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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 09: National Security Adviser John Bolton listens to U.S. President Donald Trump speak during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi in the Oval Office of the White House April 9, 2019 in Washington, DC. President El-Sisi is visiting Washington for bilateral talks with President Trump. Trump answered questions from the press about his immigration policy. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Bolton book says Trump asked Chinese president for help winning reelection

President Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton alleges in a new book that Mr. Trump pushed Chinese President Xi Jinping in trade negotiations to agree to purchase American agricultural products in order to boost Mr. Trump’s political standing with U.S. farmers and help him win reelection.

In an excerpt of Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir” published by The Wall Street Journal, Bolton condemns what he calls the “incoherence” of the president’s trade policy and his focus on winning a second term. The excerpt was published minutes after stories about the memoir’s contents appeared in The New York Times and Washington Post, both of which said they had obtained copies of the book ahead of its scheduled June 23 release.

The longtime conservative foreign policy hawk describes a meeting with Xi and Mr. Trump on June 29, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. Bolton says Xi told Mr. Trump “that some (unnamed) American political figures were making erroneous judgments by calling for a new cold war with China.”

“Whether Xi meant to finger the Democrats or some of us sitting on the U.S. side of the table, I don’t know, but Trump immediately assumed that Xi meant the Democrats. Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility to China among the Democrats,” Bolton writes.

“Trump then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability and pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome,” Bolton continues.

Bolton writes that he was prevented from reprinting Mr. Trump’s exact language due to the administration’s review of the book, meant to ensure that no classified information was included.

“I would print Trump’s exact words, but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise,” Bolton writes. The Justice Department on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit against Bolton, who resigned as national security adviser in December 2019, arguing the book contained classified material and should not be published.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department filed a motion for preliminary injunction seeking to halt the publication of the book. “Disclosure of the manuscript will damage the national security of the United States,” the DOJ said in the application.

The memoir’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, a division of ViacomCBS, said in a statement that the filing “is a frivolous, politically motivated exercise in futility. Hundreds of thousands of copies of (the book) have already been distributed around the country and the world. The injunction as requested by the government would accomplish nothing.”

The book includes assertions that Mr. Trump thought Finland was part of Russia and didn’t know the United Kingdom is a nuclear power. Bolton also claims the president called journalists “scumbags” who should be “executed.”

The president took to Twitter early Thursday, calling Bolton “incompetent.” He said, “Wacko John Bolton’s “exceedingly tedious”(New York Times) book is made up of lies & fake stories. Said all good about me, in print, until the day I fired him. A disgruntled boring fool who only wanted to go to war. Never had a clue, was ostracized & happily dumped. What a dope!”

Wednesday night, Mr. Trump said on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” that releasing the book means Bolton broke the law. “Very simple. I mean, as much as it’s going to be broken. It’s highly classified information, and he did not have approval,” Mr. Trump said.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Wednesday evening, the president called Bolton “a liar” and said “everybody in the White House hated” Bolton. He also denied Bolton’s claim that, as the Journal puts it, he “gave his blessing” to Xi to build detention camps for China’s Uighur Muslims. The Journal says a Bolton spokeswoman declined to comment.

According to the excerpt in the Journal, Bolton says in the book that “Trump’s conversations with Xi reflected not only the incoherence in his trade policy but also the confluence in Trump’s mind of his own political interests and U.S. national interests.”

“I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” Bolton writes.

However, he also condemns House Democrats for their handling of the impeachment inquiry late last year, accusing them of being too narrowly focused on Mr. Trump’s dealings with the Ukrainian president. Mr. Trump was impeached on counts of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in December, although he was acquitted of both in February.

“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,” Bolton writes. Democrats argued that Mr. Trump abused his power by asking the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son.

Bolton refused to testify as part of the House inquiry, and was not called to testify at the subsequent impeachment trial. Democrats have accused him of cynically withholding pertinent knowledge of the president’s actions to boost his book sales.

“I have seen the reports that John Bolton is claiming the House should have impeached Trump for other matters. Well, thank you John Bolton for being the firefighter that shows up to the building that’s already burned with the fire hose and saying, ‘I’m here to help,'” Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

The White House disseminated talking points to allies Wednesday that emphasized they believe Bolton is breaking the law and just trying to make money, but did not refute any specific claims of presidential behavior as have been reported.

First published on June 17, 2020 / 3:40 PM

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