Friday’s NSC meeting comes a week and a half after Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Trump was roundly criticized for his comments at a news conference there siding with Putin — who has denied that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election — over U.S. intelligence agencies, which have concluded based on evidence that Russia did interfere.
In the days that followed, Trump waffled between saying he has full faith in the U.S. intelligence agencies and casting doubt on Russia’s election interference. He tweeted last weekend that “it is all a big hoax.”
But when he sits down Friday with his national security team — which includes Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and intelligence and military chiefs — Trump is expected to be confronted with the government’s latest intelligence regarding election threats, including from Russia.
It was unclear what Friday’s agenda entailed, but it would be striking to convene a meeting on election security without delving into the Russian threat — especially as the president is under scrutiny for his warm overtures to Putin.
For months now, Trump’s own intelligence officials have publicly warned that Russia could try to interfere in future elections, including this fall’s midterms.
In his short tenure, Bolton has come under some internal criticism for running an insular operation and not always including agency heads in national security discussions. The Principals Committee meetings this week give key stakeholders an opportunity to weigh in on two of the most fraught foreign policy topics of the day.
Trump thrust Iran back into the headlines over the weekend with an all-caps tweet warning Iranian President Hassan Rouhani of a military strike with dire consequences. He was responding to Rouhani’s comment that war with Iran would be “the mother of all wars.”
On North Korea, Trump has publicly expressed high hopes that the rogue state will denuclearize following his summit last month with leader Kim Jong Un. Privately, however, Trump and other administration officials have expressed frustration with the slow pace of progress in subsequent talks with the North Koreans.