Monday evening, the New York Times published a report claiming former national security adviser John Bolton “privately told Attorney General Bill Barr last year that he had concerns that President Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China.” It is not clear what “personal favors” Bolton was alleging.
The Times, some would say in apparent coordination with Bolton’s book publicists, have rolled out the latest claim based on anonymous accounts regarding his controversial, as-yet-unpublished book manuscript. President Trump himself tweeted his denial of a Sunday article in the newspaper based on the purported manuscript, saying, “If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”
The book’s title is to be: “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.” It so happened that Amazon opened the Bolton memoir for pre-release purchases on Sunday, simultaneous to that first NY Times article.
Sunday’s bombshell story was that Trump told Bolton he “wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens.”
The latest allegation related by the paper is that Bolton spoke to Barr about his interactions with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Xi Jinping, the leaders of Turkey and China. The article claimed the Attorney General that he was similarly concerned about the president creating “the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries.”
According to the Times …
Mr. Bolton wrote in the manuscript that Mr. Barr singled out Mr. Trump’s conversations with Mr. Xi about the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE, which agreed in 2017 to plead guilty and pay heavy fines for violating American sanctions on doing business with North Korea, Iran and other countries. A year later, Mr. Trump lifted the sanctions over objections from his own advisers and Republican lawmakers.
Mr. Barr also cited remarks Mr. Trump made to Mr. Erdogan in 2018 about the investigation of Halkbank, Turkey’s second-largest state-owned bank. The Justice Department was scrutinizing Halkbank on fraud and money-laundering charges for helping Iran evade sanctions imposed by the Treasury Department.
Monday evening, the Department of Justice disputed the characterization of the reported exchange between Bolton and Barr. In a statement, a DOJ spokesman said that the DOJ has not reviewed the manuscript, but that there was never a discussion about “personal favors” or “undue influence” between the two officials.
Barr’s spokesperson, Kerri Kupec wrote that “If this is truly what Mr. Bolton has written, then it seems he is attributing to Attorney General Barr his own current views–views with which Attorney General Barr does not agree.”
DOJ statement in response to tonight’s NYT story on John Bolton and Attorney General Barr. pic.twitter.com/WzekTSqY0f
— KerriKupecDOJ (@KerriKupecDOJ) January 28, 2020
The articles about the Bolton manuscript have intensified calls by Democrats for Bolton to testify in the impeachment trial.
On Monday, Alan Dershowitz, one of the president’s attorneys, spoke at length before the Senate and lambasted Democrats for their extremely weak case for impeachment. He addressed the Bolton claims by saying: “Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power, or an impeachable offense. That is clear from the history. That is clear from the language of the Constitution. You cannot turn conduct that is not impeachable into impeachable conduct simply by using terms like ‘quid pro quo’ and ‘personal benefit.”
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