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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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Go deeper

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.

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.

Sep 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Eric Trump says his father would concede election in a Biden landslide

Eric Trump in Portsmouth, NH on Sept. 17. Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Eric Trump told supporters at a Las Vegas campaign stop on Thursday that he believes his father would concede the presidential election if "he got blown out of the water" by Joe Biden, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Where it stands: After refusing to say on Wednesday whether he would commit to a peaceful transition of power, Trump told Fox News radio on Thursday he would accept election results if the Supreme Court ruled that Biden won.