18 Jun 2020

Trump asked China to help him win re-election, offered 'favours to dictators' - Bolton

11:42 am on 18 June 2020

In a withering behind-the-scenes portrayal, US President Donald Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton has accused him of sweeping misdeeds that included explicitly seeking Chinese President Xi Jinping's help to win re-election.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and US President Donald Trump in Florida earlier this year.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and US President Donald Trump during a meeting in Florida in 2017. Photo: AFP

Bolton, a longtime foreign policy hawk who Trump fired in September over policy differences, also said that the president had expressed a willingness to halt criminal investigations to give "personal favours to dictators he liked," according to a book excerpt published in the New York Times.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on excerpts from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir published today in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The accusations are part of a book that the US government sued yesterday to block Bolton from publishing, arguing it contained classified information and would compromise national security.

Together, the excerpts portray a US president mocked by his top advisers who exposed himself to far more extensive accusations of impropriety than those that drove the Democratic-led House of Representatives to impeach Trump last year. The Republican-led Senate Trump in early 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 behaviour across his entire foreign policy, the impeachment outcome might well have been different," Bolton wrote, according to excerpts of his book published in the Wall Street Journal.

Critics of Bolton note he declined to testify before the House inquiry when his disclosures could have been critical, adhering instead to White House guidance.

Representative Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who led the prosecution of Republican Trump, slammed Bolton for saying at the time that "he'd sue if subpoenaed".

"Instead, he saved it for a book," Schiff said on Twitter. "Bolton may be an author, but he's no patriot."

Still, Bolton's allegations provide new ammunition to critics ahead of the 3 November presidential election, including his behind-the-scenes accounts of Trump's conversations with China's Xi - which, in one case, broached the topic of the US vote.

"Trump then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China's economic capability and pleading with Xi to ensure he'd win," Bolton wrote.

"He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome," said Bolton in the most in-depth, damaging portrayal by a Trump administration insider to date and just days after former defence secretary Jim Mattis accused the president of trying to divide America.

Trump eroded presidency

Although Trump's administration had been strongly critical of China's mass detention of mostly Muslim Uighur minority and other Muslim groups, Trump gave Xi a green light in that same meeting, Bolton said.

"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," Bolton wrote, adding another top White House official said Trump made similar comments during his November 2017 trip to China.

Bolton cited several conversations in which Trump demonstrated "fundamentally unacceptable behaviour that eroded the very legitimacy of the presidency".

A former US ambassador to the United Nations and Fox News television commentator, Bolton's hawkish approach had worn on a president weary of foreign military entanglements, officials say.

Trump would sometimes chide Bolton in meetings, introducing him to visiting foreign leaders by saying, "You all know the great John Bolton. He'll bomb you. He'll take out your whole country."

White House National Security adviser John Bolton with US President Donald Trump.

Donald Trump, left, and John Bolton during the period the latter served as national security adviser. Photo: AFP

In excerpts published in the Washington Post, Bolton writes that Trump said invading Venezuela would be "cool" and that it was "really part of the United States".

The US government has publicly said it does not favour using force to topple Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

The book also exposed the sometimes dim view that Trump's advisers have of him. During a 2018 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Bolton says he got a note from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mocking Trump.

"He is so full of s...," the note said, according to a Bolton excerpt in the Washington Post.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center left, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walk together before their meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Kim Jong Un, left, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang, North Korea. John Bolton claims Pompeo mocked the US president during one of the summits with the North Korean leader. Photo: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File

Although Trump is publicly critical of journalists, Bolton's book quotes the US president making some of his most alarming remarks to date. In a summer 2019 meeting in New Jersey, Trump allegedly said journalists should be jailed so they have to divulge their sources: "These people should be executed. They are scumbags," according to another excerpt in the Post.

- Reuters

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