Bolton is currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), senior advisor for Freedom Capital Investment Management, a Fox News Channel commentator, and of counsel to the Washington, D.C. law firm Kirkland & Ellis. He was a foreign policy adviser to 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Bolton is also involved with a number of politically conservative think tanks and policy institutes, including the Institute of East-West Dynamics, the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Council for National Policy (CNP) and the Gatestone Institute, where he serves as the organization Chairman.
Bolton has been labeled as a neoconservative, though he personally rejects the term. He has been a prominent participant in several neoconservative groups, like the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), and the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG).
Bolton was born on November 20, 1948 in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Virginia Clara "Ginny" (née Godfrey), a housewife, and Edward Jackson "Jack" Bolton, a fireman. He grew up in the working-class neighborhood of Yale Heights and won a scholarship to the McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland, graduating in 1966. He also ran the school's Students For Goldwater campaign in 1964. He then attended Yale University and Yale Law School, where he shared classes with his friend Clarence Thomas, and was a contemporary of Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham at Yale Law School. He was a member of the Yale Political Union, and he earned a B.A. graduating summa cum laude in 1970 and a J.D. in 1974.
During the 1969 Vietnam War draft lottery, Bolton drew number 185. (Draft numbers corresponded to birth dates.) As a result of the Johnson and Nixon administrations' decisions to rely largely on the draft rather than on the reserve forces, joining a Guard or Reserve unit became a way to avoid service in the Vietnam War. Bolton enlisted in the Maryland Army National Guard in 1970 rather than wait to find out if his draft number would be called. (The highest number actually called to military service was 195.) After serving in the National Guard for four years, he served in the United States Army Reserve until the end of his enlistment two years later. He wrote in his Yale 25th reunion book "I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost." In an interview, Bolton discussed his comment in the reunion book, explaining that he decided to avoid service in Vietnam because "by the time I was about to graduate in 1970, it was clear to me that opponents of the Vietnam War had made it certain we could not prevail, and that I had no great interest in going there to have Teddy Kennedy give it back to the people I might die to take it away from."
Bolton's first wife was Christine Bolton, whom he married in 1972 and divorced in 1983. They had no children. He is married to Gretchen Smith Bolton. She has degrees from Wellesley College and New York University. The couple's home is currently in Bethesda, Maryland. They have one daughter, Jennifer Sarah Bolton. Bolton is a Lutheran. Bolton participated in Troopathon 2012.
From 1974 to 1981, Bolton was an associate at the Washington office of Covington & Burling; he returned to the firm again from 1983 to 1985. Bolton was also a partner in the law firm of Lerner, Reed, Bolton & McManus, from 1993–1999. He is currently of counsel in the Washington office of Kirkland & Ellis.
Before joining the George W. Bush administration, Bolton was senior vice president for public policy research at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, from 1997 to 2001. Between 1997 and 2000, Bolton also worked pro bono as an assistant to James Baker in Baker's capacity as Kofi Annan's personal envoy to the Western Sahara.
During the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, he worked in several positions within the State Department, the Justice Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. He was a protégé of conservative North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms.
His Justice Department position as an assistant attorney general required him to advance Reagan administration positions, including opposition to financial reparations to Japanese-Americans held in World War II–era internment camps; the insistence of Reagan's executive privilege during William Rehnquist's chief justice confirmation hearings, when Congress asked for memos written by Rehnquist as a Nixon Justice Department official; shepherding the judicial nomination process for Antonin Scalia; and the framing of a bill to control illegal immigration as an essential drug war measure. He was also involved in the Iran–Contra affair.
Bolton's government service included such positions as:Assistant secretary for International Organization Affairs at the Department of State (1989–1993), where he coordinated the successful effort to rescind the United Nations resolution from the 1970s that had equated Zionism with racism, and also played a major role in supporting the efforts of the US Mission to obtain UN resolutions endorsing the use of force to fight Iraq's invasion of Kuwait;
Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice (1985–1989);
Assistant administrator for program and policy coordination, USAID (1982–1983); and
General counsel, USAID (1981–1982).
