just not accurate to say that Trump's behavior somehow deterred the Russians."



The former president and his GOP allies in recent days have repeatedly suggested that Putin would not have launched the attack on Ukraine if Trump was still in office.

But Putin was fueling a war in eastern Ukraine throughout Trump's presidency. Trump was also impeached, in part, for withholding $400 million in military aid from Ukraine while this conflict was ongoing, as he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, over baseless allegations of corruption.

The aid was eventually released to Ukraine, but after Trump was made aware of a whistleblower complaint linked to the hold and his effort to pressure Zelensky. 

During his presidency, Trump routinely praised Putin and behaved in ways that experts say emboldened the Russian leader and jeopardized national security. In perhaps the most infamous example, Trump in July 2018 appeared to side with Putin over the US intelligence community on the subject of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. More recently, Trump lauded Putin's justification for invading Ukraine as "genius" and "savvy."

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