National security adviser John Bolton was paid $115,000 in the past year to participate in two panel discussions sponsored by the foundation of an Ukrainian steel magnate — including one in Kiev last September, during which Bolton reassured the audience that President Trump would not radically change U.S. foreign policy.
“The notion that [Trump’s election] is going to represent a dramatic break in foreign policy is just wrong,” Bolton said, responding to a question from a British interviewer. “Calm down, for God’s sake,” he continued.
Bolton’s appearances at the Kiev event and at another event in Munich this February were paid for by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, according a financial disclosure form released Monday by the White House.
A spokeswoman for Pinchuk, Natalia Vovk, said the group invited Bolton to speak as part of an effort to “attract the best speakers who represent different points of view from the political spectrum of their countries.”
A spokesman for Bolton declined to comment.
The payment from the Pinchuk foundation was the largest single speaking fee Bolton received in the past year, according to his disclosure. In all, Bolton reported making $747,000 in speaking fees and $2.2 million in total income, including $569,000 from Fox News, for which he was a paid contributor.
Pinchuk has spent years working to create closer ties between Ukraine and the United States and Western Europe. Along the way, he has also put money into the charities — and, sometimes, the pockets — of American political figures.
Pinchuk has donated more than $10 million to the family foundation of former president Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. In 2011, Pinchuk met with one of Clinton’s aides at the State Department to relay a message from Ukraine’s president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych. The meeting was described in Clinton emails later released by the State Department.
In 2015, when Donald Trump was a leading Republican candidate for president, Pinchuk’s foundation donated $150,000 to Trump’s personal charity. The payment was for a 20-minute speech to the Yalta European Strategy group’s 2015 meeting in Kiev, made by video conference. The New York Times later reported that Michael Cohen — Trump’s personal attorney — was involved in arranging the payment.
Bolton’s first appearance at a Pinchuk-backed gathering came last fall, when he participated in a discussion panel in Kiev with former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R), former Defense secretary Robert Gates and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.
Asked about Trump during the discussion, Bolton said “I didn’t support him” in the GOP primary, according to a video of the event. He added that Trump “doesn’t care as much about policy as other American presidents have. That doesn’t reflect my view, but it reflects his view.”
A month before he replaced H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, Bolton appeared at another Pinchuk Foundation-backed event in Munich.
He spoke about Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign and said he saw no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russians, according to a video of the event. However, Bolton said that Russia’s attempts to interfere in U.S. politics — including its efforts to help Trump — were “unacceptable.”
“I think that constitutes an act of war by Russia against the American constitutional system,” Bolton said.
In his financial disclosures, Bolton also reported a speaking fee from Deutsche Bank, which paid him $72,000 to give a speech in May 2017. The bank declined to comment on the contents of his address.
In addition, the British bank HSBC paid Bolton $46,500 in June and August of last year to speak to two gatherings of its clients — hedge fund leaders and other investors — about recent world events, a bank spokesman said.