Trump not interested in HK protests, says Bolton

Top News | AGENCIES 19 Jun 2020

Donald Trump was not interested in backing Hong Kong democracy activists last year, the US president's former national security adviser writes in a tell-all book.

When informed more than a million people turned out during a Hong Kong protest in mid-2019, Trump - according to John Bolton - responded: "That's a big deal. [But] I don't want to get involved."

He added, according to excerpts from the book: "We have human rights problems, too."

Bolton also alleges in a blistering critique that Trump pleaded with President Xi Jinping for help to win reelection this year. And he claims that top aides routinely disparaged the president for his ignorance of basic geopolitical facts.

In excerpts published by the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, Bolton says too that Trump repeatedly showed a readiness to overlook rights abuse claims against China - most strikingly telling Xi the mass internment of Uygurs was "exactly the right thing to do."

Bolton says Trump, who was impeached in December for seeking dirt from Ukraine on Democratic election rival Joe Biden: "I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn't driven by reelection calculations."

At a meeting in Japan last June, Bolton claims, 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."

He writes that Trump stressed the importance of US farmers and how "increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat" could impact the US election.

In an interview on ABC News, Bolton said: "I don't think he's fit for office. I don't think he has the competence to carry out the job.

"There really isn't any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what's good for Donald Trump's reelection."

Asked about Bolton's claims in the book, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: "We have no intention to and will not interfere in US internal politics and elections."

In a sign of Trump's anger over the memoir, the Justice Department filed an emergency order seeking to halt publication - the second time it has tried to block the book.

Arguing that Bolton failed to allow completion of vetting of the book as required, the department urged action to "prevent harm to national security."

Trump went on Fox News to deride his former adviser, a veteran Washington insider, as "washed up."

Also in the released excerpts of The Room Where It Happened, Bolton said by intervening in cases involving major firms in China and Turkey Trump appeared to "give personal favors to dictators he liked."

He describes "obstruction of justice as a way of life" in the White House. The book is due for release on Tuesday.

Biden said Bolton's revelations show Trump "sold out the American people to protect his political future."

Bolton, 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 Trump impeachment process in the House of Representatives then said in January he would testify in the Senate trial if he were issued a subpoena. Republicans blocked such an effort by Democrats.

Bolton said that had Democrats looked more widely they might have persuaded Republicans that "high crimes and misdemeanors" were perpetrated.

And he depicts a chaotic White House in which top aides mocked the president - while Trump himself allegedly ignores basic facts such as Finland being a country and not part of Russia.

During Trump's 2018 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Bolton claims, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped him a note maligning the president, saying: "He is so full of s**t."

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