Jun 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Highlights from the excerpts of John Bolton's book

Trump and Xi

Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Former national security adviser John Bolton alleges in his upcoming book that President Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to increase agricultural purchases from the U.S. in order to improve his electoral prospects in farm states, the New York Times and Washington Post report, citing advance copies of the book.

The big picture: The book, which the Trump administration is suing Bolton to block, alleges several episodes in which the president's dealings with foreign leaders reflected an apparent single-minded desire to be re-elected. On several occasions, Bolton claims Trump expressing willingness to intervene in criminal investigations "to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked."


  • In May 2018, Bolton writes that Turkish President Erdogan handed Trump a memo claiming that the state-owned bank Halkbank, which was under investigation by the Justice Department, was innocent. "Trump then 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.
  • Bolton writes that he scheduled a meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr in 2019 to discuss Trump's alleged enthusiasm for doing favors for autocrats, and that Barr agreed that he was worried about the appearances created by Trump's behavior.
  • In the advanced copy of the book obtained by the Times, Bolton claims that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped Bolton a note during Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un that commented on Trump, saying: “He is so full of shit.” Pompeo reportedly dismissed Trump's North Korea diplomacy as having "zero probability of success.”
  • In an essay adapted from his book published in the Wall Street Journal, Bolton writes: “One highlight came when Xi said he wanted to work with Trump for six more years, and Trump replied that people were saying that the two-term constitutional limit on presidents should be repealed for him. Xi said the U.S. had too many elections, because he didn’t want to switch away from Trump, who nodded approvingly."
  • "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."
  • "These and innumerable other similar conversations with Trump formed a pattern of fundamentally unacceptable behavior that eroded the very legitimacy of the presidency," Bolton continues. "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."

The bottom line: “I am hard pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” Bolton writes, according to the Post.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The National Security Council declined to comment.

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