On Sunday, The Daily Wire reported that former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton had called allegations of Russian interference into the US election “false flag operations.” He made the comments during an interview with Fox News, shortly after The Washington Post reported that the CIA had allegedly found clear evidence that Kremlin-backed hackers had attempted to influence the most recent American presidential election. The CIA has yet to explicitly corroborate the Post’s report, but a bipartisan coalition of senators, including John McCain and Chuck Schumer, has called for a thorough investigation into Russia’s apparent hacking activities.
For his part, Bolton was skeptical about what he thought to be a premature assessment of a complicated situation. He told Fox’s Eric Shawn Sunday that someone other than Russia could have been behind the hacks. The following transcript details the relevant part of the exchange:
Eric Shawn: I mean, false flag by whom? Here’s the Washington Post, the Post reported the CIA has concluded that individuals with close ties to the Russian government hacked the emails. Intelligence officials have determined that Russia’s goal was to help Trump win, rather than simply undermine confidence in the election. Are you actually accusing someone here in this administration, or the intelligence community, of trying to throw something?
John Bolton: “We just don’t know. But I believe that intelligence has been politicized in the Obama administration to a very significant degree.”
Several publications and media outlets assumed that Bolton was implying that the Obama administration was behind the “false flag operation.” See below:
John Bolton suggests DNC hack was potentially a false flag operation by the Obama administration pic.twitter.com/3rHLwHawR8— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) December 12, 2016
But according to Bolton’s representatives, the former ambassador’s words were taken out of context. Clearing the record, Bolton’s representatives pushed back against media reports alleging that the federal government had conducted a “false flag operation.”
When asked by Shawn to clarify whose hands were behind the “false flag,” Bolton answered “We don’t know.”
Bolton, say his reps, was responding to the second part of Shawn’s question when he said: “But I believe that intelligence has been politicized in the Obama administration to a very significant degree.”
Questioning the lack of transparency from the Obama administration, Bolton appeared to imply that American intelligence gathering writ-large “has been politicized” by the current president, and therefore it’s reasonable to take allegations of Russian hacking at face value. He wasn’t suggesting that the Obama administration was behind the “false flag,” stress his reps.
“The Ambassador did not suggest that the Obama administration could have been behind the alleged Russian election hack,” a Bolton spokesman tells The Daily Wire. “To assume otherwise is simply an assumption and is false. He has made it unambiguously clear that "false flag" is a reference to foreign entities such as China, North Korea, Iran, etc.”
Bolton, himself, clarified his position further on Monday morning’s Fox & Friends. Criticizing “typical bad reporting,” the former ambassador stated thusly:
There are reports out that I said on Fox yesterday that I thought that the Obama administration had conducted the hack into the RNC and the DNC. It’s typical bad reporting. I’ve never believed that. I didn’t believe that yesterday. I don’t believe it today. What I do think the administration has done consistently for eight years is politicize intelligence.