Administration

Bolton takes hits from all sides over book

Former national security adviser John Bolton drew criticism from all sides as the first excerpts of his forthcoming memoir were published on Wednesday.

Bolton's book, "The Room Where it Happened," paints a damning portrait of President Trump, describing him as unfamiliar with basic facts and motivated by politics and his own interests in many of his foreign policy decisions and interactions with world leaders.

But Bolton's allegations landed with a thud among lawmakers in both parties, and he and his hotly anticipated book have become a target of scorn by critics across the political spectrum.

Democrats fumed over the new information Wednesday, pointing to Bolton's prior refusal to testify before the House during impeachment hearings unless a judge ordered him to do so.

"When Bolton was asked, he refused, and said he'd sue if subpoenaed. Instead, he saved it for a book," tweeted Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who oversaw most of the impeachment hearings as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

"Bolton may be an author, but he's no patriot," Schiff added.

Multiple Republicans largely shrugged off Bolton's claims, reasoning that the former national security adviser had an ax to grind with his former boss.

"$2 million. Apparently that's all it took for John Bolton to sell off what little credibility he had left," Rep Doug Collins (R-Ga.) tweeted, referencing the reported worth of Bolton's book deal.

The Department of Justice is suing Bolton over claims that the book contains classified information, claims an attorney for Bolton denies, while federal prosecutors are reportedly also considering whether to criminally charge the former official over the issue.

Even The New York Times's review of the memoir on Wednesday was unfriendly to Bolton, with a critic writing that he "toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged."

The reaction may complicate the fallout of what is otherwise the most detailed accounting to date of the Trump White House from a high-ranking official.

Among Bolton's most notable allegations are that the president solicited help from Chinese President Xi Jinping in winning reelection by urging him to buy more agricultural products to boost support among farmers in the U.S.

The former national security adviser also wrote that Trump shrugged off human rights abuses in China against Uighur Muslims, that the president mused about jailing members of the press and that the commander in chief said invading Venezuela would be "cool."

Bolton further backed up the allegations at the core of Democrats' impeachment push in late 2019, which was centered on the claim that Trump withheld aid for Ukraine to pressure the country to investigate his political rivals.

"What we've just learned makes it even more difficult to understand why Ambassador Bolton did not testify during the House's impeachment inquiry," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Wednesday.

"If President Trump urged the Chinese leader to help with his reelection, just as he pressed the Ukrainian leader to do, the American people deserved to know that information," Engel added.

Trump's allies were quick to denounce some of Bolton's most biting claims.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer called the claim that Trump sought Xi's help in winning reelection "absolutely untrue." Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh called the same allegation "absurd."

The White House did not offer a response after the excerpts were published Wednesday, though the president was expected to tweet his thoughts at some point.

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed in a briefing earlier in the day that the memoir is "full of classified information, which is inexcusable."

That assertion is the crux of the Justice Department's lawsuit against Bolton, which was filed Tuesday in a federal court in Washington, D.C. The government asked the court to declare that Bolton's account of his time as a top Trump adviser from April 2018 to September 2019 violated his nondisclosure agreement.

Chuck Cooper, Bolton's attorney, has denied that the book contains classified material.

The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that federal prosecutors are considering criminal charges against Bolton for allegedly disclosing classified information, saying the Justice Department may seek a temporary restraining order to block the book's publication.

The book is scheduled to be released in full on Tuesday, though its contents have already been circulating in the press, making the purpose of such a move to prevent publication unclear.

Trump's White House has been the subject of multiple tell-alls as well as books by investigative reporters. Bolton's largely aligns with the narrative of other works that paint the administration as chaotic and portrays aides voicing critical views of the president in private.

Bolton has served in every Republican administration dating back to the Reagan White House and has a reputation as a studious note taker. Still, the president and his allies have already engaged in a familiar strategy of painting the former aide as a financially motivated, disgruntled former employee.

The battle between the president and his former adviser is likely to escalate in the coming days. The Justice Department lawsuit will play out in court, and ABC News is scheduled to air an interview with Bolton in prime time on Sunday night.

The book is currently listed as the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon ahead of its release next week.

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