WASHINGTON -- Former national security adviser John Bolton said Tuesday that it may have been a "mistake" not to challenge President Donald Trump more aggressively during his tenure at the White House but that he tried to focus on U.S. foreign policy rather than on Trump's actions.
"I'm not an investigator," Bolton said during a Washington Post Live event. "I had plenty of stuff to do... . I told other White House advisers of my concern [and] I tried to do my job."
Bolton, who has come under intensifying criticism about the motivations behind his new book, The Room Where It Happened, said Americans have a misconception about the ability of White House advisers to challenge the president, suggesting that such pushback may have been futile but that he couldn't say for certain.
"Service in the White House is not like the West Wing," he said, referring to the TV drama. "There aren't dramatic confrontations with the president."
"It's easy from the outside to say that was wrong, and maybe it was a mistake," Bolton added.
The lifelong Republican released his memoir on Tuesday after a high-profile legal battle with the White House and advanced excerpts of the 592-page book ensured its place on bestseller lists.
The foreign-policy hawk has come under sustained attack from the president, who on Tuesday called him a "washed up Creepster" and a "lowlife."
The White House has accused Bolton of publishing classified information. A judge on Saturday rejected a request to block the sale of the book but said Bolton probably "jeopardized national security" and exposed himself to criminal prosecution.
Republicans in Congress have also impugned Bolton's motives, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California saying, "Money drives a lot of people to say a lot of things," and tweeting that the book "could jeopardize our national security. Appalling."
Democrats, meanwhile, have expressed disgust at Bolton's decision to wait until the publication of his book to reveal his allegation that the president's wrongdoing went far beyond the scope of the House impeachment probe, an assertion to which Bolton did not testify.
"I don't want to pay money for a book that was a substitute for testifying before Congress about the well-being of the American people," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Bolton told The Post that he entered the Trump administration hoping the then-ubiquitous stories of Trump's chaotic and fickle management style were exaggerated, but soon found out that they were accurate.
Bolton said the "most disturbing moment in the early days" of his tenure was at the NATO summit in Brussels in 2018 when Trump was "really was very close to withdrawing" from the alliance. Bolton said he, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-Defense Secretary James Mattis did everything they could to prevent him from doing so.
"We all worked in various ways to help persuade the president not actually to withdraw," he said. "That whole incident, which played out over a 48-hour period, was very unnerving to me."