Trump tries to block Bolton book as bits revealed

Donald Trump has complained about what he calls threats to his free speech on social media to the extent of signing an executive order, but that has been seen as a threat to free speech itself – Donald Trump’s attacks on social media threaten the free speech rights of all Americans:

…his feud with Twitter is another example of the ways in which the president has routinely distorted the principles of the First Amendment in order to undermine the very freedoms he claims to be championing – as well as American democracy more broadly.

Trump is also not keen on free speech for his former national security adviser John Bolton, who is due to launch a book next week about his White House experiences. Trump obviously doesn’t think he will get much praise in the book.

Trump administration seeks emergency order to block Bolton’s memoir

The Trump administration has made an aggressive last-ditch attempt to block the release of John Bolton’s bombshell book, in which the former national security adviser writes that the US president offered favors to dictators and asked China to help him with his 2020 re-election.

On Wednesday night, the justice department sought an emergency order from a judge to block Bolton’s memoir, after explosive excerpts were printed by various news organizations.

This latest move comes after the administration filed a civil suit against Bolton on Tuesday. The emergency temporary restraining order filed Wednesday, which seeks to stop the release of his book on 23 June, is unlikely to succeed, legal experts said, especially since copies had already been distributed to booksellers and journalists.

In a statement, Bolton’s publisher Simon & Schuster called the restraining order “a frivolous, politically motivated exercise in futility. Hundreds of thousands of copies have already been distributed around the country and the world. The injunction as requested by the government would accomplish nothing.’’

Details from the book have already been published – John Bolton’s bombshell Trump book: eight of its most stunning claims

Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton has made a series of explosive claims about the US president in his new book The Room Where It Happened, according to numerous news reports and an excerpt.

1. Trump pleaded with China to help win the 2020 election

According to the excerpt of Bolton’s book published by the Wall Street Journal, Trump asked China to use its economic power to help him win a second election.

In one instance, Trump and President Xi Jinping were discussing hostility to China in the US. “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.

“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.”

2. Trump suggested he was open to serving more than two terms

…published in the Wall Street Journal, Trump also seems to support Xi’s idea of eliminating presidential term limits. “Xi said he wanted to work with Trump for six more years, and Trump replied that people were saying that the two-term constitutional limit on presidents should be repealed for him. Xi said the US had too many elections, because he didn’t want to switch away from Trump, who nodded approvingly.”

The first does seem like a big deal, the second is quite ho-hum.

3. Trump offered favors to dictators

One incident published in the Washington Post includes a 2018 discussion with the Turkish president, Recep Erdoğan. Bolton says Erdoğan gave Trump a memo claiming that a Turkish firm under investigation in the US was innocent. “Trump then told Erdoğan he would take care of things, explaining that the southern district prosecutors were not his people, but were Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people.”

4. Trump praised Xi for China’s internment camps

According to Bolton, Trump was also approving when Xi defended China’s internment of Uighur Muslims in detention camps. “According to our interpreter,” Bolton writes, “Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.”

5. Trump defended Saudi Arabia to distract from a story about Ivanka

Trump made headlines in November 2018 when he released a bizarre statement defending the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. It included lines such as “The world is a very dangerous place!” and “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

According to Bolton’s book, making headlines was the point. A story about his daughter Ivanka using her personal email for government business was also in the news at the time. After waging war on Hilary Clinton during the 2016 campaign for doing the same thing, Trump need a distraction.

“This will divert from Ivanka,” Trump reportedly said. “If I read the statement in person, that will take over the Ivanka thing.”

Again not a great surprise, one of Trump’s primary strategies seems to be media/social media diversions.

6. Trump’s top staff mocked him behind his back

From what has been reported, it sounds like Bolton’s book provides one of the clearest insights into the despair of Trump’s top officials behind the scenes.

In one example given by the New York Times, Bolton claims he received a note from the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, after Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, simply saying, “He is so full of shit.” On top of this, Pompeo also allegedly said a month later that Trump’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea had “zero probability of success”.

Criticism and lack of respect has already been revealed, this is hardly a revelation. “He is so full of shit” won’t shock many people who seem Trump just like that. Even supporters and defenders of grump agree that he is full of shit (‘but gets things done’, which to an extent is correct).

7. Trump thought Finland was part of Russia

Bolton’s book reportedly details some giant holes in Trump’s knowledge. In one instance, Bolton says Trump didn’t seem to know basic knowledge about the UK, asking its former prime minister Theresa May: “Oh, are you a nuclear power?”. On top of this, he also alleges that Trump once asked if Finland was part of Russia, and repeatedly mixed up the current and former presidents of Afghanistan.

Trump’s ignorance of international basics is also not a surprise.

8. Trump thought it would be ‘cool’ to invade Venezuela

According to the Washington Post, Bolton claims Trump said invading Venezuela would be “cool”, and that the country was “really part of the United States”.

More unsurprising ignorance plus a bit of normal idle bluster.

There is not much here that will change many minds about Trump’s behaviour and competence. Of these only the China could be a problem.

