Former National Security adviser John Bolton last year reportedly expressed his concern to Attorney General Bill Barr that the President was effectively doing favors for the leaders of two foreign countries.
In response, Barr reportedly expressed his own concerns — specifically, that Trump had made it look as if he had an undue influence over independent investigations that affected the two countries in question, China and Turkey.
The New York Times on Monday reported the discussion, which the paper said was contained in a draft manuscript of an upcoming book from Bolton.
In the same manuscript, the Times reported Sunday, Bolton said that president Donald Trump had explicitly tied aid that he was withholding to political dirt he wanted from Ukraine — an issue at the center of the current impeachment trial against Trump. A draft of the book was submitted to the White House for security review last month.
A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment for the story, the Times said.
According to Bolton’s manuscript, Barr reportedly expressed concerns to Bolton about the Chinese telecom firm ZTE, and specifically about Trump’s conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the firm.
In 2016, the Department of Commerce found that the company had violated U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea. The firm agreed to plead guilt and pay a fine for the violation the next year, and in 2018 Trump lifted sanctions that had been in place against ZTE, despite the protestation of many in Congress.
According to the Times, Barr also cited his concerns over Trump’s conversations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2018 about Halkbank.
The state-owned bank was under investigation at the time for fraud and money laundering, part of an alleged scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions. Ultimately, the bank was charged in October in the Southern District of New York.