WASHINGTON • In a withering behind-the-scenes portrayal, US President Donald Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton has accused him of sweeping misdeeds that included explicitly seeking Chinese President Xi Jinping's help to win re-election.
Mr Bolton, a long-time foreign policy hawk who Mr Trump fired last September over policy differences, also said the US President had expressed a willingness to halt criminal investigations to give "personal favours to dictators he liked", according to a book excerpt published in The New York Times ahead of its release.
Mr Trump hit back at Mr Bolton, calling him "a liar" in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. The paper also published excerpts on Wednesday of the book, titled The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, as did the Washington Post. In a separate interview with Fox News, Mr Trump said Mr Bolton had broken the law by including highly classified material in the book.
Together, the excerpts portray a US president mocked by his top advisers who exposed himself to far more extensive accusations of impropriety than those that drove the Democratic-led House of Representatives to impeach him last year. He was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate in early February.
Mr Trump was accused of withholding American military aid to Ukraine last year to put pressure on its newly elected President Volodymr Zelensky to provide damaging information on Democratic political opponent Joe Biden.
"Had Democratic impeachment advocates not been so obsessed with their Ukraine blitzkrieg in 2019, had they taken the time to inquire more systematically about Trump's behaviour across his entire foreign policy, the impeachment outcome might well have been different," Mr Bolton wrote, according to excerpts in the Wall Street Journal.
Critics of Mr Bolton note that he declined to testify before the House inquiry when his disclosures could have been critical.
Representative Adam Schiff, the Democrat who led the prosecution of Mr Trump, slammed Mr Bolton for saying at the time that "he'd sue if subpoenaed".
Still, Mr Bolton's claims give critics new ammunition ahead of the Nov 3 presidential election, including his behind-the-scenes accounts of Mr Trump's conversations with President Xi - which, in one case, broached the topic of the US vote.
"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," Mr Bolton wrote, in the most in-depth, damaging portrayal yet by a Trump administration insider, and just days after former defence secretary Jim Mattis accused Mr Trump of trying to divide the country.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, asked about Mr Bolton's claims at a news briefing yesterday, said Beijing had no intention of interfering with the elections or internal affairs of the United States.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in Senate testimony that Mr Bolton's account was "absolutely untrue", adding: "I was at the meeting. Would I recollect something as crazy as that? Of course I would... This never happened in it for sure. Completely crazy."
The US government has sued to block Mr Bolton from publishing the book, citing risks to national security, and is seeking a court hearing today.