- Former National Security Adviser John Bolton made several major accusations in his new book, “The Room Where It Happened.”
- Among some of his claims, Bolton said President Donald Trump asked China to interfere in the 2020 election and would do favors for authoritarian governments.
- Bolton also confirmed that Trump asked Ukraine for investigation materials in exchange for military aid.
- The Department of Justice has moved to block the book’s release, meanwhile, the President and other officials deny the book has any legitimacy.
The Room Where it Happened
A flurry of reports have come out over the last several days detailing major claims National Security Adviser John Bolton made in his new book, “The Room Where It Happened.”
The book was originally set to release on March 17 but was blocked pending a review by the National Security Council. It’s now set to come out June 23 and is supposed to be a tell-all of Bolton’s time as National Security adviser to President Donald Trump.
Media outlets have been given advance copies of the book to look over and based on their reports, the allegations within the book paint a picture of a president who was unsure for many policy decisions while granting favors to authoritarian leaders.
Bolton claims that President Trump doe not really know some of the basics that those in a political leadership position are expected to know. For instance, he says Trump did not realize the UK was a nuclear power and asking if Finland is part of Russia.
He also accused of the president of releasing a letter in November of 2018 to distract from reports that his daughter used a personal email to conduct government business; the exact same conduct the president accused former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton of doing. The letter in question defended Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman after he ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
According to Bolton, Trump said, “this will divert from Ivanka. If I read the statement in person, that will take over the Ivanka thing.”
The author also gave details revealing Trump was allegedly mocked by staff, including people seen as loyal to Trump. In one incident, during a 2018 meeting with Kim Jong-Un, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo allegedly slipped Bolton a note that said “[The president] is so full of shit.” A month later, Pompeo said that the president’s efforts with North Korea had “zero probability of success.”
Bolton says he only joined the administration because he felt that he could manage the President. He even goes so far as to call himself, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the “axis of adults” in the administration. Together, they allegedly tried to minimize the damage caused by the President.
It’s also being reported that Bolton accuses Trump of being friendly to authoritarian leaders and making concerning, dictatorial-like comments. For example, Trump once allegedly said of journalists, “These people should be executed, they are scumbags.”
Bolton also claims that in 2019, when President Xi Jinping was explaining to Trump why China was building concentration camps for the country’s Uyghurs, Trump, “said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which he thought was exactly the right thing to do.”
Bolton added that Matt Pottinger, a National Security Council official, said Trump made a similar comment in 2017.
In another incident, Trump pressured Attorney General William Barr to prosecute former Secretary of State John Kerry for talking to Iran back in 2019. something Trump has publicly stated he felt was a violation of the 1799 Logan Act. Kerry has never faced charges, likely because what he did wasn’t out of the norm for a Secretary of State.
Regarding being friendly with dictators, the book states that the U.S. president would help out authoritarian leaders “to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked… The patterns looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn’t accept.”
Such incidents include Trump allegedly trying to interfere with sanctions against the Chinese firm ZTE, as well as Turkey’s Halkbank.
That bank is Turkey’s second largest state-owned bank and was being investigated by the Department of Justice for helping Iran evade sanctions. In May 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pleaded for Trump to help out Halkbank, claiming they were innocent.
Of this Bolton says, “Trump then told Erdogan he would take care of things, explaining that the Southern District prosecutors were not his people, but were Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people.”
This is backed up by a public statement Erdogan made to journalists at the time in which he said Trump had promised to instruct cabinet members to follow through on the matter.
Charges were eventually brought against the bank anyways, but they were seen as a response to the administrations abrupt departure from Syria and Trump’s approval of Turkey getting involved. The administration wanted to backtrack from that public image, so they cracked down on the bank after stalling for months.
When looking at what Bolton revealed, many raised questions about Trump’s Impeachment trial. At the time, Bolton wouldn’t testify before the House until a court case said whether former White House officials should testify despite objections from the President. He did agree to testify in front of the Senate, however, nearly every Senate Republican refused to hear his testimony.
Regarding the incident around the impeachment, an alleged quid-pro-quo, Bolton gave his first-hand accounts of the Ukraine deal and says that Trump explicitly linked the security aid to investigations involving Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.
He wrote that on Aug 20th, “I took Trump’s temperature on the Ukraine security assistance, and he said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over.”
He added that he, Pompeo, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper tried eight to 10 times for Trump to release the aid.
