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."

Highlights:

  • 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more years, and Trump replied that people were saying that the two-term constitutional limit on presidents should be repealed for him.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.

Go deeper

Sep 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Judge orders Eric Trump to testify in New York probe before election

Photo: Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

A judge on Wednesday ordered Eric Trump to comply with a subpoena to testify before the presidential election in a New York probe into the Trump family business.

The state of play: New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) last month said her office had filed a lawsuit to compel the Trump Organization to comply with subpoenas related to an investigation into whether President Trump and his company improperly inflated the value of its assets on financial statements.

Mary Trump claims in lawsuit that the president and his siblings "swindled" her inheritance

Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

President Trump's niece filed a lawsuit on Thursday alleging that the president and other family members "swindled her" out of an inheritance worth tens of millions, per the suit filed with New York's Supreme Court.

The big picture: Mary Trump's lawsuit, filed two months after her memoir portrayed her uncle as a dangerous sociopath, references a massive 2018 New York Times investigation that found the Trump family reportedly engaged in dubious tax schemes, including outright fraud, in the 1990s.

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

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