Trump asked China’s Xi for re-election help, claims Bolton

WASHINGTON (AFP) – United States (US) President Donald Trump pleaded with China’s leader Xi Jinping for help to win re-election in 2020, the US president’s former national security advisor John Bolton wrote in an explosive new behind-the-scenes book, according to excerpts published on Wednesday.

Bolton alleges in a blistering critique that Trump’s focus on winning a second term was the driving principle of his foreign policy, and that top aides routinely disparaged the Republican leader for his ignorance of basic geopolitical facts.

In excerpts published by The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Bolton also claimed Trump repeatedly showed a readiness to overlook alleged Chinese human rights abuses – most strikingly telling Xi the mass internment of Uighur Muslims was “exactly the right thing to do”.

“I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations,” Bolton wrote of the real estate magnate-turned-President, who was impeached last December for seeking dirt from Ukraine on his 2020 Democratic election rival Joe Biden.

In a key meeting with Xi last June, Trump “stunningly turned the conversation to the US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” Bolton claimed in his upcoming tell-all.

File photo shows China’s President Xi Jinping with US President Donald Trump during the G20 Summit in Osaka. PHOTO: AFP

Bolton wrote that Trump stressed the importance of US farmers and how “increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat” could impact the US electoral outcome.

When asked about the claims in the book yesterday, China said it has “always pursued the principle of non-interference in internal affairs”.

“We have no intention to and will not interfere in US internal politics and elections,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

In a sign of Trump’s anger over the memoir, the Justice Department filed an emergency order late on Wednesday seeking to halt publication, the second time in as many days it has tried to block the book.

Arguing that Bolton failed to allow completion of vetting of the book as required, the department urged the court to take action to “prevent the harm to national security that will result if his manuscript is published to the world”.

Bolton “broke the law” by divulging “highly classified information,” Trump said in a late Wednesday interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

He also derided his former advisor, a veteran Washington insider, as “washed up”, and mocked Bolton’s past support for the US war in Iraq.

“Wacko John Bolton’s ‘exceedingly tedious’ (New York Times) book is made up of lies & fake stories,” Trump later tweeted.

In the released excerpts Bolton said by intervening in cases involving major firms in China and Turkey, Trump appeared to “give personal favours to dictators he liked”.

He described “obstruction of justice as a way of life” in the White House, and said he reported his concerns to Attorney General William Barr.

The bombshell book, The Room Where It Happened, is due for release next Tuesday, in the thick of a presidential campaign against Democrat Biden.

The former vice president said Bolton’s revelations show Trump “sold out the American people to protect his political future”.

“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.”

The conservative Bolton, himself a controversial figure in US politics, spent 17 turbulent months in the White House before resigning last September.

He declined to testify during the December impeachment process in the House of Representatives, then said in January he would testify in the Senate trial if he were issued a subpoena.

Senate Republicans blocked such an effort by Democrats.