Bolton is also the former executive director of the Committee on Resolutions in the Republican National Committee.
Between 1999 and 2001, he served on the board of the Committee for International Religious Freedom.
During the George W. Bush administration, Bolton served as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (2001–2005) and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (2005–2006).
Bolton was formerly involved with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Federalist Society, National Policy Forum, National Advisory Board, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, New Atlantic Initiative, and Project on Transitional Democracies.
Bolton worked as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, sworn into this position on May 11, 2001. In this role, a key area of his responsibility was the prevention of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Bolton also led the Bush administration's opposition on constitutional grounds to the International Criminal Court, negotiating with many countries to sign agreements, called Article 98 agreements, with the U.S. to exempt Americans from prosecution by the court, which is not recognized by the U.S.; more than 100 countries have signed such agreements. Bolton said the decision to pull out of the ICC was the "happiest moment" of his political career to date.
Bolton was instrumental in derailing a 2001 biological weapons conference in Geneva convened to endorse a UN proposal to enforce the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. "U.S. officials, led by Bolton, argued that the plan would have put U.S. national security at risk by allowing spot inspections of suspected U.S. weapons sites, despite the fact that the U.S. claims not to have carried out any research for offensive purposes since 1969."
Also in 2002, Bolton is said to have flown to Europe to demand the resignation of Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and to have orchestrated his removal at a special session of the organization. The United Nations' highest administrative tribunal later condemned the action as an "unacceptable violation" of principles protecting international civil servants. Bustani had been unanimously re-elected for a four-year term—with strong U.S. support – in May 2000, and in 2001 was praised for his leadership by Colin Powell.
He also pushed for reduced funding for the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program to halt the proliferation of nuclear materials. At the same time, he was involved in the implementation of the Proliferation Security Initiative, working with a number of countries to intercept the trafficking in weapons of mass destruction and in materials for use in building nuclear weapons.
According to an article in The New Republic, Bolton was highly successful in pushing his agenda, but his bluntness has won him many enemies. "Iran's Foreign Ministry has called Bolton 'rude' and 'undiplomatic'." In response to critics, Bolton states that his record "demonstrates clear support for effective multilateral diplomacy." Bush administration officials have stated that his past statements would allow him to negotiate from a powerful position. "It's like the Palestinians having to negotiate with [Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon. If you have a deal, you know you have a deal," an anonymous official told CNN. He also "won widespread praise for his work establishing the Proliferation Security Initiative, a voluntary agreement supported by 60 countries".
Bolton spawned controversy when, in a 2003 speech cleared by the State Department, he described North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as a "tyrannical dictator" and saying that, for North Koreans under Kim's rule, "life is a hellish nightmare." In response, a North Korean spokesman said "such human scum and bloodsucker is not entitled to take part in the talks." Congressional Democrats argued that Bolton's words at the time were undiplomatic and endangered the talks. Bolton later wrote that he had been looking for a "hammer" to "shatter" the Clinton Administration's 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea, an implement he found when the country's uranium enrichment program came to light. Critics argued that Bolton's record of allegedly politicizing intelligence would harm U.S. credibility with the United Nations. President Bush said he wanted John Bolton because he "can get the job done at the United Nations." Bolton recalls that his 'happiest moment at State was personally 'unsigning' the Rome Statute,' which had set up the International Criminal Court.
In 2002, Bolton accused Cuba of transfers of biological weapons technology to rogue states and called on it "to fully comply with all of its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention." According to a Scripps Howard News Service article, Bolton "wanted to say that Cuba had a biological weapons capacity and that it was exporting it to other nations. The intelligence analysts seemed to want to limit the assessment to a declaration that Cuba 'could' develop such weapons." According to AlterNet, Bolton attempted to have the chief bioweapons analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the CIA's national intelligence officer for Latin America reassigned. Under oath at his Senate hearings for confirmation as ambassador, he denied trying to have the men fired, but seven intelligence officials contradicted him. Ultimately, "intelligence officials refused to allow Bolton to make the harsh criticism of Cuba he sought to deliver", and were able to keep their positions. Bolton claims that the issue was procedural rather than related to the content of his speech and that the officers, who did not work under him, behaved unprofessionally.
Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman alleged that Bolton played a role in encouraging the inclusion of statement that British Intelligence had determined Iraq attempted to procure yellowcake uranium from Niger in Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address. These statements were claimed by critics of the President to be partly based on documents found to be forged. Waxman's allegations could not be confirmed as they were based on classified documents.
Bolton stated in June 2004 congressional testimony that Iran was lying about enriched uranium contamination: "Another unmistakable indicator of Iran's intentions is the pattern of repeatedly lying to ... the IAEA ... when evidence of uranium enriched to 36 percent was found, it attributed this to contamination from imported centrifuge parts." However, later isotope analysis supported Iran’s explanation of foreign contamination for most of the observed enriched uranium. At their August 2005 meeting the IAEA's Board of Governors concluded: "Based on the information currently available to the Agency, the results of that analysis tend, on balance, to support Iran’s statement about the foreign origin of most of the observed HEU contamination.". Bolton wrote a book titled Surrender Is Not an Option. In it Bolton criticizes the Bush administration for changing its foreign policy objectives during the start of the administration's second term.
Critics allege that Bolton tried to spin intelligence to support his views and political objectives on a number of occasions. Greg Thielmann, of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), was assigned as the daily intelligence liaison to Bolton. Thielmann stated to Seymour Hersh that, "Bolton seemed troubled because INR was not telling him what he wanted to hear ... I was intercepted at the door of his office and told, 'The Under Secretary doesn't need you to attend this meeting anymore.'" According to former coworkers, Bolton withheld information that ran counter to his goals from Secretary of State Colin Powell on multiple occasions, and from Powell's successor Condoleezza Rice on at least one occasion.
In 2006 a former politician from Sweden's Liberal Party, who a quarter of a century earlier had been the party chairman but since had left the stage of active politics, nominated Bolton for the Nobel Peace Prize. Technically almost anyone can file such a nomination and there was no indication that the Nobel Committee had pondered the name of Bolton. The prize that year went to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank "for advancing economic and social opportunities for the poor, especially women, through their pioneering microcredit work".
On May 28, 2008, at the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, the British activist George Monbiot attempted to make a citizen's arrest of Bolton, for his role as an architect of the Iraq War. The attempt was unsuccessful, and Monbiot was ejected by security personnel.
In June 2011, Bolton dismissed Palestinian claims to statehood as a "ploy".
In July 2013, Bolton was identified as a key member of Groundswell, a secretive coalition of right wing activists and journalists attempting to make political change behind the scenes through lobbying of high-level contacts
On March 7, 2005, Bolton was nominated to the post of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations by President George W. Bush. As a result of a Democratic filibuster, he was recess-appointed to the post on August 1, 2005. Bolton's nomination received strong support from Republicans but faced heavy opposition from Democrats due initially to concerns about his strongly expressed views on the United Nations.
Holding a 10–8 majority in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (tasked with vetting ambassadorial nominees), the Republican leadership hoped to send Bolton's nomination to the full Senate with a positive recommendation. Concern among some Republicans on the committee, however, prompted the leadership to avoid losing such a motion and instead to send the nomination forward with no recommendation. In the full Senate, Republican support for the nomination remained uncertain, with the most vocal Republican critic, Ohio Senator George V. Voinovich, circulating a letter urging his Republican colleagues to oppose the nomination. Democrats insisted that a vote on the nomination was premature, given the resistance of the White House to share classified documents related to Bolton's alleged actions. The Republican leadership moved on two occasions to end debate, but because a supermajority of 60 votes is needed to end debate, the leadership was unable to muster the required votes with only a 55–44 majority in the body. An earlier agreement between moderates in both parties to prevent filibustering of nominees was interpreted by the Democrats to relate only to judicial nominees, not ambassadorships, although the leader of the effort, Sen. John McCain, said the spirit of the agreement was to include all nominees.
