U.S. President Donald Trump thought it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela but was persuaded not to by “Soviet-style propaganda” from Moscow, claims Trump’s former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton in book excerpts leaked to the press.
Trump said invading Venezuela would be “cool” and described the Latin American country as “really part of the United States,” according to the Washington Post, one of the three publications that was given access to some content of Bolton’s memoir – The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.
The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal also received the leaks, giving them much publicity on Wednesday.
The memoir was scheduled for publication on June 23, but has been held up by a lawsuit from the Trump administration, claiming that it still contains classified information. In doing so, the Trump administration has helped elevate the memoir’s profile, sending it to the top of bestseller lists in the U.S. even before it is published on June 23.
Guaido looked weak
Bolton, hired by Trump in April 2018, has been a hardline advocate of regime change in Iran but also one of the driving forces behind Washington’s push to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. In January 2019, Trump recognized opposition Venezuelan politician Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s “interim president” at Bolton’s urging – only to have doubts a day later, according to the book, saying that Guaido looked “weak” and childish next to the “tough” Maduro.
Trump was “largely persuaded” against overthrowing Maduro after a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin in May 2019, Bolton claims, calling Putin’s comparison of Guaido with Trump’s 2016 rival Hillary Clinton a “brilliant display of Soviet style propaganda,” according to the Post.
Bolton was fired in September 2019, after he clashed with Trump over the president’s refusal to bomb Iran over the US drone shot down in the Persian Gulf.
Excerpts from Bolton’s book about his time in the Trump administration paint a damning view of the president as a “stunningly uninformed” man who was outmatched by the job he was elected to do.
Here are some of the most explosive:
Trump asked China’s Xi for help with his reelection
Bolton wrote the following:
“Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility to China among the Democrats. Trump then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability and pleading with [President] Xi [Jinping] to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome. I would print Trump’s exact words, but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise.”
Trump told Xi he approved of building Chinese concentration camps for Uighur citizens
“At the opening dinner of the Osaka G-20 meeting in June 2019, with only interpreters present, Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang,” Bolton wrote. “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. The National Security Council’s top Asia staffer, Matthew Pottinger, told me that Trump said something very similar during his November 2017 trip to China.”
Trump spoke of executing U.S. journalists who did not reveal sources for stories
Bolton detailed a July 2019 meeting with the president during which Trump complained bitterly about the media coverage he had received. Specifically, Trump railed against journalists who refused to reveal the sources for their stories, Bolton said. “These people should be executed,” Trump said in the meeting, according to Bolton. “They are scumbags.”
Pompeo and other Trump staffers derided the president behind his back
Bolton recounts an incident that occurred at Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped Bolton a note about Trump that read, “He is so full of s***.”
Shortly after he began in his post, Bolton was told by then-chief of staff John Kelly, “You can’t imagine how desperate I am to get out of here.” Kelly, according to Bolton’s retelling, then added, “This is a bad place to work, as you will find out.”
Democrats botched Trump’s impeachment by focusing on Ukraine
Bolton was sharply critical of Democrats in Congress for limiting their impeachment proceedings on Trump’s quid pro quo with Ukrainian leaders to help secure his reelection. Instead, Bolton wrote, they should have expanded their inquiry to a host of misdeeds on the part of the president, including what Bolton described as improper involvement on behalf of authoritarian governments in China and Turkey.
“A president may not misuse the national government’s legitimate powers by defining his own personal interest as synonymous with the national interest, or by inventing pretexts to mask the pursuit of personal interest under the guise of national interest,” Bolton wrote. “Had the House not focused solely on the Ukraine aspects of Trump’s confusion of his personal interests,” he added, “there might have been a greater chance to persuade others that ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ had been perpetrated.”
Bolton refused to testify in the impeachment inquiry against Trump.
Bolton’s book contains a slew of other allegations against the U.S. president, claiming the administration engaged in “obstruction of justice as a way of life” and that Trump “in effect, gives personal favors to dictators he liked.”
The top U.S. trade official has forcefully denied Bolton’s allegation that the president went to his Chinese counterpart for help in the 2020 race, insisting it “never happened.”
Bolton’s forthcoming book claims that during a sideline meeting at last year’s G-20 summit in Japan, Trump asked Chinese leader Xi Jinping to boost his country’s purchases of U.S. agricultural goods, believing it would aid his re-election bid. Pressed about the claim at a Senate hearing later on Wednesday, Trump’s top trade envoy, Robert Lighthizer, said in no uncertain terms that the allegation is false.
“There was a meeting on the outskirts of the G-20 in Osaka between the president and President Xi, and I was in that meeting,” Lighthizer told lawmakers, adding that Bolton’s account is “Absolutely untrue. Never happened.”
Though Bolton has defended lying in service of U.S. foreign policy goals on record, even openly boasting of his own ability to “spin” the facts, a number of U.S journalists and pundits rushed to endorse his version of the G-20 meeting, one observing that he “kept very good notes.”
Bolton ended his stint as national security advisor in September 2019 after a falling out with Trump, who publicly declared on Twitter that his “services” were “no longer needed” due to ongoing disagreements over policy.
Beyond excerpts selectively leaked to major media outlets little evidence has been produced to back up the accusations.