New York Times: China Slams Trump Over Uighur Law Amid Bolton Accusations

China lashed out at the United States on Thursday after President Trump signed into law a bill that would allow him to impose sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the mass incarceration of more than one million Uighurs and members of other largely Muslim minorities in the western region of Xinjiang.

The rebuke came after China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, held an unusual meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Hawaii that underscored the depth of discord between the two countries.

China’s incarceration of members of minority groups in Xinjiang has become another increasingly contentious, if complicated, issue between the two countries. New accusations by John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, have muddied the issue even further.

New York Times Five takeaways from John Bolton’s book (paywall)

Expect plenty of attempted diversion from Trump when the book hits the bookshelves. He is already doing his usual attacking:

And retweeting this:

Dumping on the messenger is as unsurprising as the book revelations. It’s hard to be shocked by trump any more, but his attacks also look like same old.

Bolton has been criticised for staying silent through the impeachment trial of Trump, holding back information until his book launch.

Trump attempted to use military aid to pressure Ukraine on political investigations, Bolton says

For months, as the nation was convulsed by the impeachment of President Donald Trump, his critics held out hope that the congressional proceedings would unearth a high-level witness with first-person testimony about Trump’s efforts to use his office to try to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations that could bolster him politically.

Now, more than four months after Trump was acquitted by a Republican-led Senate, former Trump national security adviser John Bolton has emerged with just such an account in his new book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.”

In it, Bolton asserts that the delay in releasing $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine last summer was an attempt by the president to get the foreign country to provide damaging material about former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former vice president Joe Biden.

The former national security adviser cites personal conversations in which he describes a quid pro quo that Trump long denied, including an August meeting in which Bolton alleges that Trump made the bargain explicit.

“He said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all Russia-investigation material related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over,” Bolton writes.

Bolton seems as self-interested as Trump.

Abuse of power confirmed, but does it warrant impeachment?

More evidence (from John Bolton) seems to confirm what others have alleged, that Donald Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine until they announced an inquiry into a political opponent of Trump’s, Joe Biden.  I think that this would clear have been an abuse of power. But does that justify impeachment?

I think that even on the Trump scale it’s certainly very poor presidential behaviour, but the impeachment decision effectively is in the hands (and votes) of 53 Republican senators, and being politicians enough of them may choose to lower the standards expected of presidents even more than they are currently and refuse to call witnesses for the trial, which in itself would be a remarkable thing – a trial that refuses to call for testimonies from witnesses would be a farce.

But farce is what Washington politics has become.

NT Times:  Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says

President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.

The president’s statement as described by Mr. Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.

Mr. Bolton’s explosive account of the matter at the center of Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, the third in American history, was included in drafts of a manuscript he has circulated in recent weeks to close associates. He also sent a draft to the White House for a standard review process for some current and former administration officials who write books.

Bolton’s lawyer has denied that draft copies of the books were circulated to ‘close associates’, but confirms the claim made by Bolton in the book.

Over dozens of pages, Mr. Bolton described how the Ukraine affair unfolded over several months until he departed the White House in September. He described not only the president’s private disparagement of Ukraine but also new details about senior cabinet officials who have publicly tried to sidestep involvement.

For example, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged privately that there was no basis to claims by the president’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani that the ambassador to Ukraine was corrupt and believed Mr. Giuliani may have been acting on behalf of other clients, Mr. Bolton wrote.

Of course Trump has denied and diverted by attacking Bolton:

I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.

But Trump has a long record of doing that, so I think his counter claims can’t be taken seriously – Trump has lived by the sword of blatant lying, so his credibility dies by that sword.

With that being said, the transcripts of my calls with President Zelensky are all the proof that is needed, in addition to the fact that President Zelensky & the Foreign Minister of Ukraine said there was no pressure and no problems. Additionally, I met with President Zelensky at the United Nations (Democrats said I never met) and released the military aid to Ukraine without any conditions or investigations – and far ahead of schedule. I also allowed Ukraine to purchase Javelin anti-tank missiles. My Administration has done far more than the previous Administration.

Trump has refused to testify properly (bull by Twitter can’t be taken seriously), and he has told witnesses to defy subpoenas requiring them to testify.

NY Times:

Mr. Bolton’s lawyer blamed the White House for the disclosure of the book’s contents. “It is clear, regrettably, from the New York Times article published today that the pre-publication review process has been corrupted and that information has been disclosed by persons other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript,” the lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, said Sunday night.

The submission to the White House may have given Mr. Trump’s aides and lawyers direct insight into what Mr. Bolton would say if he were called to testify at Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial. It also intensified concerns among some of his advisers that they needed to block Mr. Bolton from testifying, according to two people familiar with their concerns.

The White House has ordered Mr. Bolton and other key officials with firsthand knowledge of Mr. Trump’s dealings not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. Mr. Bolton said in a statement this month that he would testify if subpoenaed.

Trump is again abusing his power trying to run a defence via Twitter but refusing to allow cooperation with the impeachment process.

Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, said the Bolton manuscript underscored the need for him to testify, and the House impeachment managers demanded after this article was published that the Senate vote to call him. “There can be no doubt now that Mr. Bolton directly contradicts the heart of the president’s defense,” they said in a statement.