On November 9, 2006, Bush, only days after losing both houses to a Democratic majority, sent the nomination for Bolton to continue as representative for the United States at the UN. He said: "I believe that the leaders of both political parties must try to work through our differences. And I believe we will be able to work through differences. I reassured the House and Senate leaders that I intend to work with the new Congress in a bipartisan way to address issues confronting this country."
Bolton has been a strong critic of the United Nations for much of his career. In a 1994 Global Structures Convocation hosted by the World Federalist Association (now Citizens for Global Solutions), he stated,
(...) there is no United Nations... there is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that's the United States, when it suits our interests, and when we can get others to go along.
He also stated that "The Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost ten stories today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."
Both Bolton's opponents and his supporters have used the same video of his remarks at the 1994 event in support of their points of view.
When pressed on the statement during the confirmation process, he responded, "There's not a bureaucracy in the world that couldn't be made leaner." In a paper on U.S. participation in the UN, Bolton stated "the United Nations can be a useful instrument in the conduct of American foreign policy."
Bolton was also one of the signers of the January 26, 1998, PNAC letter sent to President Bill Clinton urging him to remove Saddam Hussein from power using U.S. diplomatic, political and military power.
The November 15, 2005, Washington Times article "Can the U.S. find a substitute for the U.N.?" noted that Bolton advocates "a revolution of reform" at the UN. Specifically, he called for:The five permanent members of the UN Security Council to work more closely to craft powerful resolutions and make sure they are enforced, and to address the underlying causes of conflicts, rather than turning them over to the Secretariat and special envoys;
A focus on administrative skills in choosing the next secretary-general; and
A more credible and responsible Human Rights Commission.
Bolton noted that the U.S. had the option of relying on regional or other international organizations to advance its goals if the U.N. proves inadequate.
On April 11, 2005, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reviewed Bolton's qualifications. Bolton said that he and his colleagues "view the U.N. as an important component of our diplomacy" and will work to solve its problems and enhance its strengths, echoing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice words from a month earlier.
Republican committee chairman Richard Lugar of Indiana criticized Bolton for ignoring the "policy consequences" of his statements, saying diplomatic speech "should never be undertaken simply to score international debating points to appeal to segments of the U.S. public opinion or to validate a personal point of view." The committee's top Democrat, Joe Biden of Delaware, compared sending Bolton to the UN to sending a "bull into a china shop," and expressed "grave concern" about Bolton's "diplomatic temperament" and his record: "In my judgment, your judgment about how to deal with the emerging threats have not been particularly useful," Biden said.
Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia said that Bolton had the "experience," "knowledge," "background," "and the right principles to come into the United Nations at this time," calling him "the absolute perfect person for the job."
Russ Feingold, a Democrat on the committee from Wisconsin, asked Bolton about what he would have done had the Rwandan genocide occurred while he was ambassador to the United Nations, and criticized his answer – which focused on logistics – as "amazingly passive."
According to Newsday, Lincoln Chafee, a Republican from Rhode Island, "may be pivotal for Bolton's nomination." His initial remarks were cautiously favorable: "You said all the right things in your opening statement." Chafee stated that he would probably support Bolton "unless something surprising shows up."
According to an Associated Press story on the hearing, "[T]hree protesters briefly interrupted the proceedings, standing up in succession with pink T-shirts and banners, one reading: 'Diplomat for hire. No bully please.'" These protesters were part of a group advocating representation in the Senate for residents of the District of Columbia that is known for such demonstrations at a variety of hearings.
