White House National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton talks to reporters Wednesday, May 1, 2019, outside the West Wing entrance of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

John Bolton Claims Experience In Planning Foreign Coups

Former national security adviser to the Trump presidency John Bolton claimed on Tuesday to have had experience in planning coups d’etat, while disputing a description of the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol as a coup d’etat by Donald Trump.

Speaking to Jake Tapper on CNN’s The Lead, Bolton disputed that Trump could “carefully plan” a coup d’etat, saying that “That’s not the way Donald Trump does things”. Instead, “It’s rambling from one half, vast idea to another, one plan that falls through and another comes up — that’s what he was doing.”

Bolton then continued:

“As somebody who has helped plan coups d’etat — not here, but, you know, other places — it takes a lot of work, and that’s not what (Trump) did.”

Tapper then pressed Bolton on the coups he claimed to have been involved in planning, asking if they were “successful coups”. Bolton responded that he had written about United States support for a failed attempt to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in 2019 in his 2020 memoir, The Room Where It Happened, noting:

“Not that we had all that much to do with it, but I saw what it took for an opposition to try and overturn an illegally elected president and they failed. The notion that Donald Trump was half as competent as the Venezuelan opposition is laughable.”

The 2019 attempt to overthrow Maduro appears to have been a reference to 2019 calls by Juan Guaidó, considered by the U.S. as Venezuela’s rightful president following Venezuela’s presidential crisis, for the Venezuelan military and security services to at least distance themselves from Maduro’s regime, if not outright overthrow him. While several dozen members of the military defected in response to Guaidó’s campaign of protests, the vast majority of Venezuelan security forces remained loyal to Maduro. While Maduro accused it of being a U.S. backed coup, Bolton himself declared at the time that it was “not a coup”.

Bolton’s claims also bring to mind an attempted infiltration of Venezuela by nearly 60 Venezuelan fighters opposed to Maduro and two former US Green Berets in May 2020. The plan failed shortly after launch when they were discovered by Venezuelan security forces, with Maduro’s regime claiming to have killed eight Venezuelan “mercenaries” and capturing the two Green Berets and eleven Venezuelans.

Subsequent investigations by the press revealed dubious planning by the “mastermind” of the plot, former Green Beret Jordan Goudreau, to the point where he tagged Trump’s Twitter account in a Twitter post by his private military company Silvercorp USA announcing the infiltration attempt. Despite that, he claimed to the Associated Press that he had intended for the 60 men to be a “catalyst” for a larger uprising in the ranks of Venezuelan security forces.

The apparent absence of planning and extreme optimism expressed by Goudreau resulted in the attempt becoming derisively referred to as the “stupid Bay of Pigs”, in reference to the similarly botched CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961.

At the time, both the Trump administration and Guaidó sought to distance themselves from Goudreau and Silvercorp USA. Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State at the time, denied that Washington had any “direct contact” with Goudreau. Three people close to Guaidó told the Associated Press that contact with Goudreau had not went past an exploratory stage, due to the plans presented being deemed a suicide mission by the Venuzelan opposition.