According to The New York Times, publishing on Monday another excerpt from the upcoming book and citing people familiar with the work on the condition of anonymity, Bolton spoke privately with US Attorney General William P. Barr in 2019, expressing his concern that Trump was granting personal favors to world leaders.
The book reportedly claims that the former top security adviser felt uneasy that Trump created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries. In an unpublished episode of the forthcoming book, Barr points to a couple of US Department of Justice investigations of companies in Turkey and China, mentioning conversations that Trump had with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Bolton claims in his manuscript, cited by The New York Times, that Barr highlighted Trump’s conversations with Xi about Chinese telecom giant ZTE, which reportedly 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, Trump lifted the sanctions over objections from his advisers and several ranking Republican lawmakers.
According to the yet unpublished book, Barr also recalled remarks that Trump made to Erdogan in 2018, about an investigation of Halkbank, Turkey’s second-largest state-owned bank. At the time, the Justice Department was reportedly probing the Turkish entity on fraud and money-laundering charges for helping Iran evade US Treasury Department sanctions. The book claims that Erdogan reportedly made personal appeals to Trump to use his authority to halt any additional enforcement against the Ankara bank.
According to the New York Times, a spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment on Barr’s conversations with Bolton, as a spokesman for the National Security Council.
Democrats are seeking testimony from Bolton and current White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Trump’s efforts to enlist Ukraine’s help in investigating former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s stewardship of Ukraine policy during the Obama administration.
Bolton did not testify before the Democrat-led House of Representatives, which in December 2019, after months of deliberations, impeached Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his dealings with Ukraine.
Trump denies wrongdoing, and has repeatedly dismissed the impeachment as a witch hunt aimed at reversing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
Trump fired Bolton in September 2019 over reported disagreements on US foreign policy issues related to Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba, among others.