On April 12, 2005, the Senate panel focused on allegations discussed above that Bolton pressured intelligence analysts. Calling Bolton a "serial abuser, " former State Department intelligence chief Carl W. Ford Jr. said, "I've never seen anybody quite like Secretary Bolton ... I don't have a second, third or fourth in terms of the way that he abuses his power and authority with little people." Ford contradicted Bolton's earlier testimony, saying: "I had been asked for the first time to fire an intelligence analyst for what he had said and done." Ford also characterized Bolton as a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy", implying that he was always ready to please whoever had authority over him, while having very little regard for people working under him.
Lugar, who criticized Bolton at his April 11 hearing, said that the "paramount issue" was supporting Bush's nominee. He conceded that "bluntness... may be required", even though it is not "very good diplomacy". Chafee, the key member for Bolton's approval, said that "the bar is very high" for rejecting the president's nominees, suggesting that Bolton would make it to the Senate.
On April 19, Democrats, with support from Voinovich, forced Lugar to delay the committee vote on Bolton's nomination until May. The debate concerning his nomination raged in the Senate prior to the Memorial Day recess. Two other Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee, Chafee and Chuck Hagel, also expressed serious concerns about the Bolton nomination.
Asked on April 20 if he was now less inclined to support the nomination, Chafee said, "That would be accurate." He further elaborated that Bolton's prospects were "hard to predict" but said he expected that "the administration is really going to put some pressure on Senator Voinovich. Then it comes to the rest of us that have had some reservations."
On April 20, it emerged that Melody Townsel, a former USAID contractor, had reported to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Bolton had used inflammatory language and thrown objects in the course of her work activities in Moscow. Townsel's encounter with Bolton occurred when she served as a whistleblower against a poorly performing minority contractor for USAID, IBTCI. Townsel told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff that Bolton had made derogatory remarks about her sexual orientation and weight, among other workplace improprieties. In an official interview with Senate Foreign Relation Committee staff, Townsel detailed her accusations against Bolton, which were confirmed by Canadian designer Uno Ramat, who had served as an IBTCI employee and one of Townsel's AID colleagues. Time magazine, among other publications, verified Townsel's accusations and Ramat's supporting testimony, and Townsel's story was transcribed and entered into the official Senate committee record. Townsel, who was an employee of Young & Rubicam at the time of her encounter with Bolton, continued working for the company on a variety of other USAID projects.
On April 22, the New York Times and other media alleged that Bolton's former boss, Colin Powell, was personally opposed to the nomination and had been in personal contact with Chafee and Hagel. The same day, Reuters reported that a spokesman for Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said that the Senator felt the committee "did the right thing delaying the vote on Bolton in light of the recent information presented to the committee." On April 28, The Guardian reported that Powell was "conducting a campaign" against Bolton because of the acrimonious battles they had had while working together, which among other things had resulted in Powell cutting Bolton out of talks with Iran and Libya after complaints about Bolton's involvement from the British. It added that "The foreign relations committee has discovered that Bolton made a highly unusual request and gained access to 10 intercepts by the National Security Agency... Staff members on the committee believe that Bolton was probably spying on Powell, his senior advisers and other officials reporting to him on diplomatic initiatives that Bolton opposed." However, Rich Lowry pointed out that "During the same four-year period, other State Department officials made roughly 400 similar requests."
Also on May 11, Newsweek reported allegations that the American position at the 7th Review Conference in May 2005 of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty had been undercut by Bolton's "absence without leave" during the nomination fight, quoting anonymous sources "close to the negotiations".
On May 26, 2005, Senate Democrats postponed the vote on Bolton's UN nomination. The Republican leadership failed to gain enough support to pass a cloture motion on the floor debate over Bolton, and minority leader Harry Reid conceded the move signaled the "first filibuster of the year." The Democrats claimed that key documents regarding Bolton and his career at the Department of State were being withheld by the Bush administration. Scott McClellan, White House press secretary, responded by saying, "Just 72 hours after all the good will and bipartisanship (over a deal on judicial nominees), it's disappointing to see the Democratic leadership resort back to such a partisan approach."
