John Bolton: Putin thinks he can play Trump 'like a fiddle'

‘Putin is smart, tough, I think he sees that he’s not faced with a serious adversary here’

The US’s former national security adviser pulled the curtain further back on the relationship between the president and Vladimir Putin, saying the Russian president believed he could play Donald Trump “like a fiddle”.

The new interview from John Bolton comes after leaked excerpts from his new book, that The White House is trying to block, said Mr Putin was likely “laughing” at the US president.

To promote the impending release of his upcoming memoir, The Room Where it Happened, Mr Bolton said during an interview with ABC News that Mr Trump was not fit for office and doesn’t have “the competence to carry out the job”.

“I think Putin thinks he can play him like a fiddle. I think Putin is smart, tough, I think he sees that he’s not faced with a serious adversary here. I don’t think he’s worried about Donald Trump,” Mr Bolton said in the interview, to air on Sunday.

“The president may well be a superb dealmaker when it comes to Manhattan real estate. Dealing with arms limitation treaties on strategic weapons, dealing in many, many other international security issues are things far removed from his life experience.”

He added: “When you’re dealing with somebody like Putin, who has made his life understanding Russia’s strategic position in the world against Donald Trump, who doesn’t enjoy reading about these issues or learning about them, it’s a very difficult position for America to be in.”

Mr Bolton’s description of the two presidents is consistent with the excerpts of a pre-publication copy of his book given to The Washington Post, in which he writes in further detail about the 2018 Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki.

During the meeting, Mr Trump sided with his Russian counterpart over whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

“This was hardly the way to do relations with Russia, and Putin had to be laughing uproariously at what he had gotten away with in Helsinki,” Mr Bolton wrote.

The Trump administration has filed a lawsuit contending the book contains classified information that was not put through the full security vetting process.

The president has pre-emptively accused Mr Bolton of lying, saying on Monday that ‘he’s been known not to tell the truth a lot”.

In the interview with ABC News’ chief global affairs correspondent, Martha Raddatz, Mr Bolton said that the president was more focused on photo ops than America’s foreign policy goals.

“There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s re-election,” Mr Bolton said.

“He was so focused on the re-election that longer-term considerations fell by the wayside.”

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