When The Inmates Run The Asylum: Bolton Book Reportedly Details Trump Quids Pro Quo

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton and President Donald Trump (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Start your day with TPM.
Sign up for the Morning Memo newsletter

Major newspapers got ahold of John Bolton’s forthcoming memoir of his time in the White House, publishing details from the book nearly simultaneously on Wednesday afternoon.

The Wall Street Journal published a full chapter of the book concerning President Trump’s dealings with China, while the Washington Post and New York Times have separate write-ups based off of copies of the book they obtained.

The releases come one day after the White House sued Bolton for breach of contract, seeking to block publication of the book, and months after Bolton declined to testify in the House’s impeachment inquiry of President Trump.

Bolton described in detail several episodes in which Trump purportedly abused his office for an edge in the 2020 election.

With regard to China, for example, Bolton accused Trump of trying to enlist China’s President Xi Jinping in his reelection campaign at a June 2019 summit in Japan.

At the meeting, Bolton wrote, Xi told Trump that certain American politicians were wrong in calling for a “new cold war with China.”

Trump, Bolton said, assumed that Xi was criticizing the Democrats, before stressing “the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

“I would print Trump’s exact words, but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise,” Bolton wrote in the excerpt published by the Wall Street Journal.

Trump later offered to shut down the prosecution of Chinese tech giant and alleged intelligence front Huawei in exchange for help with the trade deal, Bolton wrote.

President Trump’s fixation on his opponents in the Democratic Party pop up elsewhere as a vulnerability to be exploited for foreign leaders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, for example, purportedly compared Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó to Hillary Clinton in a May 2019 phone call with Trump in a bid to convince Trump to support Nicolás Maduro, the sitting President in Caracas.

A similar dynamic, Bolton wrote, played out with Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has waged a high-profile lobbying campaign to end a Manhattan federal criminal investigation of a Turkish lender for violating sanctions against Iran.

According to the Washington Post’s summary, Bolton wrote that Trump committed to Erdogan that he would end the prosecution, “explaining that the Southern District prosecutors were not his people, but were Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people.”

Bolton wrote that he took these promises to interfere in criminal investigations to Attorney General William Barr, who purportedly expressed concern “about the appearances created by the president’s behavior.”

Amid all of Bolton’s claims about the damage Trump has dealt to American alliances and foreign policy and diplomatic institutions, he took time in the book to heap criticism on the one option he had to air all of this in an American political institution: President Trump’s impeachment.

Bolton refused to testify in the proceedings, under oath publicly or in private interviews.

“These and innumerable other similar conversations with Trump formed a pattern of fundamentally unacceptable behavior that eroded the very legitimacy of the presidency,” Bolton wrote of the abuses. But of the inquiry that focused on holding the presidency accountable, Bolton wrote that “had Democratic impeachment advocates not been so obsessed with their Ukraine blitzkrieg in 2019, had they taken the time to inquire more systematically about Trump’s behavior across his entire foreign policy, the impeachment outcome might well have been different.”

On Ukraine itself, Bolton quoted Trump as saying in May 2019 that “Ukraine tried to take me down. I’m not f—ing interested in helping them,” in reference to military aid.

Later in the same meeting, Bolton wrote, Trump conditioned a White House visit from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on him being “informed [of] how Mr. Trump felt about the matter.”

The account does veer into the comical at times.

The Washington Post recounted a months-long diplomatic effort to get a signed copy of Elton John’s Rocket Man CD to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, as Trump furiously sought to convince the Pyongyang despot that the phrase was a compliment, and not an insult.

After Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned from a trip to North Korea, Trump purportedly grilled Pompeo about whether he gave Kim the CD.

“Pompeo had not,” Bolton wrote. “Getting this CD to Kim remained a high priority for several months.”

Latest Muckraker
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: