The Trump administration has sued to block John Bolton's White House memoir for being an alleged threat to national security—but the book portrays the "erratic" President Trump himself as the real threat to national security, according to the New York Times and other outlets that have received advance copies of The Room Where It Happened. Bolton's book is a "withering portrait of a president ignorant of even basic facts about the world, susceptible to transparent flattery by authoritarian leaders manipulating him and prone to false statements, foul-mouthed eruptions and snap decisions that aides try to manage or reverse," according to the Times. Some of the more stunning revelations:
- Trump asked Xi to help him get re-elected: When China's President Xi Jinping complained about China's critics in the US during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit last year, Trump thought he was talking about Democrats, Bolton says, per the AP. "He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win," Bolton writes. "He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome." He adds: "I would print Trump’s exact words but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise."
- 'You're the greatest': Xi agreed that to restart the trade talks, welcoming Trump’s concession that there would be no new tariffs and agreeing that the two negotiating teams should resume discussions on farm products on a priority basis, Bolton writes, per the Wall Street Journal. Trump then told Xi: "You're the greatest Chinese leader in 300 years!" Bolton describes Trump's conversations with Xi as just one example of how the president "commingled the personal and the national not just on trade questions but across the whole field of national security."
- Investigation into a Turkish firm: Bolton claims Trump promised to fix things after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told him a Turkish firm being investigated by the US attorney for the Southern District of New York was innocent, Washington Post reports. Trump "told Erdogan he would take care of things, 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 writes.
- 'Stunningly uninformed': Bolton says the president appeared ignorant of many basic facts and once asked whether Finland was part of Russia. "He second-guessed people's motives, saw conspiracies behind rocks, and remained stunningly uninformed on how to run the White House, let alone the huge federal government," Bolton writes.
- Trump criticized by own advisers. Bolton—who describes himself, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as the "axis of adults"—says Trump was frequently criticized behind his back by his own advisers. He says after a phone call between Trump and South Korea's president before his 2018 North Korea summit, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told him he was "having a cardiac arrest" over how poorly Trump was handling the situation.
- Bolton reported concerns: Bolton says he found Trump's actions toward Ukraine, which led to the president's impeachment, "deeply disturbing." He says he reported his concerns to Attorney General William Barr and the White House counsel's office—as he had done after the Xi conversations and other troubling incidents.
- 'Impeachment malpractice': Bolton accuses House Democrats of bungling impeachment by moving too quickly and focusing solely on Ukraine, ignoring Trump's dealings with countries including China and Turkey. "A president may not misuse the national government's legitimate powers by defining his own personal interest as synonymous with the national interest,' Bolton writes, per the Times. "Had the House not focused solely on the Ukraine aspects of Trump’s confusion of his personal interests," he adds, "there might have been a greater chance of persuading others that 'high crimes and misdemeanors' had been perpetrated."
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