The failure of the Senate to end debate on Bolton's nomination provided one surprise for some: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) voted against cloture for procedural reasons, so that he could bring up a cloture vote in the future. (Although Voinovich once spoke against confirming Bolton, he voted for cloture.) Senator John Thune (R-SD) voted to end debate but announced that he would vote against Bolton in the up-or-down vote as a protest against the government's plans to close a military base (Ellsworth) in his home state.
On June 20, 2005, the Senate voted again on cloture. The vote failed 54–38, six votes short of ending debate. That marked an increase of two "no" votes, including the defection of Voinovich, who switched his previous "yes" vote and urged President Bush to pick another nominee (Democrats Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson voted to end debate both times). On June 21, Frist expressed his view that attempting another vote would be pointless, but later that day, following a lunch at the White House, changed his position, saying that he would continue to push for an up-or-down vote. Voinovich later recanted his opposition and stated that if Bolton were renominated he would have supported the nomination.
On July 28, 2005, it was revealed that a statement made by Bolton on forms submitted to the Senate was false. Bolton indicated that in the prior five years he had not been questioned in any investigation, but in fact he had been interviewed by the State Department's Inspector General as part of an investigation into the sources of pre-war claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. After insisting for weeks that Bolton had testified truthfully on the form, the State Department reversed itself, stating that Bolton had simply forgotten about the investigation.
On August 1, 2005, Bush officially made a recess appointment of Bolton, installing him as Permanent US Representative to the UN. A recess appointment lasts until the next session of Congress ends or until the individual is renominated and confirmed by the Senate. During the announcement, Bush said, "This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about U.N. reform." Democrats criticized the appointment, and Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Bolton would lack credibility in the U.N. because he lacked Senate confirmation. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed Mr. Bolton, but told reporters that the new ambassador should consult with others as the administration continued to press for changes at the United Nations.
The Economist called Bolton "the most controversial ambassador ever sent by America to the United Nations." Some colleagues in the UN appreciated the goals Bolton was trying to achieve, but not his abrasive style. The New York Times, in its editorial The Shame of the United Nations, praised Bolton's stance on "reforming the disgraceful United Nations Human Rights Commission", saying "John Bolton, is right; Secretary-General Kofi Annan is wrong." The Times also said that the commission at that time was composed of "some of the world's most abusive regimes" who used their membership as cover to continue their abusiveness.
Bolton also opposed the proposed replacement for the Human Rights Commission, the UN Human Rights Council, as not going far enough for reform, saying: "We want a butterfly. We don't intend to put lipstick on a caterpillar and call it a success."
Bush announced his intention to renominate Bolton for confirmation as U.N. ambassador at the beginning of 2006, and a new confirmation hearing was held on July 27, 2006, in the hope of completing the process before the expiration of Bolton's recess appointment at the end of the 109th Congress. Voinovich, who had previously stood in opposition to Bolton, had amended his views and determined that Bolton was doing a "good job" as UN ambassador; in February 2006, he said "I spend a lot of time with John on the phone. I think he is really working very constructively to move forward."
Over the summer and during the fall election campaign, no action was taken on the nomination because Chafee, who was in a difficult re-election campaign, blocked a Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote. Without his concurrence, the SFRC would have been deadlocked 9–9, and the nomination could not have gone to the Senate floor for a full vote. Bush formally resubmitted the nomination on November 9, 2006, immediately following a midterm election that would give control of the 110th Congress to the Democratic party. Chafee, who had just lost his re-election bid, issued a statement saying he would vote against recommending Bolton for a Senate vote, citing what he considered to be a mandate from the recent election results: "On Tuesday, the American people sent a clear message of dissatisfaction with the foreign policy approach of the Bush administration. To confirm Mr. Bolton to the position of U.N. ambassador would fly in the face of the clear consensus of the country that a new direction is called for."
On December 4, 2006, Bolton announced that he would terminate his work as U.S. representative to the UN at the end of the recess appointment and would not continue to seek confirmation. His letter of resignation from the Bush administration was accepted on December 4, 2006, effective when his recess appointment ended December 9 at the formal adjournment of the 109th Congress.
