The Memo: Bolton exposé makes Trump figure of mockery

John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump said he hoped COVID-19 'takes out' Bolton: book US drops lawsuit, closes probe over Bolton book John Bolton: Biden-Putin meeting 'premature' MORE’s most potent weapon against President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE is simple but brutal — mockery.

The New York Times published details from the former national security advisor’s book Wednesday afternoon, and other outlets soon followed. The revelations caused an immediate firestorm.

By Bolton’s account, Trump on one occasion asked if Finland is part of Russia. He was not aware that the United Kingdom possesses nuclear weapons. He was eager to see if an autographed copy of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” could be delivered to North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong Un North Korea says it won't engage in talks with U.S. that would get nowhere Sister of North Korean leader dismisses prospects for talks with US Sullivan: Comments by North Korea's Kim an 'interesting signal' MORE


And he was so reckless that he needed to be looked after by former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonHouse passes legislation to elevate cybersecurity at the State Department Biden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet With salami-slicing and swarming tactics, China's aggression continues MORE and former Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet Rejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs MORE, whom Bolton reportedly terms “the axis of adults.”

Bolton’s portrayal of the president as a fool may be a sharper dart, politically speaking, than serious allegations suggesting Trump committed other potentially impeachable acts, beyond his dealings with Ukraine.

In the one detail that is likely to receive enormous attention, Bolton recounts a meeting during which Tillerson’s successor as secretary of State, Mike PompeoMike PompeoWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? MORE, purportedly passed Bolton a note saying of Trump: “He is so full of shit.”

That remark will be added to the pantheon of profanities that have been used by, or attributed to, erstwhile members of Trump’s inner circle.

Tillerson is said to have called Trump a “f----ing moron.” Bob Woodward’s book, "Fear," characterizes lawyer John Dowd as believing Trump to be “a f----ing liar” and former Chief of Staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE to have considered him an “idiot.” (Dowd and Kelly denied those accounts.)

There has been a vigorous effort from the administration and outside Trump allies to suppress or discredit Bolton’s book — a sign, perhaps, that they are aware of the danger it poses.


The pre-publication vetting of the book was deeply contentious, with the National Security Council demanding changes, ostensibly to protect national security. 

A lawyer for Bolton, Chuck Cooper, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last week in which he argued this amounted to “a transparent attempt to use national security as a pretext to censor Mr. Bolton.”

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice filed a civil complaint against Bolton over the book, which is titled “The Room Where it Happened.” In the process, the DOJ gave the tome enormous publicity. Although it does not come out until June 23, it was the number one bestseller on Amazon on Wednesday afternoon.

Bolton is, to be sure, not a hero for the anti-Trump “Resistance.”

A hawkish foreign policy expert who first came to national prominence during the administration of former President George W. Bush, he was a leading proponent of the Iraq War.

When Bush nominated him to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 2005, he failed to secure confirmation from the Senate, and was instead put in place via a recess appointment.

During his time in the Trump administration, which began in April 2018, Bolton plainly favored a more muscular approach than the president on a number of issues, including North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan. 

Those differences, among others, led to a parting of the ways in September under disputed circumstances. Bolton says he resigned, and Trump says he was fired.

Trump allies are now trying to downplay Bolton’s importance by questioning his motives. It’s a rare instance where MAGA-land and liberals are in agreement. 

Many Democrats and other Trump critics are scathing of Bolton, who they believe wheedled out of testifying during impeachment proceedings earlier this year, only to cash in with a book that is said to have earned him a $2 million advance.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTech antitrust bills create strange bedfellows in House markup White House uses Trump's words praising China to slam McCarthy's Biden criticism Powell says pickup in job gains likely this fall MORE (R-Ohio), one of Trump’s strongest congressional allies, on Wednesday derided Bolton for having “an ax to grind,” according to a tweet from a CNN reporter. 

Jason Miller, a veteran of the 2016 Trump campaign who has recently joined up again as a senior advisor to the 2020 effort, has pushed the Twitter hashtag #BookDealBolton and said that Bolton is “more concerned with selling books than U.S. national security.”


There is some distaste expressed by other Washington Republicans as well.

One veteran of a past Republican administration told The Hill late last week, as details of Bolton’s book began to emerge, that the former national security adviser was engaged in “score-settling” and “salacious inside gossip.”

Support, of a kind, for those views came from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocratic lawmakers not initially targeted in Trump DOJ leak probe: report Sunday shows - Voting rights, infrastructure in the spotlight Schiff calls Iranian presidential election 'predetermined' MORE (D-Calif.), who spearheaded the impeachment proceedings. 

Schiff contrasted Bolton’s resistance to testifying with the “courage” of his staff members who had done so.

“Bolton may be an author, but he’s no patriot,” Schiff complained.

Be that as it may, some of Bolton’s allegations go right to the heart of questions that were raised during Trump’s impeachment. 


Whereas impeachment focused on Ukraine, and Trump’s apparent willingness to make congressionally mandated aid contingent upon the eastern European nation launching an investigation into Joe BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE, Bolton argues a broadly similar stroke was attempted with China.

Bolton describes a June 2019 Group of 20 summit at which Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win the 2020 election. 

“He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome. I would print Trump’s exact words but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise,” Bolton writes, according to The Washington Post.

Plenty of serious coverage will be devoted to that issue. 

But, for all the gravity in such charges, it may be Bolton’s portrayal of Trump as out-of-his-depth and incompetent that lodges most firmly in the public mind.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.