Former US national security adviser John Bolton admitted on television that he has helped to plan coups in other countries, while arguing that the January 6, 2021, riot in Washington fell short of such efforts.
The attack on the US Capitol was the result of then-president Donald Trump “just stumbling around from one idea to another”, Mr Bolton told CNN's Jake Tapper.
“As somebody who has helped plan coups d'etat, not here, but, you know, other places, it takes a lot of work,” he said.
Mr Bolton — who served as Mr Trump's national security adviser from 2018 to 2019 — did not specify which governments he had helped to overthrow, but while in his post, he advocated US military intervention in Venezuela.
January 6 was “not an attack on our democracy”, Mr Bolton said.
“It's Donald Trump looking out for Donald Trump. It's a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence,” he added.
“Ultimately, he did unleash the rioters at the Capitol. As to that, there's no doubt. But not to overthrow the constitution, to buy more time, to throw the matter back to the states, to try and redo the issue.”
An unabashed hawk, Mr Bolton served in the departments of Justice and State during three Republican administrations, starting with Ronald Reagan's in the 1980s.
He served as the US ambassador to the UN under former president George W Bush, and for decades has been recognisable by his large white moustache.
Mr Bolton unrepentantly pushed for the US invasion of Iraq and has voiced support for bombing Iran and North Korea — an interventionist approach to foreign policy that put him at odds with Mr Trump, who fired him in 2019.
His comments on the January 6 riots came as a congressional committee works to determine whether Mr Trump or his associates had a role in planning or encouraging the violent insurrection that left at least five people dead and 140 police officers injured.
On Tuesday, the committee said a tweet by the then-president promising a “wild” January 6 rally was seen as a “call to arms” by members of right-wing militia groups and other of his supporters, who went on to assault the US Capitol.