The announcement was characterized as Bolton's "resignation" by the Associated Press, United Press International, ABC News, and other news sources, as well as a White House press release and President Bush himself. The White House, however, later objected to the use of this language. Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino told CBS News "it is not a resignation." The actual language of the President's written acceptance was: "It is with deep regret that I accept John Bolton’s decision to end his service in the administration as permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations when his commission expires." However, at press conference, the president said, "I received the resignation of Ambassador John Bolton. I accept it. I'm not happy about it. I think he deserved to be confirmed." Some news organizations subsequently altered their language to phrases such as "to step down," "to leave," or "to exit."
During his confirmation hearings in 2005, letters with signatures of more than 64 co-workers and professional colleagues were sent to Senator Richard Lugar, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in praise of Bolton and contradicting other criticisms and allegations concerning his diplomatic style and his treatment of colleagues and staff. In late 2006, when his nomination was again before the Committee, another letter signed by more than 53 professional colleagues supporting the renomination was sent to Senator Lugar. A Wall Street Journal op ed by Claudia Rosett on December 5, 2006, said in part, "Bolton has been valiant in his efforts to clean up UN corruption and malfeasance, and follow UN procedure in dealing with such threats as a nuclear North Korea, a Hezbollah bid to take over Lebanon, and the nuclearization of Hezbollah's terror-masters in Iran. But it has been like watching one man trying to move a tsunami of mud."
After leaving the George W. Bush Administration, Bolton returned to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research as a Senior Fellow, with research areas in foreign policy and international organizations. In Bolton's time at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, he spoke against the policy of rewarding North Korea for ending its nuclear weapons program. He said the policy would encourage others to violate nuclear non-proliferation rules so that they could then be rewarded for following the rules they'd already agreed to.
On three episodes of Fox News in May and June 2008, Bolton suggested that Israel might attack Iran after US elections in November.
In January 2009, Bolton proposed a three-state solution to the Arab Israeli conflict in which "Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty."
On July 27, 2009, John Bolton was appointed to the board of directors for EMS Technologies, Inc. (ELMG), a Georgia-based tech company that subcontracts for many DOD contractors. He is a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel.
In 2009, Bolton likened the President to Æthelred the Unready, "the turn of the first millennium Anglo-Saxon king whose reputation for indecisiveness and his unsuccessful [effort]... to buy off Viking raiders made him history's paradigmatic weak leader." In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Bolton contended that Obama's efforts on international issues are nothing more than "dithering."
In September 2011, when the Obama administration declared the death of Al Qaeda target and American-born radical Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, Bolton commented "I think it's important as individual Al Qaeda figures and other terrorists are killed that we not read more into it than there is. Consider this analogy if you were around in the 1920s and somebody said, my God, Vladimir Lenin is dead. The Bolsheviks will never recover from this... So while Al-Awlaki's death is significant, I would not read cosmic consequences into it."
John Bolton caused a controversy on December 17, 2012, when he claimed on Greta Van Susteren's show on Fox News that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faked a concussion to avoid testifying before Congress regarding the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, that killed four Americans including the sitting ambassador. Bolton stated "When you don’t want to go to a meeting or conference or an event you have a 'diplomatic illness.' And this is a diplomatic illness to beat the band."
In 2010 he wrote a foreword for the book "The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America", while maintaining close relations with its authors, far-right conservative bloggers, activists, and commentators Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Bolton endorsed their book, writing:
This book carries forward the ongoing and increasingly widespread critique of Barack Obama as our first post-American president. What it recounts is disturbing, and its broader implications are more disturbing still.
Bolton has spoken in favor of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (also known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK), "an armed Islamic group with Marxist leanings" which has long been on the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. According to the State Department, the MEK "[f]ollow[s] a philosophy that mixes Marxism and Islam." In the 1970s, MEK members, who "had been trained by the Soviet Union in guerilla warfare and supported Khomeini ... assassinated U.S. military officers then working in Iran. MEK members actively took part in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, according to a U.S. government report."
