In Depth

‘Stunningly uninformed’: five things we learn about Donald Trump from John Bolton’s memoir

US president is trying to block the publication of his former security adviser’s explosive book

The US Justice Department has launched a last-ditch bid to prevent Donald Trump’s former national security adviser from publishing an embarrassingly frank memoir about his time in the White House.

The administration last night sought an emergency order from a judge to block the release of John Bolton’s book The Room Where It Happened, citing the inclusion of “classified information” that could “damage the national security of the United States”, The New York Times reports.

The move came a day after the government filed a civil suit against Bolton, who was fired by Trump last September. But with details already leaking about the claims made in the memoir, due out on 23 June, the US president appears to be fighting a losing battle.

Here are five of the most damaging allegations about Trump that have emerged. 

Sought China’s help in the 2020 election

According to an excerpt from the book that has been published by The Washington Post, Trump directly asked China to use its economic power to aid him in this year’s election.

Bolton writes that during a conversation with President Xi Jinping at the June 2019 Group of 20 summit in Japan, Trump “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”.

The ex-adviser alleges that Trump began stressing “the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome”.

“I would print Trump’s exact words,” Bolton adds, “but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise.”

The claim has triggered anger among Democrats behind the attempted impeachment of Trump, who point out that Bolton refused to stand as a witness against the president. 

The chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, tweeted: “Bolton’s staff were asked to testify before the House to Trump’s abuses, and did. They had a lot to lose and showed real courage.

“When Bolton was asked, he refused, and said he’d sue if subpoenaed. Instead, he saved it for a book. Bolton may be an author, but he’s no patriot.”

Suggested running for more than two terms

US presidents are barred from running for the White House more than twice, but Bolton suggests that Trump openly considered breaking the rule, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

During another conversation with the Chinese president, at a December 2018 dinner in Buenos Aires, Trump allegedly voiced approval for his counterpart’s decision to abolish presidential terms.

Xi then “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”, writes Bolton.

“Xi said the US had too many elections, because he didn’t want to switch away from Trump, who nodded approvingly.”

Offered help to dictator

At talks in May 2018, Bolton says, Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan handed Trump a memo proclaiming the innocence of a Turkish firm under investigation by the US attorney for the Southern District of New York for allegedly violating Iranian sanctions.

“Trump then told Erdogan he would take care of things, explaining that the southern district prosecutors were not his people, but were [his predecessor Barack] Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people,” the book says.

Praised Chinese internment camps

One of the most controversial acts of Trump’s presidency has been the building of detention centres for holding immigrants caught attempting to cross the US-Mexico border. The Independent reported last June that at least 24 people, including six children, had died at these centres, which critics have described as “concentration camps”.

Despite widespread outrage, Trump has refused to back down over the camps - and according to Bolton, the president also praised China’s internment of the Uigher Muslims in the Asian nation’s Xinjiang province, during his meeting with Xi at the G20 summit in Japan last summer.

“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 writes.

Documents leaked to The New York Times last November show that hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uighurs have been detained in China’s camps, where officials are instructed to “show absolutely no mercy” to the ethnic minority prisoners.

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All foreign to Trump

The leaked extracts of Bolton’s book are smattered with references to the president’s lack of knowledge about other countries and foreign affairs.

In one example, Bolton claims that during a meeting with the UK’s then prime minister Theresa May in May 2018, Trump asked: “Are you a nuclear power?”

Bolton also recalls the president asking his then chief of staff John F. Kelly if Finland was part of Russia.

And according to extracts from the book reported by The Washington Post, Trump said that invading invading Venezuela would be “cool” and that the South American nation was “really part of the United States”.

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