Trump cared little about North Korea's nuclear weapons and treated Kim Jong-un summit as publicity exercise, Bolton says

President was fixated on getting an autographed CD of Elton John's "Rocket Man" to Hermit Kingdom's dictator

John T. Bennett
Washington Bureau Chief
Wednesday 17 June 2020 21:48 BST
Trump says John Bolton should be prosecuted for publishing his book

Donald Trump cared little about North Korea's nuclear arsenal when he met with Kim Jong Un and was more interested in making friends with the dictator as he treated the historic meeting as "an exercise in publicity," a former senior aide says.

"Trump told ... me he was prepared to sign a substance-free communique, have his press conference to declare victory and then get out of town," former Trump national security adviser John Bolton writes in a coming book, according to the Washington Post.

Mr Bolton writes that ahead of the big North Korea summit, Mr Trump insisted on giving Kim gifts that violated US sanctions on the country. US officials were forced to waive those sanctions, he contends.

The former adviser's description of working for Mr Trump largely confirms what others have laid out and what it often seems like for reporters on the beat: A disorganised, chaotic, constantly shifting workspace with an erratic commander in chief at the helm.

For instance, Mr Bolton describes the president's fascination with getting an autographed CD to Kim. The artist was Elton John. The song? "Rocket Man."

Mr Trump mocked and threatened Mr Kim for several years using that as a nickname meant to belittle the North Korean leader.

The US president was fixated, Mr Bolton claims, on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo giving the autographed CD to the dictator during a follow-up meeting.

The only problem: Mr Trump did not seem to know Mr Pompeo never met with Mr Kim during his trip.

"Trump didn't seem to realise Pompeo hadn't actually seen Kim Jong Un [during the trip], asking if Pompeo had handed [the CD]" to him, Bolton writes. "Pompeo had not. Getting this CD to Kim remained a high priority for several months."

The book, titled "The Room Where It Happened," is scheduled to be released for sale next week, but the Trump administration on Tuesday asked a federal judge to block it.

Mr Trump's team argues it is chock full of classified information and did not undergo the typical government security vetting process.

The president earlier this week also accused Mr Bolton of lying about his accounts inside the West Wing and his encounters with Mr Trump.

The suit was filed in a Washington, DC, federal court and also alleges, as Attorney General William Barr suggested on Monday, that Mr Bolton and publisher Simon & Schuster did not complete a routine vetting process used by all administrations to ensure a book by a former aide does not reveal classified information or give away national secrets.

"(Bolton) struck a bargain with the United States as a condition of his employment in one of the most sensitive and important national security positions in the United States Government and now wants to renege on that bargain by unilaterally deciding that the prepublication review process is complete and deciding for himself whether classified information should be made public," the Trump administration wrote to the court.

"If he wrote a book, I can't imagine that he can because that's highly classified information. Even conversations with me, they're highly classified," the president said on Monday. "I told that to the attorney general before. I will consider every conversation with me, as president, highly classified. So that would mean that if he wrote a book and if the, the book gets out, he's broken the law. And I would think that he would have criminal problems. I hope so," the president added. "Maybe he's not telling the truth. He's been known not to tell the truth a lot."

The president offered no evidence to support that claim.

Whether or not any president can, while arguing his every conversation is classified, block sales of a former aide's memoir will now be up to the court system.

Most legal scholars contacted on Tuesday doubt the White House will prevail with federal judges, but one noted courts have long sided with the executive branch on national security matters.

Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under another GOP president, George W Bush, told Fox News on Wednesday he doubts Mr Trump's legal claims about his authorities and allegations about the book will hold up in the court system.

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