Childhood & Early Life
John Bolton was born on November 20, 1948, in the working-class neighborhood of Yale Heights in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, to Virginia Clara 'Ginny', a housewife, and Edward Jackson 'Jack' Bolton, a fireman.
Attending the McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland, on scholarship, he volunteered to support conservative Republican nominee Barry Goldwater's unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1964.
After completing school in 1966, he went to Yale University where he participated in the Yale Political Union before graduating 'summa cum laude' with a bachelor's degree in 1970. He interned for Richard Nixon’s Vice-President Spiro Agnew in the summer of 1972 and obtained his Juris Doctor degree two years later from Yale Law School, where he befriended future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
While he supported the Vietnam War, he avoided combat by joining the Maryland Air National Guard, a decision he later defended saying that he considered the war already lost. In 1970, he trained at Fort Polk, Louisiana, with the Maryland Army National Guard, and later enlisted in the United States Army Reserve after serving in the National Guard for four years.
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In 1974, John Bolton moved to Washington, D.C. and began his legal career as an associate at the law firm Covington & Burling, where he worked for about a decade. He was instrumental in taking the landmark federal lawsuit 'Buckley v. Valeo' (1976) to the Supreme Court, where he successfully argued against strict limits on campaign spending.
He joined the Ronald Reagan Justice Department as an assistant attorney general in 1985 and also held several positions in the US Agency for International Development. He was involved in the Iran–Contra scandal and shepherded the judicial nomination process for Antonin Scalia and Robert Bork, the latter of which, though unsuccessful, started the trend of fiercely partisan high-court nominations.
He was Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs under the presidency of George H.W. Bush in 1989-1993 and later played an important role in George W. Bush's successful presidential campaign in 2000. John Bolton became an active member of the prominent conservative organizations during the 1990s, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Project for the New American Century and the Republican National Committee.
Being appointed as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs in the Bush administration in May 2001, he withdrew support for International Criminal Court and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Also that year, he successfully halted the biological weapons conference in Geneva because allowing spot inspections of suspected US weapons sites would undermine national security.
Following the 9/11 terror attacks, as Bush labeled Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as 'rogue nations' presumed of developing weapons of mass destruction, Bolton extended the list to include Cuba, Libya, and Syria. In May 2002, he accused the Cuban government of developing biological weapons, a claim that was not supported by the State Department’s internal intelligence bureau.
In 2002, he orchestrated the removal of Brazilian diplomat José Bustani as the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for being an obstacle in the US invasion of Iraq. Bustani, in charge of the Chemical Weapons Convention, was negotiating with the Iraqi government which, if successful, would have called for an immediate external inspection, with the possibility of negating the need for an invasion.
President Bush nominated him as the US Ambassador to the United Nations in March 2005, but he was rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate for his past history of "trying to manipulate intelligence to justify his views". He was nevertheless made ambassador to the UN in a 'recess appointment', but as the chances for his second term dwindled after the Democrats became the majority, he resigned from his post in December 2006.
In the following years, he continued to work closely with various conservative organizations, became a regular consultant on Fox News, and considered running for presidency in 2012, eventually serving as an adviser to Mitt Romney. According to a financial disclosure in 2018 prior to joining the Trump administration, he had earned $2.2 million in 2017, including $569,000 from Fox News and $747,000 from various speaking assignments.
John Bolton, who was earlier invited by President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago mansion in 2017, along with lieutenant general H. R. McMaster, lost the post of national-security adviser to the latter at the time. However, Trump announced in March 2018 that Bolton would replace McMaster as head of the National Security Council, following which he assumed office on April 9 and immediately forced several officials to resign.
From the very beginning, he clashed with President Trump on several important issues, including the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan and negotiations with North Korea. He wanted to extend US military presence in Syria, apparently to put pressure on Iran, while Trump had already suggested that the US mission in Syria was nearing its end.
As someone who has maintained for a long time that North Korea would never give up its nuclear weapons, he thought that Trump's attempt at negotiations only bought the regime more time. His correct assertion of North Korea's violation of UN's resolutions was ignored by Trump, who was also against regime change in Iran, and eventually fired Bolton in September, even though Bolton claimed to have resigned.
In the wake of the Ukraine scandal, after the House of Representatives launched an impeachment inquiry against Trump in September 2019, several former aides testified that John Bolton had called the Ukraine situation a "drug deal". He initially refused to testify without a court order, but later declared that he was prepared to testify during the Senate impeachment trial if subpoenaed, which the Senate voted not to, before acquitting Trump.