In a blow to Democrats though, he was critical of the impeachment process. He said Democrats rushed the process and ran investigations that were too narrow, detailing issues like Trump allegedly pressuring Xi to buy American agricultural products to help him win farm states in the upcoming election.
He wrote, “[Trump] stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”
During a G20 meeting in Osaka, Bolton adds that Xi allegedly told Trump unnamed figures in the U.S. were trying to start a Cold War with China. \
“Trump immediately assumed Xi meant the Democrats. Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility among the Democrats. He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” Bolton wrote.
Bolton said he reported these issues to Attorney General Bill Barr, who allegedly shared his concern. Bolton did not say these are necessarily impeachable offenses, but he does think they were likely abuses of power in some way.
“A president may not misuse the national government’s legitimate powers by defining his own personal interest as synonymous with the national interest, or by inventing pretexts to mask the pursuit of personal interest under the guise of national interest. Had the House not focused solely on the Ukraine aspects of Trump’s confusion of his personal interests [then] there might have been a greater chance to persuade others that ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ had been perpetrated.”
In an ABC interview aired Wednesday, he told the outlet, “I don’t think he’s fit for office, I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job. There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern; other than, ‘what’s good for Donald Trump’s reelection?’”
Reactions to Bolton’s Claims
The excerpts have caused major reactions across the political spectrum. Many online are calling Bolton a ‘coward’ for not testifying during the impeachment.
At the same time, others, like former Trump administration official Anthony Scaramucci tweeted out in defense of Bolton. He wrote that releasing this info closer to the election is more likely to yield results.
Current Trump administration members denied many of the accusations laid out. Kerri Kupec, the Department of Justice’s spokesperson, tweeted a statement on Tuesday disputing aspects of Mr. Bolton’s account.
“There was no discussion of ‘personal favors’ or ‘undue influence’ on investigations, nor did Attorney General Barr state that the President’s conversations with foreign leaders was improper.”
“If this is truly what Mr. Bolton has written, then it seems he is attributing to Attorney General Barr his own current views — views with which Attorney General Barr does not agree.”
The President himself had many opinions about the matter. He went on Twitter and sent out a series of tweets admonishing his former National Security adviser, who he called a “Wacko.” He mainly called the book a “compilation of lies and made up stories” and said that Bolton was incompetent for comments he made about North Korea.
Currently, the Department of Justice is trying to block the book’s release. They filed an emergency restraining order saying, “To be clear: Defendant’s manuscripts still contain classified information, as confirmed by some of the Government’s most senior national-security and intelligence officials.”
Although Bolton’s publisher Simon & Schuster doesn’t seem to worried.
“Tonight’s filing by the government is a frivolous, politically motivated exercise in futility. Hundred of thousands of copies of John Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened have already been distributed around the country and the world,” it said in response.
So will the book actually get released? It’s unclear at this time, but it seems like a version might surface at some point if what Simon & Schuster said is true.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (CNN) (Washington Post)
SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Police in Two Qualified Immunity Cases
The move further solidifies the contentious legal doctrine that protects officers who commit alleged constitutional violations.
SCOTUS Hears Qualified Immunity Cases
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of police in two separate cases involving qualified immunity, the controversial legal doctrine that shields officers accused of violating constitutional rights from lawsuits.
The topic has become a major flashpoint in debates over police reform and curbing police violence since the protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the summer of 2020.
On one side, supporters of qualified immunity claim it is necessary to ensure that police can do their jobs without worrying about frivolous lawsuits.
However, opponents argue that judicial interpretations of the doctrine over time have given police incredibly broad legal immunity for misconduct and use of excessive force. Under a previous Supreme Court ruling, in order for officers to be held liable, plaintiffs have to show that they violated rights “clearly established” by a previous ruling.
In other words, officers cannot be held liable unless there is another case that involves almost identical circumstances.
As a result, many argue the doctrine creates a Catch-22: Officers are shielded from liability because there is no past precedent, but the reason there is no past precedent is because officers are shielded from liability in the first place.
An Ongoing Debate
Critics argue that the two cases the Supreme Court saw Monday illustrate that double bind, as both involved accusations of excessive force commonly levied against police.
In one case, officers used non-lethal bean bag rounds against a suspect and knelt on his back to subdue him. In the other, police shot and killed a suspect after he threatened them with a hammer.
The justices overturned both lower-court rulings without ordering full briefing and argument because of the lack of precedent. The court issued the decisions in unsigned orders with no dissent, signaling they did not even see the cases as close calls.
Advocates for qualified immunity claim the decisions signal that the current Supreme Court is not open to changing qualified immunity, and the most likely path for opponents of the doctrine is legislation.
