John Bolton hits Ossoff on national security claims

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Democrat Jon Ossoff at an 18-candidate debate in Georgia's special election (HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM)

Former Ambassador John Bolton on Thursday accused Democrat Jon Ossoff of inflating his national security bonafides and of “deceiving many Georgians in the process.”

Bolton, who was ambassador to the UN under President George W. Bush, said Ossoff has exaggerated his experience, a claim other GOP-aligned groups have also made.

Ossoff, a Democrat who is currently leading the race for the 6th congressional district special election, is a former aide to U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson.

Ossoff has repeatedly said he was a national security staffer for five years on Capitol Hill working for Johnson, and his campaign last week issued a timeline saying he had “top-secret” clearance for about five months of that time.

The conservative American Rising PAC seized on the timeline in a video unveiled  last week accusing him of falsely claiming he had top-secret clearance for all five years, though there is no evidence he ever made that assertion.

Bolton isn’t buying it.

“I saw the commotion over the distortions in the claims about national security expertise by Ossoff,” Bolton said in an interview. “I care so much about this issue that while I’m not taking sides among any of the Republicans (in the race) I just think this is something that needs to be highlighted.”

Ossoff’s campaign, however, said voters are tired of these kinds of attacks.

“Folks across the 6th District are excited about the opportunity to elect some fresh, independent leadership and move beyond partisan smears like this,” Keenan Pontoni, Ossoff’s campaign manager, said. “Jon’s record as a congressional aide working on national security and then as an investigative journalist and businessman are exactly what we need to bring accountability to Washington and help grow Metro Atlanta into an economic powerhouse.”

Bolton has not endorsed a candidate in the April 18 special election and has no connection to the 6th District — other than knowing Tom Price, who resigned this seat to become Health and Human Services secretary.

Bolton has spent the past two election cycles building his own PAC and foundation to back candidates with strong national security commitments. His Bolton PAC raised $12.5 million in the 2016 election cycle and endorsed 94 candidates.

He knows “resume inflation” happens in some campaigns, but it is harder to detect when there are 435 congressional races in a normal election year. The 6th District’s special election status makes it easier to focus on, he said.

“When it’s claims that exaggerate background and experience in national security — I felt it needed to be exposed and highlighted in the district,” he said.


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