National Security

Bolton says Trump asked Chinese leader for help with election

President Trump solicited Chinese President Xi Jinping’s assistance in winning reelection, according to a forthcoming book from former White House national security adviser John Bolton.

Bolton describes an exchange that took place at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in June in his new book, “The Room Where it Happened.”

During the exchange with Trump, Xi referenced unnamed American political figures who were too critical of Beijing and were threatening the U.S.-China relationship.

“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,” Bolton wrote, according to an excerpt of the book published in The Wall Street Journal.

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

The U.S. and China ultimately signed a phase-one trade deal in January, though its follow through has been complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The former national security adviser, who resigned in September, also describes Trump as turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in China as he sought to negotiate a trade deal with Beijing.

Bolton wrote that he heard Trump acknowledge the massive crowds at demonstrations in Hong Kong in the summer of 2019, but demurred that he didn’t want to get involved and “we have human-rights problems too.”

The president similarly downplayed the need to issue a White House statement on the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Bolton wrote, and appeared to side with Xi’s explanation for why he was building the equivalent of concentration camps for Muslim Uighurs living in northwest China.

“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. “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.”

The White House did not immediately offer a comment on Bolton’s China claim. Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh derided Bolton as a “disgruntled former employee” during an interview with Bloomberg TV shortly after the excerpt was published.

“It’s an absurd allegation,” Murtaugh said of the claim that Trump solicited Xi’s help in winning reelection.

Bolton’s claim about China is one of several damning allegations about the president’s behavior. Bolton repeatedly paints Trump as being motivated by his desire to get reelected.

Bolton is a long-standing figure in conservative circles having worked for former Republican presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush prior to his time in the Trump administration.

He departed the Trump White House on rocky terms with the president, who has disparaged Bolton repeatedly in the months since he left.

The Trump administration is aggressively seeking to stop the publication of Bolton’s book, and officials with the White House and Trump campaign have derided Bolton as an opportunist looking to profit off his time in the government.

The administration filed a lawsuit on Tuesday alleging the book contains classified information that stands to compromise national security if published before a government review is completed. 

The Department of Justice asked the court to declare that Bolton’s account of his time as a top Trump adviser from April 2018 to September 2019 violated his nondisclosure agreement.

Bolton’s attorney, Chuck Cooper, has denied that the book contains classified material.

“We are reviewing the Government’s complaint and will respond in due course,” Cooper said in an emailed statement early Monday. 

Bolton has been a lighting rod figure in recent months given his decision not to testify during the House’s impeachment hearings. He said he would only do so if a court ordered him to, and House lawmakers opted not to issue a subpoena, citing the expected lengthy legal battle.

Tags China Donald Trump John Bolton presidential election

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