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Trump asked China's Xi for re-election help, claims Bolton

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Washington (AFP)

Donald Trump pleaded with China's leader Xi Jinping for help to win re-election in 2020, the US president's former national security advisor John Bolton writes in an explosive new behind-the-scenes book, according to excerpts published Wednesday.

In a blistering critique which the White House has sued to block, Bolton alleges that Trump's focus on winning a second term was the driving principle of his foreign policy -- and that top aides routinely disparaged the Republican leader for his ignorance of basic geopolitical facts.

In excerpts published by The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Bolton also claims Trump repeatedly showed a readiness to overlook Chinese rights abuses -- most strikingly telling Xi the mass internment of Uighur Muslims was "exactly the right thing to do."

"I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn't driven by reelection calculations," Bolton writes of the real estate magnate turned president -- who was impeached last December for seeking dirt from Ukraine on his 2020 election rival Joe Biden.

In a key meeting with Xi last June, Trump "stunningly turned the conversation to the US presidential election, alluding to China's economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he'd win," Bolton claims in his upcoming tell-all.

Bolton writes that Trump stressed the importance of America's farmers and how "increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat" could impact the US electoral outcome.

"I would print Trump's exact words but the government's prepublication review process has decided otherwise," Bolton says, referring to the requirement months ago that he have his manuscript vetted by US agencies.

He also describes multiple episodes of behavior by Trump, including his intervention in cases involving major firms in China and Turkey, in which he appeared "to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked," according to the excerpts.

"The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn't accept," writes Bolton, who says he reported his concerns to Attorney General William Barr.

The book, "The Room Where It Happened," is due for release next Tuesday.

The bombshells come in the thick of a presidential election campaign against the Democratic former vice president Biden.

- 'Impeachment malpractice' -

The conservative Bolton, himself a controversial figure in US politics, spent 17 turbulent months in the White House before resigning last September.

He declined to testify during the impeachment process in the House of Representatives last December, saying he only would if compelled by a judge.

Bolton then said in January he would testify before the Senate trial if he was issued a subpoena, but the chamber's Republicans circled the wagons and blocked such an effort by Democrats.

Bolton did not explicitly say whether Trump's newly revealed actions amounted to impeachable conduct, but argued they should have been investigated by the House.

He also said Democrats committed "impeachment malpractice" by limiting their inquiry to "the Ukraine aspects of Trump's confusion of his personal interests."

Had they looked more widely, he writes, "there might have been a greater chance to persuade others that 'high crimes and misdemeanors' had been perpetrated."

Bolton's non-testimony enraged Democrats at the time, and their anger was revived Wednesday as the excerpts were published.

Instead of testifying under oath about what he saw and knew, "he saved it for a book," House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff tweeted.

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

Bolton depicts a chaotic White House in which even top aides who publicly show fealty to the president were mocking him -- while Trump himself allegedly ignored basic facts such as Britain being a nuclear power or Finland being distinct from Russia.

During Trump's 2018 summit with North Korea's leader, according to excerpts, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped Bolton a note maligning the president, saying: "He is so full of shit."

Several behind-the-scenes books by aides and journalists have emerged in recent years offering damning details about White House disarray or embarrassing Trump conduct, but Bolton is the highest-ranking official to write such a memoir.

It is also one of two such books to be published in the coming weeks.

The president's own niece, Mary Trump, releases her memoir, featuring the scathing title "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man," on July 28.

Trump filed a lawsuit to halt Bolton's book, and is reportedly threatening a suit against his niece. Constitutional experts told AFP that it would be highly unlikely for courts to block publication of the memoirs.

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