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Bolton brouhaha: For Trump, every conversation is classified

There is no such law. There is no such rule. There is not even such a “norm,” outside of Trump’s imagination.

National Security Adviser John Bolton
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
As the John Bolton book starts to come out, President Donald Trump is asserting that Bolton is in big trouble because he, Trump, considers everything he says in a “conversation” to be highly classified.
Donald Trump’s ignorance of how our government works, and specifically his own imaginary powers and privileges as president, continue to be head spinning and perhaps frightening.

I mentioned on Wednesday his bizarre/ignorant/frightening stated belief that Article II of the Constitution, which lays out the powers of the president, give him “the right to do whatever I want.” Here’s a link to the full text of Article II. I suspect Trump has never read it, but you can, and see if you find the bit in there about the “the right to do whatever I want.” (If you take me up on it, I think you’ll be surprised at how few powers the Constitution actually assigned to the president.)

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Now, as the John Bolton book starts to come out (various media outlets have received pre-publication copies and are writing about them, despite Trump’s efforts to stop the book’s release), Trump is asserting that Bolton is in big trouble because he, Trump, considers everything he says in a “conversation” to be highly classified.

There is no such law. There is no such rule. There is not even such a “norm,” outside of Trump’s imagination.

Anyway, the New York Times and Washington Post (newspapers are rumored to have certain freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to publish things) have divulged a few such things from Bolton’s book. For example, from the Times:

Mr. Bolton describes several episodes where the president expressed willingness to halt criminal investigations “to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked,” citing cases involving major firms in China and Turkey. “The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn’t accept,” Mr. Bolton writes, adding that he reported his concerns to Attorney General William P. Barr.

Mr. Bolton also adds a striking new allegation by saying that Mr. Trump overtly linked trade negotiations to his own political fortunes by asking President Xi Jinping of China to buy a lot of American agricultural products to help him win farm states in this year’s election. Mr. Trump, he writes, was “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

And from the Post:

President Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win the 2020 U.S. election, telling Xi during a summit dinner last year that increased agricultural purchases by Beijing from American farmers would aid his electoral prospects, according to a damning new account of life inside the Trump administration by former national security adviser John Bolton.

During a one-on-one meeting at the June 2019 Group of 20 summit in Japan, Xi complained to Trump about China critics in the United States. But Bolton writes in a book scheduled to be released next week that “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 writes. “He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome. I would print Trump’s exact words but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise.”

In that last little bit, you can see that Bolton is abiding by limitations imposed on him by the prepublication review by Trump’s own White House. Still, Trump is now claiming that Bolton has no right to report anything Trump ever said to him.