Former national security adviser John Bolton expressed concerns to Attorney General William Barr about President Donald Trump granting favors to the autocratic leaders of China and Turkey, according to an unpublished draft of Bolton’s forthcoming book, according to the New York Times. Barr reportedly told Bolton that he was worried that Trump had created “the appearance that he had undue influence over” what were supposed to be independent investigations of companies in those countries, the Times revealed.
Mr. Bolton wrote in the manuscript that Mr. Barr singled out Mr. Trump’s conversations with Mr. Xi about the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE, which agreed in 2017 to plead guilty and pay heavy fines for violating American sanctions on doing business with North Korea, Iran and other countries. A year later, Mr. Trump lifted the sanctions over objections from his own advisers and Republican lawmakers.
Mr. Barr also cited remarks Mr. Trump made to Mr. Erdogan in 2018 about the investigation of Halkbank, Turkey’s second-largest state-owned bank. The Justice Department was scrutinizing Halkbank on fraud and money-laundering charges for helping Iran evade sanctions imposed by the Treasury Department.
Mr. Erdogan had been making personal appeals to Mr. Trump to use his authority to halt any additional enforcement against the bank. In 2018, Mr. Erdogan told reporters in Turkey that Mr. Trump had promised to instruct cabinet members to follow through on the matter. The bank had hired a top Republican fund-raiser to lobby the administration on the issue.
Mr. Bolton’s account underscores the fact that the unease about Mr. Trump’s seeming embrace of authoritarian leaders, long expressed by experts and his opponents, also existed among some of the senior cabinet officers entrusted by the president to carry out his foreign policy and national security agendas.
The revelation came a day after the Times reported on another detail in the manuscript, one key to the ongoing impeachment inquiry: that Trump reportedly told Bolton in an August 2019 meeting that he wanted to withhold military aid to Ukraine until officials there helped investigate his political foes, including the Bidens.