Reports alleging that ex-President Donald Trump shared U.S. nuclear submarine secrets with an Australian billionaire came as no surprise to former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who told CNN that Trump has “no filter between his brain and his mouth” and that “he’s not fit for the job” of president.
Bolton was reacting to news that surfaced Thursday, in which sources alleged that Trump shared classified information regarding the American nuclear fleet with Anthony Pratt, CEO of the U.S.-based packaging company Pratt Industries. According to the account, first revealed by ABC News, Trump discussed the sensitive information with Pratt during a conversation at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in April 2021.
The report could play a key role in the Department of Justice (DOJ) criminal case against Trump, in which he’s accused of mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House. The former president has pleaded not guilty to the 40 federal felony charges.
While speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday, Bolton said that the report from ABC News “unfortunately” sounds like something Trump would do, adding that the former president has “no filter between his brain and his mouth.”
“I think that’s a big part of the problem here, but it displays itself in a lot of different ways,” added Bolton—who served as Trump’s third of four national security advisers— from April 2018 to September 2019. Trump pushed Bolton out due to philosophical differences.
The former intelligence official pointed to the “famous story” of Trump sharing a sensitive photograph of an Iranian failed missile launch to his Twitter account in August 2019. Bolton said that at the time, the photo could have given “forensics experts and our enemies real evidence” about the U.S. photographic capabilities.
“I think it is something for foreign leaders to worry about,” Bolton continued. “They may trust president’s advisers, they may trust others they deal with on a regular basis, but they’d always have to worry that information that got to Trump might slip out in an unguarded moment.”
Bolton added during his appearance on CNN that, if true, Trump’s conversation with Pratt could “be very serious,” and said that it sets a bad example for others working in national security if the former president is able to “get away” with sharing secrets.
“I think the core argument Republicans in particular ought to be making about Trump is that he’s not fit for the job,” Bolton continued when asked by Blitzer if Trump’s opponents in the 2024 election should “make the case” that he poses a national security threat.
“He doesn’t understand the full nature of his responsibilities in the national security area,” Bolton said. “He didn’t know much about the government when he was inaugurated in 2017, he learned very little since then.”
“And I think it’s a real problem when you have somebody who’s more interested in talking about himself, his own self-aggrandizement, seeing everything through the prism of whether it benefits Donald Trump. These are the attributes of somebody who shouldn’t sit in the Oval Office,” Bolton added.
Former intelligence officials have also expressed their concerns regarding reports of Trump allegedly sharing nuclear fleet information. James Clapper, director of national intelligence under the administration of former President Barack Obama, previously told CNN that the accusations against Trump were “unfortunately another in a long litany of violations of our national security by a failure to properly protect such sensitive information.”
“If this involved sea-launch ballistic missiles and the subs that carry them, this is a part of our national strategic arsenal, which gets to the very essence of survival of the nation,” Clapper added. “So it’s hard to overstate—if this is true—how serious this is by affirming knowledge of these submarines with foreigners.”
It’s not known what information Trump allegedly shared with Pratt, although ABC News reported that Pratt “described Trump’s remarks” to at least 45 other people after their conversation. Sources familiar with the matter also told ABC News that Pratt has been interviewed at least twice by the DOJ as part of its investigation of Trump.
Bolton has previously spoken out against his former boss in light of the classified- documents investigation. In August, the former security adviser told CNN that Trump had a “constant fixation on trying to hold on to documents” while in the Oval Office.
In a Truth Social post Friday afternoon, Trump dismissed reports regarding his and Pratt’s conversation as “false and ridiculous,” blaming it on “corrupt prosecutors trying to interfere with the Presidential Election of 2024.”
“The ridiculous story put out today about me talking to a Mar-a-Lago member about U.S. Submarines, is false and ridiculous, other than the fact that I will often state that we make the best Submarines and Military Equipment anywhere in the World—A pretty well known fact!” Trump wrote.
“With that being said, I will always promote the Greatness of America—and its Military Equipment. The alternative would be for Allies, and others, to buy from Russia, China, or elsewhere. I like creating jobs in America, which was one of my most successful achievements as President!” he added.
Newsweek has sent a request for comment to Trump’s press team regarding ABC News’ report, which has not been returned.
Trump has been the overwhelming front-runner ahead of the 2024 GOP presidential primary election. After skipping the first two debates, the former president shares a 40-plus-point lead over his Republican rivals, according to recent polling by ABC News/Washington Post and FiveThirtyEight.
Update 10/06/23, 10:52 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and background.