National Security Advisor John R. Bolton listens as President Donald J. Trump meets with Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte in the Oval Office at the White House on Thursday, July 18th, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Several of President Donald Trump’s most loyal donors and supporters are telling other conservative financiers to shun former national security advisor John Bolton’s political action committee and super PAC as he prepares to publish a memoir that is reportedly critical of the administration.
The financiers are signaling to their networks not to give to his committees following a report in The New York Times about claims Bolton made in a draft of the book, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter who declined to be named in order to speak freely about Bolton.
The move by these donors to take on Bolton is the latest example of how Trump has command of those who fund the Republican Party.
“You’re on the president’s side or you’re not. It’s simple,” said Arthur Schwartz, a Republican consultant with close ties to the White House.
Bolton is a longtime pillar of the Republican foreign policy establishment. Known for his hawkish views on adversarial nations such as Iran and North Korea, Bolton served in the Reagan administration as well as the administrations of both President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush.
Bolton runs a super PAC and a PAC that are currently backing five Republican lawmakers: Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Lee Zeldin of New York. All five candidates are up for reelection this year. The PACs were originally created in 2013 to support candidates who favor strong national security policies.
Now Trump loyalists are trying to dismantle Bolton’s influence by targeting his political action committees.
“He’s dead to everyone,” said a longtime aide of a Trump megadonor. This person added that it’s a “safe assumption” that Bolton’s PACs will not survive with the effort being made against him.
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, reveled in the onslaught — and predicted that Bolton will have no allies left in Washington by the end of the week.
“Bolton is going to wake up Thursday, come to the sad realization that he’s running out of usefulness to his newfound Democrat/media ‘friends’ and will be facing a very lonely end to his lackluster (could never get Senate confirmation) career,” Trump Jr. said in a written message sent to CNBC through a representative. He was referring to how Bolton was a recess appointment to the role of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
A spokeswoman for Bolton did not return a request for comment, nor did representatives for the lawmakers backed by the Bolton committees.
Shortly after leaving the White House in September, Bolton reopened both of his political operations. In the past, the organizations have relied on contributions from wealthy donors who are now staunch financial supporters of the president, including Richard Uihlein, the founder of shipping supply company Uline; Bernard Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot; and real estate executive Geoff Palmer.
Onetime major Trump backer Robert Mercer spent millions investing in Bolton’s super PAC. While Mercer has signaled he may not get directly involved with Trump’s reelection, his family nonprofit has still been spending millions on conservative causes that align with the president’s agenda.
None of these donors gave to Bolton’s PAC or super PAC since he departed the administration, Federal Election Commission filings show. Both organizations combined raised just over $120,000 but have over $2 million on hand. Two of the biggest checks to the PAC came from Bolton and his wife, Gretchen, records show.
Starting in 2014, the Bolton super PAC hired Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that was accused of harvesting Facebook user data in the 2016 election, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Mercer and his daughter Rebekah helped fund the project, before the company announced they were closing in 2018.
A draft of Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened,” reportedly depicts a time when Trump told his former advisor to help with an alleged pressure campaign on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The president hoped, according to reports about Bolton’s draft, that the national security advisor’s effort would lead to an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his chief political rivals running for president. Trump has denied that the conversation ever took place and the National Security Council has said a review of the book shows that it “appears to contain significant amounts of classified information.”
The book is scheduled to be released in March, although the White House has threatened against publication.
Bolton had said he’d be willing to testify during the Senate impeachment proceedings if he were to be subpoenaed. He reportedly defended the integrity of witnesses who testified during the House impeachment inquiry at a recent event in Austin, Texas. The Senate voted against calling witnesses for their impeachment trial on Friday.
Several of the president’s backers in the big-money donor world see Bolton’s actions as helpful to Democrats.
“Giving money to Bolton is no different than giving money to Schumer, Pelosi or Schiff,” Schwartz, the Republican consultant, said, referring to Democratic lawmakers Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff, both of California. “You can’t stand with the president and also stand with Bolton,” he said. Schwartz contributed $50,000 in 2018 to America First Action, a super PAC pushing Trump’s reelection effort.
Dan Eberhart, who has given to a wide range of Republican causes, says he and allies are committed to shunning Bolton.
“GOP donors are with the president,” Eberhart said. “Ambassador Bolton might as well be a Democrat.”