- 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)
China Imposes Retaliatory Sanctions on US Officials Over Xinjiang Criticisms
- The U.S. imposed sanctions on Chinese officials last week over the treatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.
- The decision was the latest escalation during a time of heightened tensions between the two nations over policies in Hong Kong, the trade war, and questions about sovereignty in the South China Sea, among other matters.
- In response, China announced retaliatory sanctions against U.S. officials, including Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
- However, what exactly the Chinese sanctions will do is currently unclear as officials haven’t given specifics yet.
Sanctions and Counter Sanctions
Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) were sanctioned by China on Monday over their involvement in criticizing the nation’s actions in Xinjiang. Two other American officials faced sanctions as well for interfering in “China’s internal affairs,” as characterized by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
The Chinese sanctions were in retaliation over earlier sanctions the U.S. placed on Chinese officials last Thursday. The U.S. was able to do this following the passage of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act last month. That law allows the U.S. to place sanctions, in line with the Global Magnitsky Act, on officials who are involved in the ongoing repression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
When the law was passed in mid-June, China warned that if the U.S. actually imposed any sanctions they would do the same in retaliation. after Thursday’s announcement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry stated, “We urge the US to immediately rescind its wrong decision and stop making any remarks or moves that interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine China’s interests. The Chinese side will firmly fight back if the US obstinately pursues such agenda.”
Despite China’s threat, the U.S. imposed sanctions on certain Chinese officials and organizations involved in Xinjiang on July 9. The sanctions include freezing the assets these officials hold in the U.S., as well as restricting the ability of the officials and their immediate family members’ to enter the U.S.
In a statement on July 9, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote, “The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, and attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith.”
Out of the four named individuals in the sanctions, one stands out: Chen Quanguo. Chen is the Communist Party secretary for Xinjiang and part of the Politburo and the highest-ranking Chinese official to ever be sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act. He first received infamy for his actions while doing the same job in Tibet from 2011-2016.
The Treasury Department named three other individuals who would have their assets frozen for helping Chen set up the surveillance and detention families in Xinjiang.
Additionally, the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB) was also sanctioned by the Treasury Department, and the State Department added that officials who worked with the XPSB were also liable to have themselves and their families denied entry into the U.S.
When speaking about the sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said, “The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world.”
However, these sanctions will likely end up being largely symbolic because these officials don’t travel to the U.S. in the first place. It’s also believed that their assets aren’t based in America but in China.
Even as a symbolic act, it still made China upset. On Monday, the country imposed its own sanctions against the four U.S. officials in retaliation, including the aforementioned Senators Cruz and Rubio.
Cruz was likely placed on this list for his work as part of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Two other officials part of that committee were also named, including Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Sam Brownback, a lawyer who also serves as the US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.,
Rubio was likely named over his co-sponsorship of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act. Interestingly though, China avoided issuing sanctions on the other co-sponsor, Sen. Robert Menedez (D-NJ).
As far as what these sanctions will actually do, that’s a little unclear. So far, China hasn’t given any specifics as to what the penalties would be.
These recent sanctions are just the next step in ongoing tit-for-tats between the two countries. There’s an ongoing trade war, tensions over how Hong Kong is being treated by the mainland Chinese, issues over the sovereignty of the South China Sea, and major problems with how the Chinese are treating ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.
The problems in Xinjiang are so bad, that there are pundits and experts calling it a cultural genocide.
Even outside of the US, China has increasingly been pressured to change course over Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Al Jazeera) (NPR)
San Francisco Lawmaker Proposes CAREN Act to Make False, Racist 911 Calls Illegal
- San Francisco City Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced an ordinance this week called the CAREN Act, which would make false, racially discriminatory 911 calls illegal.
- The acronym stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies. It is named after “Karens,” a nickname for white women who throw unwarranted fits in public.
- These fits often appear racially motivated and have led to “Karens” calling the police on people of color.
- California Assemblyman Rob Bonta has also introduced a similar piece of legislation that would outlaw these calls throughout the state.
Why the “CAREN” Act?
A lawmaker in San Francisco has introduced an ordinance that would outlaw making false, racially discriminatory 911 calls, dubbed the CAREN Act.
City Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced the ordinance. In a tweet announcing the act on Tuesday, he called racist 911 calls “unacceptable.”
The CAREN Act stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies, but its name bears much more weight. A “Karen” is an Internet nickname for white women whose privilege and entitlement leads to loud complaints, threats of legal action, calling supervisors, and often, calling the police. The unjustified outrage of Karens has been documented in countless viral incidents, and in many cases, they show a clear prejudice against people of color.
One video that went viral in May has been pointed to as a prime example of this. In that clip, Amy Cooper, a white woman in New York, called the police on a Black man named Christian Cooper. Both were in Central park at the time when the man asked her to put her dog on a leash, as she was required to do in that area.
