In a sit-down Meet the Press interview broadcast Sunday, host Chuck Todd asked Trump if he was “being pushed into military action against Iran” by his advisers – presumably pointing to the aggressive pronouncements from National Security Advisor John Bolton.
“I have two groups of people. I have doves and I have hawks,” replied Trump. “John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him he’d take on the whole world at one time, okay?”
Trump then brushed away concerns about the influence of Bolton, who also served in the White House during the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations.
“That doesn’t matter because I want both sides,” said Trump.
Trump went on to defend his record of preserving peace – including speaking out against the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the decision to call off a strike against Iran in response to a drone downing this week, because it would not have been “proportionate” and would have resulted in “150 dead people.”
This was the second time in 24 hours that Trump was forced to back Bolton, after saying on Saturday that the official is “doing a very good job” but adding that he “disagrees very much” with him on the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Bolton himself spent Sunday in Tel Aviv, warning Tehran not to “mistake US prudence and discretion for weakness” and asking his audience to “stay tuned” for further developments in the stand-off.
Following his appointment last year, Bolton has used his post to advocate for regime change in Iran and Venezuela, and is considered the architect of the increased American-backed attempts to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.