White House national security adviser John Bolton set a low bar Sunday for President Donald Trump’s planned Monday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“How this conversation is going to go, I think, will be determined by the two parties,” Bolton told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl Sunday morning. “We have asked, and the Russians have agreed, that it will be basically unstructured. We’re not looking for concrete deliverables here.”
He added, parrying some lawmakers’ calls that other Americans be in the room with Trump during the meeting: “I think it’s very important that the President have a direct one-on-one conversation with President Putin.”
“Now we’ll have to see, given that these are allegations concerning GRU agents, obviously part of the Russian state, what he says about it now,” Bolton said at the top of the interview, referring to Putin’s potential response to the detailed indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers this week on several charges related to the 2016 hacking and theft of Democratic emails.
The White House adviser noted that Putin had previously stressed to him that the “Russian state” hadn’t been involved.
Karl asked if Trump would pressure Putin to turn over the 12 charged Russians to face trial in the United States. Trump said in an interview taped Saturday that he “hadn’t thought” to ask Putin about extradition.
“The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, so it’s pretty hard to imagine how that would happen,” Bolton said. He said it was possible the United States would approach INTERPOL with an effort to arrest the Russians.
“I think it’s pretty silly for the President to demand something that he can’t get legally,” he added, pressed on whether Trump would demand extradition.
“I think the President will handle this as he chooses. I think he’ll put it to President Putin. He said he’s going to do that. He’ll listen to President Putin’s response, and we’ll go from there,” Bolton said, speaking generally about the planned meeting.
“I’m the national security adviser, I’m not the national security decision maker,” he added.
Asked if the President would accede to Russian wishes and recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea, Bolton said simply, “That is not the policy of the United States.”
“That’s not on the agenda,” Bolton said, asked if Trump would rule out ending the United States’ military exercises with Baltic allies.
“Withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria?” Karl asked.
Without getting into specifics, Bolton said the situation in Syria was “getting more serious,” and that “we are there until the ISIS territorial caliphate is removed, and as long as the Iranian menace continues throughout the Middle East.”