June 17, 2020 | Reading Time: < 1 minute

Bolton confirms Trump’s treason

The Times got a copy of John Bolton’s book and hoo-boy: Mr. Bolton’s volume is the first tell-all memoir by such a high-ranking official who participated in major foreign policy events and has a lifetime of conservative credentials. It is a withering portrait of a president ignorant of even basic facts about the world, susceptible…

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The Times got a copy of John Bolton’s book and hoo-boy:

Mr. Bolton’s volume is the first tell-all memoir by such a high-ranking official who participated in major foreign policy events and has a lifetime of conservative credentials. It is a withering portrait of a president ignorant of even basic facts about the world, susceptible to transparent flattery by authoritarian leaders manipulating him and prone to false statements, foul-mouthed eruptions and snap decisions that aides try to manage or reverse.

There are a lot of words in Pete Baker’s piece but an important one is missing: treason. Bolton said Donald Trump was explicit about holding up aid to Ukraine in exchange for that country’s help with the 2020 presidential election.

Trump “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.” 

And there’s more. Trump asked China for help too.

Mr. Bolton also recounts a discussion at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Osaka, Japan, last summer at which the president overtly linked policy to his own political fortunes as he asked Mr. Xi 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.”

When a president sells out his country, when he asks other countries to help win at home, when he holds his interests above the interests of his country—that’s treason.

That’s betray of a highest order. I don’t know why we don’t use that word more often.

Let me know what you think. —John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. Burgs on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    Trump is a complete waste of good peoples’ oxygen.

  2. Deep Time on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    Republicans didn’t care that he committed treason with Ukraine so I am under no illusion that this would be any different.

  3. Leslie M., Eastern KS on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    John, I think only 40 federal prosecutions have ever been undertaken for treason in our history. So maybe that’s why it is so rare for media/public to use the term. Interestingly, treason is the only crime defined in the U.S. Constitution (Article III, Section 3). As first mentioned, it is related to levying war… or for giving aid and comfort to our enemies. No one may be convicted of treason two witnesses testifying to the same or by confession in court.

    Burgs is right — Trump is a waste of our oxygen. But the idea of what constitutes treason and how we grapple with it is an issue for us to wrestle, because there are far more than just Trump who deserve to be charged with the highest crime.

    • Leslie M., Eastern KS on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

      … that should read “No one may be convicted of treason *without* two witnesses…” sigh

  4. David Gottlieb on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    I have had mixed feelings about the impact of the Bolton book overall. On the one hand, it confirms what we had suspected about Trump. We have always had a hunch that he acts treasonous as he acted that way even before he was elected when he called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails in order to undermine the election in addition to all the stuff with Ukraine. However, that was not enough to impeach over and so why would this change people’s opinions more as opposed to how he has behaved during the COVID crisis and the handling of the BLM protestors in Lafayette Park during the church photo op. Also, Bolton should have come forward earlier and testified in the House instead of using what he knew to make money off of writing a tell-all book, so I don’t know how much of a pass Bolton himself gets in this situation in terms of enabling it to happen. While the book is revealing, I am more frustrated at the fact that Bolton should have testified to Congress about what he wrote about rather than write a book than I am interested or intrigued about all that is being revealed in the book.

    • Angela Duong on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

      I agree. I think that it is wrong for Bolton to finally uncover Trump’s abuse of power in a “tell-all” book–rather than in front of a court–because it shows that he prioritizes selfish pursuits over justice. In that regard, it makes him just as complicit in Trump’s crimes.

      On the other hand, it may have been purposive. He is not required to tell 100% of the truth in a book, but he is if he’s under oath. This then makes me skeptical of the content and what he has decided to strategically include/omit. And it also makes me question its veracity.

  5. EllTeacher on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm


    Bolton’s book was written with several purposes in mind. First, he wants money. Like many in the Republican party, economic “conservatism” means capitalism first.

    Second, he wants to change the subject, meaning his pre-release gaslighting tour is meant to point the blame squarely on Democrats because they “didn’t go far enough or deep enough” in the impeachment.

    He sat out the impeachment because he misunderstood the current political vibes. He wouldn’t voluntarily testify in the House because it’s controlled by Democrats. I’m sure he didn’t want their questioning to veer into areas he didn’t want to attest to (and probably NOT covered in the book).

    A court didn’t compel him, so he didn’t have to, and besides, he’d signaled he’d testify in a Senate trial. That’s key. With a Republican-led Senate, Bolton would be assured of political cover and yet, he’d be able “to speak” and therefore make himself look clean, while also promoting his book. That decision in itself is telling.

    I suspect Bolton thought this by testifying in the Senate, he would absolve himself of any guilt from being a player in Trump’s treason. Sadly, he didn’t want to testify and be one of the necessary two witnesses to meet the charge of treason.

    However, he misjudged the current climate in today’s Senate as controlled by Moscow Mitch. This shows how far out of step he is with current Republican thought. But, since he’s not a politician, it doesn’t matter much.

    Bolton wants to position himself as a Republican purist so when a “real” Republican is in the White House, he will still be a viable political appointee. This is theatre for those power players in the party that despise Trump and Trump’s transformation of Republicanism.

