Bolton urges Republicans to 'purge the taint of Trumpism'

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Former national security adviser turned Trump critic John Bolton urged his party to "purge the taint of Trumpism," saying Monday that President Donald Trump was a dangerous historical anomaly for Republicans.

"There has to be a serious conversation in the Republican Party about how to remove the taint of what Trump has done, how to repair the damage," Bolton told MSNBC’s Katy Tur. "And while I think the damage is considerable, I think it can be repaired, and it should be repaired. And it should be — from the purely limited perspective of the party, it should be the highest priority going forward."

Bolton also predicted Trump’s influence will decline substantially following last week’s storming of the Capitol. The veteran Republican official added he felt his views on removing Trumpism from the party was widely shared among his peers.

Bolton called Trump an "aberration in American politics," and pushed back on the idea that the whole Republican Party was responsible for Trump’s behavior and repeated dismantling of norms.

"I don’t think you can attribute Trump to everybody else," Bolton said. "To try and blame everybody else, I think, is simply more Washington politics. The focus here should be on the real problem, the center of the problem, and that’s Donald Trump.

Bolton urged Republicans to be more stringent in selecting their presidential nominees, ensuring they have "real character" and "a real philosophy, as opposed to people like Donald Trump."

When asked if he felt Republicans who supported Trump’s false claims of widespread election malfeasance — the driving ideology behind Wednesday’s Capitol attack — Bolton said he doesn’t "see any reason why they shouldn’t be held accountable." Tur asked specifically about Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, who led the Senate efforts to challenge the Electoral College results, but Bolton demurred on issuing individual judgments.

"I think individual Republicans are going to have to make decisions whether they support individuals who have participated in this effort to stop the election from being certified. And I think there’s a lot that remains to be seen from their behavior," Bolton said.

Bolton has been vocal about his dismay at his time in the Trump White House. In his post-mortem book, "The Room Where it Happened," Bolton portrayed Trump as unfamiliar with basic facts and driven above all by reelection — often leading to instances that Bolton said warranted investigating by the 2019 House impeachment probe. The White House tried to stop the book’s publication in the courts at the time, but were unsuccessful. The book was released last June.

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