Former advisor John Bolton says Trump may have offered favours to Turkey's Erdogan

Former advisor John Bolton says Trump may have offered favours to Turkey's Erdogan
US President Trump's dealings with foreign leaders are increasingly under scrutiny with his impeachment trial underway in the Senate.
3 min read
28 January, 2020
Trump was accused of giving Erdogan a 'green light' for his controversial Syria offensive [Getty]
John Bolton, former national security advisor to US President Donald Trump, had concerns last year that the president was granting personal favours to the leaders of Turkey and China, according to an unpublished manuscript.

Bolton - an infamous Iran war hawk who left the White House in September last year - privately told Attorney General William Barr that he was worried Trump had given favours to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Barr also expressed doubts about the president, pointing to Justice Department investigations around companies operating in Turkey and China, Bolton says in an unpublished manuscript for his upcoming memoir "The Room Where It Happened". 

Trump seemed to have created the impression he could unduly influence over what would typically be independent investigations, Barr reportedly told Bolton, using the president's conversations with Xi and Erdogan to back up his point.

Leaked sections of the bombshell manuscript, which was offered up to the White House for standard pre-publication review last month, have appeared in the media this week, increasing pressure on the former national security advisor to testify before the Senate in Trump's impeachment trial.

Read more: How Bolton overplayed his hand with Trump

Sources familiar with the manuscript told The New York Times of Bolton and Barr's concerns over the president allegedly granting favours to Xi and Erdogan.

Trump - who last year declared himself a "big fan" of the Turkish president - reportedly discussed the Justice Department's investigation of Turkey's state-owned Halkbank with Erdogan in 2018.

According to Bolton's manuscript, the attorney general expressed concerns that Trump had responded to appeals by the Turkish president to halt any punishment against the bank, which the department was investigating on fraud and money-laundering charges.

Erdogan himself said that the US president had instructed cabinet members to "follow through" on the matter.

Regardless of the accusations, the Justice Department indicted Halkbank for evading sanctions on Iran in October last year. 

Analysts saw the indictment as the administration showing itself taking a tough line on Turkey as scrutiny of the president's relationship with his Turkish counterpart built up.

In October, Trump was accused of effectively giving Erdogan the green light for a much-feared military offensive against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeastern Syria. 

The US president has also been accused of allowing Turkey off the hook for legally mandated sanctions over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence systems.

Barr also reportedly pointed to Trump's conversations with President Xi about Chinese telecoms firm ZTE. 

ZTE agreed in 2017 to plead guilty and pay significant fines for violating US sanctions by doing business with Iran, North Korea and other states. Trump lifted the sanctions despite objections from his own advisors just a year later.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department hit back at The New York Times' report on Tuesday.

"There was no discussion of 'personal favours' or 'undue influence' on investigations, nor did Attorney General Barr state that the President's conversations with foreign leaders was improper," spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement posted on Twitter.

"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," she added.

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