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Politics

Trump and Bolton: Id vs. Id

The president and his former national security advisor are still butting heads.

Douglas Andrews · Jun. 18, 2020

“There’s only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that’s not being talked about.”

So said John Bolton … er, Oscar Wilde. But it might just as well have been The ‘Stache. Indeed, just a few short months ago, Donald Trump’s former national security advisor was the talk of the town, his name and his possible “Ukraine” testimony on the lips of every impeachment watcher in Foggy Bottom.

Times have changed, though, and Bolton’s tell-all tease was supplanted first by talk of a pandemic and economic collapse and then by talk of riots, police brutality, and “systemic racism.” Still, there’s something newsworthy about the clash of two giant egos (Ids, really), one belonging to Trump and the other to Bolton.

Last September 10 began innocently enough — that is, until the president tweeted that Bolton’s services were “no longer needed at the White House.” And President Trump being President Trump, he then gave his guy a gentle kick out the door while telling the world that he “and others in the Administration” had “disagreed strongly with many of [Bolton’s] suggestions.” Then there was something about hell, fury, and scorn, and then a book deal.

“Game on,” says a prepublication taunt directed at Trump on the book’s back cover. And between those covers, claims by Bolton that Trump cozied up to China to help his reelection prospects are among the most inflammatory.

It’s certainly true that President Trump’s reelection prospects are tied to China — just as those of any U.S. president who tried to rebalance such a consequential trade relationship would be. But is this really news? Trump’s rhetoric toward China has been tough and unprecedented, hammering Beijing for cheating on trade and enabling a pandemic. Indeed, he’s changed the very way Americans think about China. This is hardly what we’d call “cozying up.”

So now you’re up to date, except for a little legal matter that popped up yesterday. As The Wall Street Journal reports, “The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department and the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, accuses Mr. Bolton of breaching the contract he signed as a condition of his employment and to access classified information. The suit marked the latest effort by the Trump administration to block the publication of "The Room Where It Happened” — set for June 23 — which is expected to be harshly critical of President Trump.“

The Journal continues, "The lawsuit asked the court to require Mr. Bolton to finish the prepublication review process or to create a 'constructive trust’ for any profits from the book if Mr. Bolton proceeded with the set publication date of June 23. ‘The United States is not seeking to censor any legitimate aspect of Defendant’s manuscript,’ the lawsuit said. The lawsuit also accuses Mr. Bolton of violating his nondisclosure agreements by circulating drafts of his book to some of his associates, citing news reports from January.”

“Brace for the Bolton Book Brouhaha,” alliterates The Resurgent, which tells us that the book will divulge “Ukraine-like transgressions … across the full range of his foreign policy” — which is to say, nothingburgers from start to finish. (Seriously: Can you name another president who’d have been impeached for merely trying to ascertain how the wastrel son of a former VP had landed a million-dollar do-nothing job with a corrupt foreign energy company?)

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

Well.

Isn’t that the idea, John? Shouldn’t President Trump be doing everything within his legal power to ensure that Joe Biden never ever takes the Oath of Office?

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