Could the John Bolton book move political needle on Donald Trump?

John BoltonJohn BoltonNSA places former GOP political operative in top lawyer position after Pentagon chief's reported order After insurrection: The national security implications McConnell won't reprise role as chief Trump defender MORE is set to release his book “The Room Where It Happened,” in which the former national security advisor recounts his time working for President TrumpDonald TrumpGiuliani used provisional ballot to vote in 2020 election, same method he disparaged in fighting to overturn results Trump gets lowest job approval rating in final days as president Fox News' DC managing editor Bill Sammon to retire MORE. Several excerpts detail explosive and deeply troubling accounts of the foreign policy conduct of Trump. Notably, Bolton claims that Trump asked President Xi of China to use economic powers to help him win this election, and offered to assist President Erdogan of Turkey with avoiding a criminal investigation into one of its state banks.

These are shocking revelations that raise questions over how Trump has conducted himself, and they highlight the foreign policy challenges that remain unresolved in light of what Bolton tells about China, among other things. Regardless of criticism Bolton is receiving from some politicians, his claims should not be dismissed or ignored, as they fulfill the broader pattern of behavior by Trump of not handling foreign policy well.

Yet it is unclear whether the revelations will move the political needle one way or the other. They certainly have the power to distract from the White House agenda, especially if Trump spends time excoriating Bolton instead of focusing on policy issues. Further, the book could make it more difficult for Trump to consolidate Republican voters, now that a leading traditional conservative has accused him of repeatedly using powers of his office to court favors from our adversaries and undercut national interests.


This could be problematic for Trump, who has seen a significant number of moderate Republicans and even evangelicals, who were once thought to be a core constituency in his base, defect from him. While it is not yet clear how voters across the ideological spectrum may react to the book, responses from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have primarily been character attacks on Bolton. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham stated he found it hard to take seriously “anyone who claims to have witnessed treason and obstruction of justice and tells about it with a book.”

Democrats have also criticized Bolton, asserting that if he were really as disturbed by Trump as he claims in the book and had information about abuse of power or acts of treason, then he should have testified with the impeachment trial instead of writing it all in a book. Democrats attacked Bolton for writing that they committed “impeachment malpractice” with not broadening the scope of their investigation and instead focusing on those business dealings between the administration and Ukraine.

Regardless of what some politicians on both sides of the aisle say, Bolton has always struck me as honorable in all dealings with him personally and professionally. However, the circumstances surrounding the release of his book and the details included do raise the critical question of why Bolton did not appear voluntarily before the committee in the impeachment trial if he was aware that Trump committed acts of treason and obstruction of justice, but I will leave Bolton to answer such matters for himself.

If nothing else, the book will serve as a distraction from the White House agenda at a time when the chances of Trump in the election hinge on his ability to communicate a positive message to Americans. We can expect the book to consume the news for a time when his campaign had hoped would be devoted to different issues, such as the stock market recovery and the latest strong jobs report, especially now as Joe BidenJoe BidenWoman accused of trying to sell Pelosi laptop to Russians arrested Trump gets lowest job approval rating in final days as president Trump moves to lift coronavirus travel restrictions on Europe, Brazil MORE is leading Trump by more than 9 points, according to Real Clear Politics.

Because of the way that Trump operates, he will likely continue to attack Bolton, which will garner more media attention and further distract from his agenda. With the book due for release this week, it will be interesting to see how Bolton is treated by the press, which in the past has made an enemy of him, now that he has given explosive anecdotes about Trump, even though it was likely done in an effort to sell the book. While Bolton has few friends left in Washington, his claims do raise serious questions about the conduct of Trump that the public should not ignore.

Douglas Schoen is a consultant who served as an adviser to President Bill Clinton and to the campaign of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His latest book was “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”