But if less than four Republican Senators vote to exclude witnesses from the impeachment trial then it will fizzle out, but the controversy will rage on into the US election year.

It’s inevitable that Bolton will be dumped on Trump and his helpers, just as other witnesses who corroborate Bolton’s claims have been dumped on – and some dumped from their jobs. Trumps smashing machine has had plenty of practice. If he is acquitted by the Republican senators the question will become how many Americans will also give Trump a pass and vote for him.

If Trump is impeached I think that Republicans would still hold power in the White House, with Vice President Mike Pence stepping up into the tainted breach until the election in November and the inauguration of a new president next January – unless an impeached president can stand for office again, and win.

It’s quite possible that Trump could contest the presidency against Joe Biden, and it’s feasible that he could win a second term. There seems to be a significant number of people willing to make excuses for his transgressions and support him, defend him, regardless.

I think it is clear that Trump has abused his power as president, but many supporters don’t seem to care as long as he’s still there.

Trump at Davos last week.

I consider what I’ve done here, with this whole witch hunt, from day one — with the insurance policy; with the horrible statements made between Strzok and Page; and McCabe; and Comey, who lied to Congress and did so many other bad things. He lied and he leaked. When I finish, I think that this is going to go down as one of the greatest things I’ve done for our country. These are bad, corrupt people. These are bad people, and very bad for our country.”

Some suggest he is projector in chief.

Image

The impeachment, Ukraine, Russia and election interference

Donald Trump’s impeachment trial continues in Washington. It is far more political than legal. Just about everyone expects the Republican dominated Senate to acquit Trump,

Regardless of the outcome, Trump is likely to remembered as a president who was impeached, just like it is one of the first things people remember Bill Clinton for (he was also acquitted).

The Democrats may lose this battle but they are trying to win a bigger war, this year’s election. The target of Trump’s Ukraine pressure is Joe Biden, who has a good chance of competing with Trump for the presidency (that is why Trump tried to pressure the new Ukraine to dump on Biden). So the impeachment attempt is likely to be a major influence on a geriatric face off.

There’s bigger issues involved, in particular the Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Here’s one take on that – allegations that Trump was promoting Russian fake news that it was Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election.

Note first that the writer of this has Ukraine connections “Kenneth Foard McCallion is a former organized crime and counterintelligence expert with the U.S. Department of Justice, and has been counsel for former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and numerous other Ukraine pro-democracy leaders and businessmen.”

RealClear Politics – A Key Impeachment Fact: Trump Pushed Russian Disinformation

Article One of the Articles of Impeachment now pending before the Senate is primarily focused on President Trump’s extortionate demand that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky announce an investigation into the Bidens.

However, it should be kept well in mind by the House managers as they present their case on the Senate floor that Trump has also been impeached for improperly using the powers of his office to pressure Ukraine into investigating, in the words of Article One, “a discredited theory promoted by Russia’s disinformation machine, alleging that Ukraine — rather than Russia — interfered in the 2016 United States Presidential election.”

Russian and right-wing media propaganda, and Trump himself, have wrongly claimed that CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic National Committee in 2016 to investigate the massive hack of its server, is “owned by a very rich Ukrainian” and is hiding evidence that could clear Russia of any wrongdoing in regards to the 2016 U.S. election.

U.S. Intelligence agencies agree that this discredited theory, which deftly shifted blame for the cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system away from Russian and squarely onto Ukraine and CrowdStrike, originated as a Russian intelligence talking point before it gained traction in right-wing media outlets and, ultimately, in the White House.

Ukraine could not give into Trump’s demands for an “investigation.” Announcing an investigation of a leading U.S. presidential contender would have been harmful to Zelensky’s reputation, and an investigation by Ukraine into its own government for U.S. election interference would have been crippling to the Zelensky administration. Furthermore, the Ukraine government well knew that once it gave in to Trump’s extortionate demands for announcement of these two bogus investigations, the demands and the extortion would not stop.

Given Ukraine’s extensive experience with predatory Russian practices, the Ukraine government strongly suspected that Putin and his U.S. crony in the White House were capable of neutering and ultimately dismantling Ukraine as an independent pro-Western democracy. Due to the fortuitous public disclosure of the whistleblower complaint and the ensuing impeachment investigation, Ukraine was not forced to subject itself to this destabilizing humiliation.

Make no mistake, the Russians will not hesitate to manipulate the 2020 U.S. election in the same way they did in 2016. They know U.S. election machinery in key swing states is vulnerable, and that many electronic voting machine systems in these states are fully hackable.

The Democratic leadership is understandably hesitant to call Trump’s abuse of power what it is: TREASON. However, the House has at least given its managers the tools to explain to the American people during the impeachment trial that Trump was not just crassly seeking to further his own political interests at the expense of U.S. national security interests, but that he was also trying to do Russia’s bidding while, at the same time, selling out the United States and one of its staunchest allies. The House managers must not ignore this crucial fact.

(Parts of this are edited).

While the impeachment is likely to fizzle out, the issues surrounding it may swirl around the US election all year.