Donald Trump pleaded for China to help him get re-elected
In a withering behind-the-scenes portrayal, US President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton has accused him of sweeping misdeeds that included explicitly seeking Chinese President Xi Jinping’s help to win re-election.
Mr Bolton, a long-time foreign policy hawk who Mr Trump fired last September over policy differences, also said the US President had expressed a willingness to halt criminal investigations to give “personal favours to dictators he liked”, according to a book excerpt published in The New York Times ahead of its release.
“Trump’s conversations with Xi reflected not only the incoherence in his trade policy but also the confluence in Trump’s mind of his own political interests and U.S. national interests. Trump commingled the personal and the national not just on trade questions but across the whole field of national security. I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations,” Bolton writes in the book.
Together, the excerpts portray a US president mocked by his top advisers who exposed himself to far more extensive accusations of impropriety than those that drove the Democratic-led House of Representatives to impeach him last year. He was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate in early February.
The 577-page book paints an unvarnished portrait of Trump and his administration, lending the most vivid first-person account yet of how Trump conducts himself in office. Several other former officials have written books, but they have been almost entirely flattering of the president. Other former officials have indicated they were saving their accounts of their time working for Trump until after he left office in order to speak more candidly. The Associated Press obtained a copy of Bolton’s book in advance of its release next week.
As for the meeting with the Chinese president in Osaka, Japan, Bolton wrote that Trump told Xi that Democrats were hostile to China.
“He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” Bolton said. “He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”
Bolton wrote that he would print Trump’s exact words, “but the government’s pre-publication review process has decided otherwise.”
The book, titled “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” which is set to be released Tuesday by Simon & Schuster, has been the subject of a lengthy battle between Bolton and the White House.
The Department of Justice filed suit Tuesday in an effort to delay publication of the book, claiming it still contained highly classified information and a required review by the National Security Council had not been concluded. According to the filing, a career official determined that no classified material remained in April but that national security advisor Robert O’Brien initiated a secondary review that deemed additional information to be classified.
The White House’s contention that so much of the book was classified appeared to be a tacit admission that many of Bolton’s allegations were accurate — as inaccurate information could not be classified.
Bolton wrote that, due to the review process, he made “numerous changes to the manuscript in order to obtain clearance to publish, the vast bulk of which, in my view, did not change the facts set forth.” He said in some cases he was asked to add phrases like, “in my view,” to make it clear he was expressing his opinion instead of relying on sensitive information. In others, he was asked to describe things more generally. He was asked to remove quotation marks nearly every time he recounts conversation between Trump and foreign leaders and himself and foreign leaders.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Wednesday that he attended a meeting between Trump and Xi at the Group of 20 nations in Osaka, but he never heard Trump pleading with Xi to buy more agriculture products to ensure he would win reelection. Lighthizer spoke at a Senate hearing on trade issues and was asked about Bolton’s recollection of events.
Beijing’s repression of its Uighur citizens also proceeded apace during the Trump administration, Bolton writes, relating how 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, and “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 White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the specifics in Bolton’s book. In advance of the public reports about the details, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the book was “full of classified information, which is inexcusable.”