Bolton says Trump unfit for office; US president calls him a ‘sick puppy’

White House scrambles to prevent publication of memoir by former top aide, who says in interview Trump lacks ‘any guiding principle’

Former US national security adviser John Bolton speaks in Nashville, Tennessee, on February 19, 2020 (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
Former US national security adviser John Bolton speaks in Nashville, Tennessee, on February 19, 2020 (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

US President Donald Trump on Thursday dismissed former top aide John Bolton’s explosive accusations about the White House in an upcoming book as “pure fiction.”

In a tweet calling the former national security adviser a “sick puppy,” Trump said the book is “a compilation of lies and made up stories, all intended to make me look bad.”

“Many of the ridiculous statements he attributes to me were never made, pure fiction,” Trump said.

The Trump administration is scrambling to stop publication of the memoir, “The Room Where It Happened,” arguing that it contains classified material. The White House asked a federal court for an emergency temporary restraining order Wednesday against its release.

Bolton said in an interview released Thursday to promote the book that Trump is incompetent and has no guiding principles.

“I don’t think he’s fit for office. I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job,” Bolton told ABC News.

In the book, excerpts of which were published by three newspapers Wednesday, Bolton alleged that Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping for reelection help, voiced support for Beijing’s mass incarceration of Uighur Muslims and other minorities and was widely ignorant of the world.

“There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s reelection,” Bolton told ABC News in the interview, which will be broadcast in full Sunday.

“I think he was so focused on the reelection that longer-term considerations fell by the wayside,” he added.

Bolton pointed to Trump’s outreach to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying the president was fixated on the “photo opportunity and press reaction to it” rather than on long-term US interests.

Bolton, a veteran Republican insider, is well-known for his hawkish views on North Korea — a key reason for his departure from the White House in September.

Bolton’s allegations that Trump solicited Chinese help for his reelection effort carried echoes of Trump’s attempt to get political help from Ukraine, which led to his impeachment.

“I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” Bolton wrote.

The 577-page book paints an unvarnished portrait of Trump and his administration, amounting to the most vivid, first-person account yet of how Trump conducts himself in office. Several other former officials have written books, but most have been flattering about the president. Other former officials have indicated they were saving their accounts of their time working for Trump until after he left office to speak more candidly. The Associated Press obtained a copy of Bolton’s book in advance of its release next week.

US President Donald Trump in the White House, on June 17, 2020. (AP/Alex Brandon)

Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser for a 17-month period, called Trump’s attempt to shift the June 2019 conversation with China’s Xi to the US election a stunning move and wrote that it was among innumerable conversations that he found concerning. He added that Congress should have expanded the scope of its impeachment inquiry to these other incidents.

Deeply critical of the president and much of his senior team, Bolton wrote that because staff had served him so poorly, Trump “saw conspiracies behind rocks, and remained stunningly uninformed on how to run the White House, let alone the huge federal government.”

He added that while he was at the White House, Trump typically had only two intelligence briefings a week “and in most of those, he spoke at greater length than the briefers, often on matters completely unrelated to the subjects at hand.”

The book includes embarrassing claims that Trump thought Finland was part of Russia, didn’t know that the United Kingdom was a nuclear power and called reporters “scumbags” who should be “executed.”

As for the meeting with the Chinese president in Osaka, Japan, Bolton wrote that Trump told Xi that Democrats were hostile to China.

“He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” Bolton said. “He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

China’s President Xi Jinping (right) greets US President Donald Trump before a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, on June 29, 2019 (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

Bolton wrote that he would print Trump’s exact words, “but the government’s pre-publication review process has decided otherwise.”

The book, titled “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” is set to be released Tuesday by Simon & Schuster.

The White House’s contention that so much of the book was classified appeared to be a tacit admission that many of Bolton’s allegations were accurate — as inaccurate information could not be classified.

Bolton was called to testify before House lawmakers conducting the impeachment inquiry, but he declined, suggesting he wanted a federal court to decide whether he should heed a White House directive not to cooperate with the inquiry.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who managed the impeachment case against Trump, said Thursday “we’ll never know” if Bolton’s testimony might have made a difference in the case.

Schiff told “CBS This Morning” that Bolton’s decision to save his information for his book was “the price the country had to pay for John Bolton’s putting profit above country.”

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