Former US National Security Adviser Bolton warns of possible 'censorship' of his White House memoir

Former National Security adviser John Bolton speaks on stage during a public discussion at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, on Feb 17, 2020.
Former National Security adviser John Bolton speaks on stage during a public discussion at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, on Feb 17, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Former National Security Adviser John Bolton raised alarm the Trump administration could block his memoir that describes his interaction with the president over Ukraine.

"I hope it's not suppressed," Bolton said on Monday (Feb 17) at a speech at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

"This is an effort to write history, and I did it the best I can. We'll have to see what comes out of the censorship." Bolton added: "I say things in the manuscript about what he said to me," referring to President Donald Trump.

Bolton said he couldn't answer a question related to North Korea because it's also included in his book, which is undergoing pre-publication review by the government. The Trump administration already has raised concern about the manuscript divulging secret information.

The event was Bolton's first public appearance since Trump's impeachment trial was roiled over a New York Times report that Bolton would publish a memoir alleging that the president explicitly said he wanted to condition security assistance to Ukraine on an investigation into former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

The report raised pressure on Senate Republicans to call witnesses in the trial and undermined the White House's claim that Trump never sought a quid pro quo for US military aid to Ukraine. But Trump denied the allegations - tweeting that the news emerged only because Bolton sought "to sell a book" - and Senate Republicans ultimately voted against calling Bolton or other witnesses before voting to acquit the president.

CHAPTER 14

At the event on Monday, Bolton was asked whether he agreed with Trump's characterisation of his call with Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, as "perfect." Bolton responded: "You'll love chapter 14." But Bolton made clear his book covers more than Ukraine.

"There are portions of the manuscript that deal with Ukraine," he said. "I view that like the sprinkles on the ice cream sundae, meaning, in terms of what's in the book."

 
 
 

Bolton's manuscript also reportedly alleges that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo privately acknowledged there was little credence to Rudy Giuliani's claims that former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was corrupt. Bolton also reportedly wrote that he told Attorney-General William Barr that the president had mentioned him on a call with the Ukrainian president. The Justice Department has denied that Barr knew Trump suggested the Ukrainians coordinate their investigations with the attorney general.

Bolton also reportedly wrote that he told Barr he had concerns Trump had granted personal favours to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Xi Jinping of China.

Bolton's memoir, The Room Where It Happened, is scheduled to be released on March 17. But in a letter to Bolton's lawyer, the National Security Council said the manuscript "appears to contain significant amounts of classified information" and should not be published as written.

Bolton said on Monday his intention isn't to reveal classified material. Instead, he said he sought to tell readers what unfolded and allow them to decide whether it was appropriate.

On other topics, Bolton criticised the administration's approach to handling nuclear proliferation in North Korea as "a big mistake" and said the US pursuit of leader Kim Jong Un is "doomed to failure." He also said Trump's approach toward Iran is too lenient.

Bolton left Trump's administration in September after repeated disagreements with the president. He had advised Trump against a plan to hold peace talks with the Taleban at Camp David immediately before he was ousted, and Trump complained Bolton was "holding me back" in a campaign to depose Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

One of Bolton's deputies, Fiona Hill, testified in the House impeachment inquiry that Bolton had called Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, a "hand grenade who's going to blow everybody up" for his conduct on Trump's behalf in Ukraine.

Bolton has publicly sparred with Trump since leaving the White House, disputing the president's claims of success in nuclear negotiations with North Korea and defending former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly after the president attacked him in tweets.

Bolton, ousted from the White House in September, is scheduled to speak again on Wednesday, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.