Jun 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump whacked from within by John Bolton

Mike Allen
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

John Bolton's brutal memoir about his 17 months in the White House portrays President Trump as an easy mark for dictators and others who know how easily he falls for flattery.

Why it matters: There has never been — and may never be — another book like this. Trump's national security adviser took hyper-detailed, real-time notes, and is sharing them with the world just nine months after leaving.

The Justice Department last night asked a federal judge for an emergency temporary restraining order against publication of "The Room Where It Happened," scheduled for next Tuesday.

  • But it's too late: Axios and other news organizations already have copies, and reviews and extensive excerpts were posted yesterday.
  • Trump told the Wall Street Journal in an interview last night that Bolton "is a liar": "[E]verybody in the White House hated John Bolton."

The most damaging revelations concern the president's efforts to cozy up to Chinese President Xi Jinping— revealed during an election season when Trump wants to portray himself as tough on China and Biden as a patsy.

  • Bolton said Trump gave Xi the green light to build concentration camps in Xinjiang, and "stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat" to his own re-election.
  • Biden said last night: "[M]y message to China's leaders, or anyone else who President Trump might invite to interfere: ... Stay out of our elections."

In one memorable scene, Bolton — a Fox News regular before joining the administration — is auditioning for the job and Trump says: "This is so great. John sounds just like he does on television. I could just keep listening. I love it." (p. 15)

  • Bolton describes a pattern of conversations by Trump that "looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life."
  • After one Trump statement, Bolton adds dismissively: "another fantasy." (p. 349)
  • Bolton says Trump didn't know that the U.K. was a nuclear power, wondered if Finland was part of Russia, and referred to reporters as "scumbags" who "should be executed."

On the same day that accounts of the book's contents spilled out, the N.Y. Times' Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni popped a story in which numerous current and former aides portrayed Trump as "acting trapped and defensive."

  • The story also has aides wondering if he was self-sabotaging, and alarmed by his bizarre behavior.
  • "[H]e has not seemed excited about the possibility of governing for four more years," people close to him told the Times. "One official ... claimed policy staff members were told just this week to come up with initiatives for 2021."
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