UPDATED with ABC interview: As news outlets began to report details in John Bolton’s new memoir on Wednesday, ABC News released an excerpt from his interview with Martha Raddatz, in which Bolton blasts his former boss Donald Trump.
Raddatz asks Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, how he would describe the president’s relationship with Vladimir Putin.
“I think Putin thinks he can play him like a fiddle,” Bolton said. “I think Putin is smart, tough. I think he sees that he is not faced with a serious adversary here. I don’t think he’s worried about Donald Trump.”
Bolton went on to say that Trump may be a “superb deal maker” when it comes to Manhattan real estate, but suggested he was out of his element in handling national security.
“It’s a very difficult position for America to be in,” Bolton said.
The interview is scheduled to air Sunday in a one-hour special, two days before Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened, is published.
PREVIOUSLY, 12:46 PM: John Bolton’s new tell-all memoir is full of explosive details of Donald Trump’s leadership, painting a picture of a presidency driven by impulse and ignorance of foreign policy.
The New York Times and the Washington Post obtained copies of the book, set to be published on Tuesday, while the Wall Street Journal published an excerpt.
According to the Post, Bolton’s book describes a summit last year with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in which Trump asked him for help in winning the 2020 presidential election.
Bolton wrote that in the conversation with Xi, Trump turned to “the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi 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 pre-publication review process has decided otherwise.”
The Times and the Post also reported on other revelations from the book, including naiveté Trump had in meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In the excerpt in the Journal, Bolton writes in June 2019, that Xi “explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang” for Uyghurs, the ethnic minority group in China. Trump “said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.”
Bolton also described Trump’s fixation on delivering a gift to Kim — an autographed copy of a CD of Elton John’s Rocket Man. Trump had described Kim as “little rocket man” in a tweet. In another instance, Trump asked whether Finland was part of Russia.
According to the Post, Bolton described a scene where Trump also railed against reporters — at one point saying that journalists should be jailed if they did not reveal their sources. “These people should be executed. They are scumbags,” Trump is quoted as saying.
Democrats are criticizing Bolton for not coming forward as the House conducted impeachment proceedings, centered on Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Bolton eventually said that he would be willing to testify if subpoenaed for a Senate trial, but Republicans voted against calling witnesses in those proceedings, where Trump was acquitted.
According to the Times, Bolton wrote that the president explicitly tied foreign aid to Ukraine to whether “all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over.”
Bolton’s memoir, The Room Where It Happened, already is the source of a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department on Tuesday, in which they claim that he failed to complete a review process to ensure that the book does not contain classified information.
The DOJ is seeking to halt the book’s immediate release but, as is being shown by the most recent revelations about its contents, copies already are circulating among reporters. Bolton’s attorney, Charles Cooper, contended that the review process was completed and that the administration was using national security “as a pretext to censor” his client.
Bolton also has taped an interview with ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, which will run as a one-hour special on Sunday night. The network debuted a new promo for the special, as Raddatz asked Bolton, “Is the president lying?” “Yes, he is, and it is not the first time either,” Bolton said.
The White House has not yet issued a detailed reaction to the book. But Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Wednesday that “the book is full of classified information, which is inexcusable.” That may only drum up interest in the tome.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who helped lead the impeachment proceedings for House Democrats, wrote in a tweet, “Bolton’s staff were asked to testify before the House to Trump’s abuses, and did. They had a lot to lose and showed real courage. When Bolton was asked, he refused, and said he’d sue if subpoenaed. Instead, he saved it for a book. Bolton may be an author, but he’s no patriot.”