President Donald Trump had pleaded with president Xi Jinping to help him win a second term during trade negotiations and also endorsed the Chinese leader’s concentration camps for Uygur Muslims, writes John Bolton, the former US national security adviser, in an upcoming book widely previewed in American media Wednesday.
Among other bombshell revelations in the book — “Room where it happened” based on Bolton’s 16 months as Trump’s NSA — were reported claims that the US president did not know that the United Kingdom was a nuclear power and that he believed Finland was a part of Russia.
But the revelation that sent shockwaves through US political circles was his pleas to Xi for help with his re-election bid. It happened on June 29, 2019, when the two leaders met separately on the sidelines of the Osaka G-20 and came around to discussing trade disputes under negotiation.
“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 writes in an excerpt from the book adapted for The Wall Street Journal. “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.”
Xi had agreed to these requests — not specifically to his re-election bid — and to resume talks, which led to Trump’s effusive praise of Xi. Bolton writes that the US president hailed Xi as the “greatest Chinese leader in 300 years” and then corrected himself a few minutes later to accord him a promotion as “the greatest leader in Chinese history”.
At the same meeting in Osaka, Bolton writes, “Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang. 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”.
Trump has never been able to shake off perception that Russians interfered in the 2016 election to help him defeat Hillary Clinton, which has been reaffirmed by US intelligence and a subsequent investigation by the FBI. And now this claim that he directly sought the Chinese leader’s help to win a second term.
Trump blasted Bolton in a retaliatory post on twitter as a “total failure” in government and, who, he added, “bungled” in everything he did. But he did not address the specific issue of his “pleading” to Xi.
The department of justice sued Bolton on Tuesday in a bid to delay the publication of the book saying it contained classified material.
The book is due out next Tuesday. But the storm had started already.
“If these accounts are true, it’s not only morally repugnant, it’s a violation of Donald Trump’s sacred duty to the American people to protect America’s interests and defend our values,” said Joe Biden, the former vice-president the presumptive Democratic nominee to take on Trump in November.
He added: “And my message to China’s leaders, or anyone else who President Trump might invite to interfere: stay out of our democracy. Stay out of our elections.”
The many instances of Trumps’s complete capitulation to the Chinese leader are in stark contrast to the rhetoric he has now deployed to blame China for the Covid-19 deaths and infections in American, with an eye on his re-election prospects, which, his former NSA says in the book, is an overriding obsession.
“I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations,” he writes.