    This brings me to a third reason. John Bolton is also a narcissist, like Trump. He also believes he’s the smartest person in the room. In Bolton’s case, he does have education and experience that substantiate his ego. If Trump didn’t listen to Bolton, then Bolten’s ego would be bruised. Plus, I’m sure he inwardly sneered at the Commander-in-Chief.

    John Bolton should not be applauded for writing this book, for revealing more of Trump’s misdeeds.

    John Bolton should be castigated and shamed for not coming forward during Trump’s impeachment. He could have been one of the two witnesses that defined Trump’s actions as treasonous. His bona fides would have made his testimony notable, so much so that even some Republicans in the Senate would have had to take notice.

    By not testifying, Bolton betrayed his oath of office and betrayed all of America.

    I don’t care if sales of his book make him a wealthy man. I do care that people across the land perceive Mr. Bolton as a traitor, a man of no honor, who, at one of America’s darkest hours, wouldn’t put the country above his crass desire for wealth.

    And finally, it’s my opinion that Bolton felt that by telling the world how stupid and venal Trump is he would vindicate his hawkish views as well as his belief in his own intelligence. It’s always zero-sum with him.

  6. Jim Prevatt on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    The House should open up impeachment hearings immediately.

  7. Mo'ath on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    Honestly, I am not surprised. This is what happens when people elect a narcissistic man who has always been concerned with his own interests. He never cared about actual policy. All he wanted was to become the president and be reelected no matter what it takes; supporting white supremacy or asking china to buy soybeans. D
    I do not trust or like John Bolton. Both him and Trump committed treason. Bolton was there when it happened and never said anything until he got fired.

  8. Lily Crowell on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    I feel very conflicted about Bolton’s memoir. On the one hand, I am grateful whenever a high-ranking republican comes out against Trump and critiques his actions while in office. However, Bolton is not the most trustworthy source based on his past wrong-doings and illegal activities. I also just wonder whether this book will have any impact at all right now. We all know that Trump is constantly breaking the law, speaking with foreign authoritarian leaders, and lying to the public. Do we really need this book to prove that?

  9. Michael F on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    Idk, I’m excited that the book is coming out, mostly because its bad press for Trump, and he has really been fucking things up lately, which excites me – I mean, it’s bad for the country, but it makes me optimistic about November. I don’t think the book is going to change anything; it won’t change the minds of his MAGA base; it’s just more bad to pile on the heaping pile of bad that is 2020. Also, concerning Bolton, where was he when Trump was being impeached, I know the republicans protected him from being subpoenaed but considering what he wrote in his book, he should have felt duty-bound to speak during the impeachment.

  10. Meg Alberding on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    As many have already said, I think the Bolton book is controversial in its own right. First of all, it is great to have a Republican not sticking to party lines and writing about what he believes is wrong about Trump. However, the majority of people who are going to read the book are people who already don’t support Trump, as those who do support Trump have proven time and time again that they will support him no matter what. Therefore, the actual purpose and legitimacy of the book is questionable, since Bolton must know that Trump supporters will always play to ignorance. Bolton likely published it for other reasons (publicity, $$, etc), since it will not impact numbers for Trump and Bolton didn’t speak during the impeachment.

  11. Ben Dachman on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    Despite the sheer level of ignorance Trump has displayed as president, not to mention disloyalty to country, the GOP just doesn’t care. Unlike many Eastern European countries currently experiencing democratic backsliding, Congressional authority remains plenty sufficient to curb the most authoritarian impulses of Trump. Congress just lacks the political will. The GOP has been so deferential to Trump that they are willing to undermine America’s public health battle against coronavirus in order to appease the emotional fragility of the President. Republicans are today promoting absolutely insidious, completely pseudoscientific talking points on the coronavirus in order to make it seem as if the threat has subsided thanks in part to Trump’s excellent response. John Bolton’s book only further amplifies the sense of disrespect Trump has for longstanding American tradition, in addition to his legendary ignorance. Not knowing that Finland isn’t a territory of Russia, nor that the UK is in fact a nuclear-armed power is appalling for any commander-in-chief. Trump’s desire to execute journalists who allegedly reported leaks unfavorable to his interests is deeply concerning, although not at all unexpected. Despite Bolton being a blood-thirsty, neocon through and through, Trump is still way out of bounds in terms of his conduct.

  12. Indigo Pellegrini de Paur on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    I apologize for my late response but I am also excited to weigh in following our class discussion about this topic. I think all of these things you have written are true. But I also wonder how much it matters. I’ve been thinking a lot about how liberals describe Trump: weak, insecure, unintelligent. But, to play devil’s advocate, I argue he is invincible. He won the election, survived his impeachment, and Bolton’s book isn’t the first to be written about his shortcomings. Of course, with the 2020 election, his invincibility will be tested. In the coming months, we will find out if people care about his treason and racism and bigotry.

  13. Sebastian Kulkarni on July 30, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    I apologize for my late response and completely agree with everything that you have said thus far. It is true that Trump is very ignorant around basic facts around the world but I also think that what the media doesn’t show is his strong backbone. He faces criticism from the media and liberals very frequently and is still able to stand up for himself as President despite the circumstances. President Trump also does have tendencies however to be very racist and emotionally fragile but still presents himself as this warrior and invincible like figure.

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