While Democrats in Congress have made numerous efforts to limit qualified immunity, including most recently in the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act passed by the House earlier this year, all those attempts have been blocked by Republicans.
At the state level, dozens of bills have been killed after heavy lobbying from police unions. As a result, it remains unclear what path proponents for reform have at this juncture.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)
Florida School Says Students Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Must Stay Home for 30 Days
The school falsely claimed that people who have just been vaccinated risk “shedding” the coronavirus and could infect others.
Centner Academy Vaccination Policy
A private school in Florida is now requiring all students who get vaccinated against COVID-19 to quarantine for 30 days before returning to class.
According to the local Miami outlet WSVN, Centner Academy wrote a letter to parents last week describing COVID vaccines as “experimental” and citing anti-vaccine misinformation.
“If you are considering the vaccine for your Centner Academy student(s), we ask that you hold off until the Summer when there will be time for the potential transmission or shedding onto others to decrease,” the letter reportedly stated.
“Because of the potential impact on other students and our school community, vaccinated students will need to stay at home for 30 days post-vaccination for each dose and booster they receive and may return to school after 30 days as long as the student is healthy and symptom-free.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has debunked the false claim that those newly vaccinated against COVID-19 can “shed” the virus.
According to the agency’s COVID myths page, vaccine shedding “can only occur when a vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus,” but “none of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.”
In fact, early research has suggested that vaccinated people are less likely to spread the virus than unvaccinated people.
Beyond that, unvaccinated people are more likely to spread COVID in general because they are much more likely to get the virus than vaccinated people. According to recently published CDC data, as of August, unvaccinated people were six times more likely to get COVID than vaccinated people and 11 times more likely to die from the virus.
Centner Academy Continues Spread of Misinformation
In a statement to The Washington Post Monday, Centner Academy co-founder David Centner doubled down on the school’s new policy, which he described as a “precautionary measure” based on “numerous anecdotal cases that have been in circulation.”
“The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community,” he added.
The new rule echoes similar efforts Centner Academy has made that run counter to public health guidance and scientific knowledge.
In April, the school made headlines when its leadership told vaccinated school employees that they were not allowed to be in contact with any students “until more information is known” and encouraged employees to wait until summer to get the jab.
According to The New York Times, the following week, a math and science teacher allegedly told students not to hug their vaccinated parents for more than five seconds.
The outlet also reported that the school’s other co-founder, Leila Centner, discouraged masking, but when state health officials came for routine inspections, teachers said they were directed in a WhatsApp group to put masks on.
See what others are saying: (WSVN) (The Washington Post) (Business Insider)
Katie Couric Says She Edited Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quote About Athletes Kneeling During National Anthem
Couric said she omitted part of a 2016 interview in order to “protect” the justice.
Kate Couric Edited Quote From Justice Ginsburg
In her upcoming book, journalist Katie Couric admitted to editing a quote from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2016 in order to “protect” Ginsberg from potential criticism.
Couric interviewed the late justice for an article in Yahoo News. During their discussion, she asked Ginsburg about her thoughts on athletes like Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem to protest racial inequality.
“I think it’s really dumb of them,” Ginsburg is quoted saying in the piece. “Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”
According to The Daily Mail and The New York Post, which obtained advance copies of Couric’s book “Going There,” there was more to Ginsburg’s response. Couric wrote that she omitted a portion where Ginsburg said the form of protest showed a “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life…Which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from.“
Couric Says She Lost Sleep Making Choice
“As they became older they realize that this was youthful folly,” Ginsberg reportedly continued. “And that’s why education is important.“
According to The Daily Mail, Couric wrote that the Supreme Court’s head of public affairs sent an email asking to remove comments about kneeling because Ginsburg had misspoken. Couric reportedly added that she felt a need to “protect” the justice, thinking she may not have understood the question. Couric reached out to her friend, New York Times reporter David Brooks, regarding the matter and he allegedly likewise believed she may have been confused by the subject.
Couric also wrote that she was a “big RBG fan” and felt her comments were “unworthy of a crusader for equality.” Because she knew the remarks could land Ginsburg in hot water, she said she “lost a lot of sleep” and felt “conflicted” about whether or not to edit them out.
Couric was trending on Twitter Wednesday and Thursday as people questioned the ethics behind her choice to ultimately cut part of the quote. Some thought the move showed a lack of journalistic integrity while others thought revealing the story now harmed Ginsburg’s legacy.