According to conservative activist Kenneth Timmerman, executive director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran:
Iranian-Americans openly refer to MEK leader Massoud Rajavi as the "Pol Pot" of Iran, because they believe he would conduct wholesale massacres of his political opponents.
On January 25, 2011, Bolton drew a standing ovation at a MEK conference in Brussels for his support of the MEK, giving a speech in which he "backed MEK’s legitimacy, and the notion of removing it from the list of terrorist organizations." Georgetown law professor David D. Cole has pointed out that "the United States government has labeled the Mujahedeen Khalq a 'foreign terrorist organization,' making it a crime to provide it, directly or indirectly, with any material support [including] engag[ing] in public advocacy to challenge a group’s 'terrorist' designation," under the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.
However, the MEK were later removed from the terrorist list in both Europe (in 2009) and the USA (in 2012).
Bolton considered running for president in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. He had received attention in conservative circles, including the cover of the December 31, 2010 issue of National Review magazine. He told Politico: "As I survey the situation, I think the Republican field is wide open. I don't think the party's anywhere close to a decision. And stranger things have happened. For example, inexperienced senators from Illinois have gotten presidential nominations."
In an interview with National Review, Bolton said:
'Individual liberty is the whole purpose of political life, and I thought it was threatened back then' and 'I write, I give speeches, I appear on television-but the only way in contemporary American circumstances to make those issues as salient as they should be is to run for president.'
In an interview with The Daily Caller, Bolton said:
I'm obviously not a politician. I've never run for any federal elective office at all and, you know, it is something that would obviously require a great deal of effort.
On Tuesday, September 6, 2011, Bolton announced on the Fox News show, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, that he would not run for President of the United States in 2012.
Republican presidential-hopeful Newt Gingrich said that he would ask Bolton to serve as his Secretary of State.
On January 11, 2012, Bolton endorsed Mitt Romney for the 2012 Republican Nomination.
Bolton considered running in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In an interview with National Review, Robert Costa wrote the following, quoting Bolton:
He wants to be president of the United States, or, at the very least, a provocative contender for the Republican nomination in 2016. 'My hypothesis is that voters are practical and they care more about national security than the media seems to believe; I think, right now, especially after two terms of President Obama, they want a president who has the know-how to lead during a crisis, a president who can defend our national interests,' he says.
After expressing interest in running for President, Bolton ultimately ruled himself out on May 14, 2015, in a video message posted from Twitter.
On Wednesday, September 30, 2015, Freedom Capital Investment Management appointed Bolton as a senior advisor to oversee the firm on international security, financial and political risks.
In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt during the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign, Republican nominee Donald Trump named Bolton as a possible choice for Secretary of State. Appearing on Fox News' Fox and Friends on December 1, 2016, Bolton admitted he was being considered as a Secretary of State candidate for the incoming Trump administration. Several Trump associates claim Bolton was not chosen, in part, due to Trump's disdain for Bolton's signature mustache.
The evening of December 10, the BBC cited NBC reports that "sources close to Mr Trump [were] ... saying that Mr Tillerson is likely to be named next week" and that former UN ambassador John Bolton "will serve as his deputy".
Bolton has supported theories about the health of Hillary Clinton and about Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, and in December 2016 Bolton stated that the conclusion of the United States Intelligence Community that Russian hackers intervened to help elect Donald Trump in 2016 may have been a “false flag” operation. However, Bolton changed his stance later in the month to support the conclusion that the Russian government was involved in hacking the US presidential election. In a subsequent interview on Fox News, Bolton criticized the Obama administration's retaliatory sanctions as insufficient and suggest that the US response should "make them [the Russians] feel pain".
President Trump interviewed Bolton and three others to determine who to fill the position of National Security Advisor vacated by Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn. The position ultimately went to H. R. McMaster. Trump "made a point on Monday of praising Mr. Bolton and saying that he would find a position for him in his administration eventually."