John Bolton, the former national security adviser to President Trump, excoriates the president in a forthcoming memoir, charging that he pushed Chinese President Xi Jinping to help his 2020 electoral prospects and supported the building of concentration camps in Northwest China, all the while arguing that the House impeachment inquiry did not go far enough.
After days of anticipation, contents of the book, “The Room Where It Happened,” on Bolton’s 17 months in the White House, flooded the political sphere on Wednesday, as a number of outlets — including The Hill — obtained copies of the memoir, while The Wall Street Journal published a full excerpt on the president’s actions regarding China. Included were scathing revelations, headlined by accusations that Trump asked Xi during a summit dinner in 2019 for Beijing to purchase increased amounts of agricultural products, which he said would help his chances of winning farm states and a second term in office.
“In their meeting in Osaka on June 29, Xi told Trump that the U.S.-China relationship was the most important in the world. He said that some (unnamed) American political figures were making erroneous judgments by calling for a new cold war with China,” Bolton wrote. “Whether Xi meant to finger the Democrats or some of us sitting on the U.S. side of the table, I don’t know, but Trump immediately assumed that Xi meant the Democrats.”
“Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility to China among the Democrats. Trump then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability and pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome,” Bolton continued. “I would print Trump’s exact words, but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise.”
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer denied the claim during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, calling it “absolutely untrue,” adding that it “never happened” (The Hill).
Bolton, who is embarking on a media tour as part of the book’s official release on Tuesday, also describes multiple instances where Trump pushed to end criminal investigations to “give personal favors to dictators he liked,” including Xi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Along with his endless criticisms of Trump, he does not spare any for House Democrats. In a brushback pitch of sorts, Bolton argues that House Democrats committed “impeachment malpractice” by focusing solely on the Ukraine matter and speeding up the timeline, saying that they should have broadened the scope of the probe to Trump’s willingness to intervene in key investigations (The Hill).
Finally, Bolton also writes that Trump supported Xi’s actions to build concentration camps in the Xinjiang province to target Uighur Muslims.
“At the opening dinner of the Osaka G-20 meeting in June 2019, with only interpreters present, Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang,” Bolton wrote. “According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do. The National Security Council’s top Asia staffer, Matthew Pottinger, told me that Trump said something very similar during his November 2017 trip to China.”
As Bolton’s narrative was dissected by the news media, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is prominently featured in his former colleague’s memoir, met with Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Yang Jiechi in Hawaii to discuss relations between the two countries.
The Hill: Trump signs bill to sanction Chinese officials over Uighur rights.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Bolton exposé makes Trump figure of mockery.
The Hill: Bolton claims Trump called for scumbag journalists to be “executed.”
Late Wednesday, Trump fired back at Bolton, saying in interviews that the national security hawk is “a liar” who everybody hated within the White House, arguing that he broke the law.
“He was a washed-up guy. I gave him a chance. He couldn’t get Senate confirmed so I gave him a non-Senate confirmed position where I could just put him there, see how he worked,” Trump told Fox News’s Sean Hannity. However, The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant notes, Trump did not explicitly deny any specific allegations in the book, deciding instead to defend his administration’s policies, declaring that “nobody has been tougher on Russia or China than I have.”
The New York Times: Does Trump want to fight for a second term? His self-sabotage worries aides.
The Washington Post: Former Vice President Joe Biden reacts to allegations against Trump in Bolton book, calls them “morally repugnant.”
The immediate blowback against Bolton, a mainstay in conservative circles, was fierce from all comers, according to The Hill’s Brett Samuels. Democrats loudly complained about the new information Wednesday, noting that Bolton’s previously refused to testify before the House during impeachment hearings unless a judge ordered him to do so.
“When Bolton was asked, he refused, and said he’d sue if subpoenaed. Instead, he saved it for a book,” tweeted House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who oversaw the Democratic impeachment effort. “Bolton may be an author, but he’s no patriot.”
On the right, Republicans likened Bolton to a scorned lover who just wants to sell copies of his book. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of the president’s most ardent supporters, dismissed the book out of hand, arguing Bolton has “an ax to grind” (CNN).
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is expected to legally prosecute Bolton, claiming that he is divulging classified information with the book’s release. According to the Los Angeles Times, federal prosecutors are weighing whether to criminally charge the former national security adviser, while the Department of Justice is pushing to block the memoir’s publication.