John Bolton: Leaks are a serious threat to national security

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nation speaks out


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," February 24, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST:  All right, the president speaking at CPAC today.  

But an issue came up about leakers and the journalism community, what there is of it, blasting about the administration's obsession with all of that.  

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton joins us now from CPAC.  

He -- the basic problem, and you have seen it, we have got a lot of people leaking a lot of stuff, and they shouldn't be doing that.  And the media now gets fixated on something else.  

Explain that.  What do you mean by that?  

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS:  Well, I think the leaks are a serious threat to national security.  

Obviously, they come in all different sizes and shapes.  But the fact is, there are elements inside the bureaucracy, the permanent bureaucracy, that, when they don't get the outcome they want in an internal policy discussion in an administration, especially in Republican administrations, think it's perfectly legitimate to leak detrimental or harmful information and, in effect, try and change the policy debate to get an outcome they want.

CAVUTO:  But, John, that has happened before, right?  But it's just not happened to the degree we're seeing it now.  

We have never seen phone call conversations leaked out like the one the president had with the Australian prime minister, or all this stuff we got, you know, on General Flynn and his conversations with the Russians.  

Internal people, our people were leaking that, right?  

BOLTON:  Yes.  

Well, I think it's the timing and the magnitude that make it particularly acute.  

CAVUTO:  Right.  

BOLTON:  But it's a serious problem.  

I think it is something that Republicans face more often than Democrats. The bureaucrats in many departments are culturally more aligned with the Democratic Party.  But it's illegitimate.  It's really -- it's detrimental to the constitutional system.  

The bureaucracies don't have legitimacy.  The president, the elected head of the executive branch, has legitimacy.

CAVUTO:  Do they know that, though, John?  Because what I always worry about...


BOLTON:  They don't care.  

CAVUTO:  Remember, in the very beginning, when there was talk that some information was being held from the president -- now, never got to the bottom of that, but that's the stuff of, you know, governments just all of a sudden turning in South American.  That's not the kind of stuff you see here.  

BOLTON:  Well, that would be -- that would be frightening.  

CAVUTO:  Yes.  

BOLTON:  That would be frightening.  

Mike Pompeo has said he doesn't think that is true in the CIA.  The Office of the Director of the National Intelligence said the same.  

CAVUTO:  But they just took over.  They just took over those agencies, right?  


BOLTON:  Yes.  Yes.  

And reform is needed.  Look, one of the consequences of the Obama administration is the politicization, I think, of the intelligence community and the further politicization of the State Department.  

This is not simply a case of Obama administration holdovers, as people frequently discuss.  It's a deep-seated cultural problem within the executive branch of government.  And I think it doesn't seem like it's an urgent problem, normally, but maybe these leaks will help focus attention on it.  

The bureaucracies do not have a legitimacy of their own to disregard what the elected president tells them to do.

CAVUTO:  But you might have seen this at the U.N.  There might have been people -- you were like a bull in the China shop -- and I mean that in the best way -- when you got there.

And I'm sure there were many there who were not happy to see you.  And I'm sure there were many who were working on backstabbing you, stopping you, embarrassing you, even though you're the guy.  

So, what I'm wondering, you know, when we cavalierly are seeing some of the bureaucratic sort of worker bees, you know, turning and going against the system that we have had in place, where they're overseen by political appointees who come and go, I grant you, that's a dangerous trend.  That's a scary trend.  

BOLTON:  Well, it's particularly scary in the national security agencies, where so much is at stake internationally.  

CAVUTO:  Yes.  

BOLTON:  And so when you hear of a political appointee who says they get high marks in their building, meaning the department they work in, that is not necessarily a plus, because the mandate that I think Donald Trump has in many areas, but in national security in particular, is to change the policies of the past.  

And if the bureaucrats who are wedded to the policies of the past aren't going to let it go, it means the elected representative of the people can't do what the people elected him to do.  And that has constitutional implications.  

CAVUTO:  You're a rock star there, aren't you, John?  


BOLTON:  I love CPAC.  It's a great gathering.  And I'm privileged to speak every year, and glad to do it.  

CAVUTO:  Now, are you going to tell us what administration position you're taking, or no?  


BOLTON:  Well, no.  Look, if you hear anything, Neil, let me know.  

CAVUTO:  That's a very coy way of handling it.  

All right, John Bolton, thank you very, very much.  


BOLTON:  Thank you, Neil.  

CAVUTO:  Always a pleasure.  All right.  


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