Bolton had concerns about Trump favouring autocrats: Report , Latest World News - The New Paper

Bolton had concerns about Trump favouring autocrats: Report

This article is more than 12 months old

Ex-adviser's latest allegation in book manuscript continues to roil Senate trial on Trump impeachment

WASHINGTON: Former national security adviser John Bolton privately told the US Attorney-General last year about concerns that President Donald Trump was essentially granting favours to autocrats, The New York Times reported on Monday.

It said the revelations, concerning the leaders of China and Turkey, come in an unpublished book manuscript by Mr Bolton.

The same manuscript says Mr Trump told Mr Bolton that he wanted to continue freezing US$391 million (S$531 million) in security aid to Ukraine until officials there helped to investigate his political rivals, the Times previously reported.

Those allegations have roiled Mr Trump's ongoing impeachment trial in the US Senate.

According to the Times' latest report, Attorney-General Bill Barr responded to Mr Bolton's concerns by pointing to the Justice Department's investigation of companies in Turkey and China. Mr Barr said he himself was worried as it appeared Mr Trump had undue influence over what would normally be independent inquiries, Mr Bolton said in the manuscript.

Mr Bolton wrote that Mr Barr singled out the President's conversations with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping about Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE.

Mr Trump personally intervened in May 2018 to order his Commerce Department to ease penalties against ZTE that had pushed it to the verge of collapse. US officials had accused the company of violating sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

Mr Barr also cited remarks Mr Trump made to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2018 about the US investigation of a Turkish bank, the Times report said.

Mr Trump has shown a preference for authoritarian leaders over Washington's traditional Western allies, a situation underscored by his warm welcome for Mr Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House.

Pressure has mounted on Republicans to call Mr Bolton as a witness at Mr Trump's impeachment trial since the Times reported on Sunday on his revelations about the Ukraine aid.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox Business Network on Monday that Mr Bolton was "clearly... trying to sell a book". Mr Trump fired Mr Bolton last September.

Mr Bolton's strident opposition to Mr Trump's negotiating with Iran, North Korea and the Taliban eventually forced his ouster - though he insists he resigned.

Mr Trump's lawyers pushed back forcefully against the allegations in the trial on Monday, insisting the US President's dealings regarding Ukraine were not impeachable. The defence also injected Mr Joe Biden and his family directly into the argument for why the President should not be ousted.

At only the third impeachment trial in US history, they stressed that Mr Trump's requests to Ukraine to investigate his potential election opponent were motivated by corruption concerns.

Mr Alan Dershowitz argued emphatically that the charges were "unconstitutional grounds" for impeachment. He also sought to neutralise the Bolton developments.

"Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of abuse of power or impeachable offence," Mr Dershowitz said. - AFP