However, that confrontation escalated when she desperately told a 911 operator that she was being threatened when she was not. Many felt her instinct to weaponize her white privilege and make a false claim could have had serious consequences considering the fact that Black Americans are more likely to face police brutality and die in police custody. She has since been charged with filing a false report after much public outrage.
While videos of this nature have often gone viral, this incident came at a cultural tipping point. Not long after it made its way across the Internet, another story received national attention: a video of George Floyd being killed by police officers in Minneapolis. This sparked a movement of people confronting systemic racism and police brutality, and since then, more “Karen” videos have spread online in an effort to hold people accountable for their racist behavior.
What the Ordinance Does
While filing a false police report is already illegal, Walton is pushing for more to be done to stop people from calling the authorities on people of color for no real reason. The CAREN Act would make it illegal to fabricate a report based on racial and other kinds of discrimination.
“Within the last month and a half in the Bay Area, an individual called the police on a Black man who was dancing and exercising on the street in his Alameda neighborhood and a couple called the police on a Filipino man stenciling ‘Black Lives Matter’ in chalk in front of his own residence in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights,” he said in a statement.
This is not the only proposal of its kind. California Assemblyman Rob Bonta has introduced a similar ordinance. His proposed legislation, AB 1150, would make state that “discriminatory 911 calls qualify as a hate crime, and further establish civil liability for the person who discriminatorily called 911.”
“AB 1550, when amended, will impose serious consequences on those who make 911 calls that are motivated by hate and bigotry; actions that inherently cause harm and pain to others,” Bonta said in a statement. “This bill is incredibly important to upholding our values and ensuring the safety of all Californians.”
Catholic Church Granted at Least $1.4 Billion in PPP Loans
- An analysis from the Associated Press found that the Catholic Church received at least between $1.4 and $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid.
- The report identified 3,500 loans the Church received from the Paycheck Protection Program, but leaders have previously stated that as many as 9,000 bodies of the Church received funding.
- However, government data only shared who received loans over $150,000. Smaller churches that received under that amount were not on the list, meaning the Catholic Church could have collected even more than records show.
- Usually, religious groups would not be eligible for funding from the Small Business Administration, but the Church allegedly spent a good chunk of money lobbying so that there would be an exception for the PPP.
Catholic Church Receives Billions in PPP Funds
While houses of worship and religious organizations are usually ineligible for federal aid from the Small Business Administration, an exception was made for the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to keep American businesses afloat as the pandemic shut the country down.
The AP found records of 3,500 forgivable loans for Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools, and other ministries. That number, however, is likely higher.
The Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference has claimed that 9,000 Catholic bodies received loans. Government data only shared loans over $150,000, so smaller churches who got less were not on the list, meaning the Church may have pocketed even more than $3.5 billion.
“The government grants special dispensation, and that creates a kind of structural favoritism,” Micah Schwartzman, a University of Virginia law professor told the AP. “And that favoritism was worth billions of dollars.”
According to the AP, the Archdiocese of New York received $28 million just for executive offices. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City received $1 million. Diocesan officials in Orange County, California received four loans worth $3 million. The AP’s analysis suggests that the Catholic Church and its entities were able to retain 407,900 jobs with this loan money.
“These loans are an essential lifeline to help faith-based organizations to stay afloat and continue serving those in need during this crisis,” spokesperson Chieko Noguchi told the AP.
How Did the Church Get Aid?
Like many businesses throughout the country, churches had to shut their doors as large gatherings became unsafe as the coronavirus’ spread continued. Masses were canceled or moved online and celebrations for the Easter holidays were dropped, causing the Church to to fall behind financially.
While its global net worth is not known, the Catholic Church is considered the wealthiest religious organization in the world. It is also one of the most powerful groups of any kind, with an estimated 1.2 billion followers all over the planet. According to the AP, its deep pockets and far-reaching influence helped it receive federal aid.
The Catholic Church lobbied heavily to make sure religious groups were allowed to receive money from the PPP, the AP says. Their report found that the Los Angeles archdiocese spent $20,000 lobbying Congress to include “eligibility for non-profits” in the CARES Act, the legislation that formed the PPP. Records also show that Catholic Charities USA spent another $30,000 in CARES Act lobbying.
With its wealth and power, the Catholic Church is also plagued with controversy and scandal. For years, there have been reports that the Church has covered up for priests and other leaders who have been accused of sexual abuse. Many entities of the church have had to shell out large sums of money in legal fees and settlements.
The AP found that around 40 of the dioceses that have paid out “hundreds of millions of dollars” to related compensation funds or bankruptcy proceedings received loans. These loans totaled at least $200 million.