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Wake Up To Politics - June 18, 2020

Good Thursday morning. It’s June 18, 2020. 138 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

The most explosive claims in John Bolton’s new book

The Justice Department may be suing to block publication of former national security adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming memoir, but that hasn’t stopped major news outlets from obtaining copies and printing synopses.

Here is a roundup of the most explosive claims Bolton makes in the book, via stories in the New York Times and Washington Post and an excerpt in the Wall Street Journal:

Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win the 2020 election. According to Bolton, the extraordinary request came in a meeting between the two presidents on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in June 2019. Trump “stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability and pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” Bolton writes. “He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

Trump offered to halt U.S. investigations into authoritarian governments to “give personal favors to educators he liked.” This pattern — which Bolton calls “obstruction of justice as a way of life” — allegedly included offers to intervene in investigations into companies such as ZTE in China (to curry favor with Xi) and Halkbank in Turkey (to curry favor with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan). Trump “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,” Bolton writes of Trump’s assurances to Erdogan about a probe into the Turkish law firm by the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York.

Trump encouraged China’s construction of concentration camps for Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. “According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do,” Bolton writes. Hours after this revelation came to light on Wednesday, Trump signed into law a bipartisan bill condemning the concentration camps.

Trump did pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden, and help up military aid as a result. Bolton confirms many of the “quid pro quo” allegations about Ukraine that were at the heart of the House impeachment probe against Trump. “He said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all Russia-investigation material related to [Hillary] Clinton and Biden had been turned over,” Bolton writes.

Trump suggested executing journalists who printed unfavorable stories about him. “These people should be executed,” the president said of reporters during a summer 2019 meeting in New Jersey, according to Bolton. “They are scumbags.”

Trump defended Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to distract from a domestic scandal. “This will divert from Ivanka,” Trump said, according to Bolton, as he issued a statement defending the crown prince in the midst of a controversy over his daughter’s use of a personal email for official business.

Trump came close to leaving the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, known as NATO. Although the president’s distaste for the international alliance is well-documented, Bolton reports that Trump came much closer to withdrawing from NATO than had been previously known.

Trump’s closest advisers disparaged him behind his back. Much of the book reportedly also centers around the other members of Trump’s national security team, who were not shy about sharing their frustrations with the president. Bolton recounts that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped him a note during Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, writing of the president: “He is so full of shit.” In another instance, former White House chief of staff John Kelly is quoted as asking: “What if we have a real crisis like 9/11 with the way he makes decisions?”

How Trump is responding to the book: As bevy of leaks from Bolton’s book emerged on Wednesday, the president criticized his former aide throughout the day. Trump told the Wall Street Journal that Bolton is a “liar” whom “everybody in the White House hated.” He told  Fox News’ Sean Hannity that Bolton “broke the law” by revealing their private conversations. And he tweeted that Bolton is a “disgruntled boring fool” and a “dope.”

Meanwhile, the Justice Department filed for an emergency order Wednesday seeking to block the memoir from being published, one day after filing a civil suit against Bolton in an attempt to seize the book’s proceeds. According to the Los Angele Times, federal prosecutors “are weighing whether to criminally charge” Bolton with illegally disclosing classified information in the book.

What Bolton is saying: Excerpts of Bolton’s ABC News interview — which will air in full on Sunday — were released this morning. “I don’t think he’s fit for office,” Bolton told journalist Martha Raddatz. “I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job.”

When the book comes out: “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir” is slated to be released on Tuesday.

The Rundown

Likely Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is making his first major ad buy of the 2020 general election campaign. According to the New York Times, Biden is purchasing $15 million in television, digital, radio and print ads, which will run in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina.

House Democrats advanced their police reform bill, while Senate Republicans released a plan of their own. The Houe Judiciary Committee voted to advance the sweeping Democratic legislation after nearly 12 hours of tense debate on Wednesday. The measure will go to the floor next week, as Senate Republicans also plan to vote on a narrower proposal. According to Politico, Senate Democrats are “agonizing” over how to respond to the GOP proposal, unsure of whether they should block it or try to adds amendments.

The Justice Department released a set of legislative proposals Wednesday to weaken Section 230, which provides legal protections to online platforms. The DOJ’s proposed reforms would limit the liability shield social media companies enjoy because of Section 230, pushing them to be “more aggressive in addressing illicit and harmful conduct on their sites,” according to the Wall Street Journal. To learn more about Section 230 and the fight over regulating social media, listen to the latest episode of the Wake Up To Politics Podcast.

John F. Kennedy’s only surviving sibling has died. Jean Kennedy Smith, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland from 1993 to 1998, died on Wednesday at age 92, her family said this morning. Smith was the youngest of nine siblings, outliving her famous brothers John, Bobby, and Ted.

Another 1.5 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. The new Labor Department data brings the total jobless claims filed in the past 13 weeks to a staggering 45.7 million.


*All times Eastern

President Donald Trump will participate in a roundtable with governors on the reopening of America’s small businesses at 3 p.m.

The president will also participate in an interview with his son, Donald Trump Jr., for his re-election campaign’s online show, “Triggered.” It will be the first time President Trump has appeared on any of his campaign’s online programming.

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Michigan. He will have lunch at Engine House in Mount Clemens at 12 p.m., tour Chadam Gear Company in Sterling Heights at 2:10 p.m., and deliver remarks to employees at Casadei Steel Inc. in Sterling Heights on America’s reopening at 2:40 p.m.

Pence will then return to Washington, D.C.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and vote at 1:30 p.m. on confirmation of Justin Walker to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The chamber voted 52-46 on Wednesday to advance Walker’s nomination to a seat on the D.C. Circuit, which is considered the second-most powerful court in the nation. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) joined Democrats in voting against Walker and plans to oppose his confirmation today.

Collins pointed to “ideological comments” Walker has made from his current perch as a district judge in Kentucky; Democrats have also labeled Walker, a 38-year-old protégé of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as unqualified to join the D.C. appeals court.

The House will meet at 10 a.m. for a brief pro forma session.

The Supreme Court justices will release opinions at 10 a.m. and meet for their weekly conference.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will attend a virtual fundraiser.

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