Former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton claims in his upcoming book that President Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to increase agricultural purchases from the U.S. to improve his electoral prospects in farm states, according to advance copies and a newspaper column he wrote Wednesday.
In an op-ed based on his book appearing in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Bolton said the president injected domestic politics unabashedly into his trade negotiations with the Chinese leader at a summit in Japan in June 2019. The trade talks had collapsed a month earlier.
Mr. Trump “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,” Mr. Bolton wrote.
“He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome,” he said.
According to Mr. Bolton, when Mr. Xi agreed in general to the trade outline that Mr. Trump had proposed, Mr. Trump exclaimed, “You’re the greatest Chinese leader in 300 years!”
“I am hard pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” Mr. Bolton wrote.
The White House said Mr. Bolton “is threatening to undermine America’s national security for personal profit,” and that he praised Mr. Trump’s leadership repeatedly during his tenure in the West Wing.
The Justice Department asked a federal court Wednesday night to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent publication of classified information it says is contained in the book. The administration sued Mr. Bolton this week to block the release of “The Room Where It Happened,” which is due out on Tuesday.
The New York Times and The Washington Post said they obtained copies of the book, and reported on several incidents in which the president’s dealings with foreign leaders reflected primarily his reelection interests.
Mr. Bolton also alleges that Mr. Trump promised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2018 that he would “take care of” a Justice Department investigation into the Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank, after Mr. Erdogan said the bank was innocent. He told the Turkish leader that the federal prosecutors were Obama appointees, and that the situation would be controlled when Mr. Trump appointed new prosecutors.
In excerpts cited by the two newspapers, Mr. Bolton claims that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped him a note during Mr. Trump’s 2018 summit with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un. The note said of the president, “He is so full of [expletive].”
Mr. Pompeo allegedly dismissed Mr. Trump’s North Korea diplomacy as having “zero probability of success.”
The Justice Department said in its lawsuit that Mr. Bolton hadn’t completed a prepublication review that is mandatory for books written by top officials with security clearance. The government says his book contains classified material, some of it “top secret,” and that national security would be harmed if it’s published.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday that Mr. Bolton’s book “is full of classified information, which is inexcusable.”
“Former National Security Adviser John Bolton should know all too well that it’s unacceptable to have highly classified information from the government of the United States in a book that will be published,” she said. “It’s unacceptable. It has not gone through the review process, and that’s where we currently stand.”
Republican allies of the president in Congress such as Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said Mr. Bolton’s account should be taken lightly because he has “an ax to grind.”
Republican strategist and Trump ally Andrew Surabian tweeted of the book’s revelations, “Wait, so wanting China to buy more soybeans from US farmers and stopping America from invading Iran, Venezuela and how many other countless countries Bolton had on his psychotic war mongering hit list are supposed to be bad things Trump did that hurt our national interest?”
Some Democrats criticized Mr. Bolton for cashing in on his insider information instead of testifying during the House impeachment inquiry last year. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff of California noted that some of Mr. Bolton’s staff at the NSC did testify during the impeachment proceedings.
“When Bolton was asked, he refused, and said he’d sue if subpoenaed,” Mr. Schiff tweeted. “Instead, he saved it for a book. Bolton may be an author, but he’s no patriot.”
The president has been hit by “insider” books in the past, but none were authored by someone so close to Mr. Trump’s national security decisions for a year and a half. In various book excerpts, Mr. Bolton alleges that Mr. Trump didn’t know Great Britain was a nuclear power and claims that the president asked if Finland was part of Russia.
He also alleges that Mr. Trump told him that journalists deserve to be in prison.
“These people should be executed. They are scumbags,” the president is quoted as telling Mr. Bolton.
In the Journal op-ed, Mr. Bolton said that during the Group of 20 meeting in June 2019, with only interpreters present, Mr. Xi of China “had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang” for China’s Uighur minority citizens.
“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,” Mr. Bolton said.
Mr. Trump on Wednesday signed the “Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020,” which condemns gross human rights violations of ethnic Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region of China and authorizes sanctions.
He said during a summit dinner with the Chinese in Argentina on Dec. 1, 2018, Mr. Xi “began by telling Trump how wonderful he was, laying it on thick.”
“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,” Mr. Bolton wrote. “Xi said the U.S. had too many elections, because he didn’t want to switch away from Trump.”
He said the two leaders then got down to negotiating on tariffs. The president agreed not to raise tariffs as he had threatened.
“Trump asked merely for some increases in Chinese farm-product purchases, to help with the crucial farm-state vote,” Mr. Bolton said.
China and the U.S. did reach a trade agreement in December 2019, subsequently signing it in a White House ceremony in January. But Mr. Trump has turned hostile toward China over the coronavirus pandemic that started in Wuhan, China.
The president also is basing his campaign partly on the argument that he will be much tougher with China than would his Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden.
Mr. Bolton said the president also reversed U.S. penalties against the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE in 2019 because he viewed it as a favor to Mr. Xi, whose help he was seeking with reelection.
“These and innumerable other similar conversations with Trump formed a pattern of fundamentally unacceptable behavior that eroded the very legitimacy of the presidency, Mr. Bolton wrote. “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.”
Mr. Bolton said the president’s team is “badly fractured” on China between national security and trade concerns.
“The administration has ‘panda huggers’ like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; confirmed free-traders like National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow; and China hawks like Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, lead trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro,” he wrote.
The president on Thursday called Mr. Bolton a “wacko” whose book “is made up of lies & fake stories.”
In a tweet shortly after midnight, the president said Mr. Bolton “said all good about me, in print, until the day I fired him.”
“A disgruntled boring fool who only wanted to go to war,” Mr. Trump said of the man he appointed national security adviser in April 2018. “Never had a clue, was ostracized & happily dumped. What a dope!
He added, “President Bush fired him also. Bolton is incompetent!”
Mr. Bolton served as U.N. Ambassador under President George W. Bush for about 17 months.
The passages about China prompted Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to call for a “full accounting” of the Trump Organization’s ongoing business relationship with a Chinese state-controlled bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which has leased space in Trump Tower in New York City.
“This disturbing revelation raises new questions about other ways in which President Trump benefits personally, and financially, from the Chinese government, including through ongoing business relationships,” Mr. Menendez wrote in a letter to Trump Organization Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Alan Garten. “It is important that Congress and the American public know how much money China, and any other country for that matter, is paying President Trump through his company.”