Reason Roundup

Bolton Book Claims Barr Was Worried About Trump's Deals With Dictators. The Justice Department Says Bolton's Projecting.

Plus: milk protectionism, arguments for school choice, and more...


President Donald Trump must be having second thoughts about firing national security adviser John Bolton last September. (Though thank goodness he did.) Bolton—who was particularly salty that Trump wouldn't let him bomb Iran—is now dishing about the president in an upcoming book, a draft copy of which was leaked by an unknown source to The New York Times.

In addition to "dozens of pages" on the Ukraine situation that's now at the center of Trump impeachment proceedings, the book also mentions that Bolton had concerns about the president's relationship with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Chinese president Xi Jinping, and that he had reported these concerns to Attorney General William Barr.

The manuscript for Bolton's book—titled The Room Where It Happened—was submitted to the White House in December for a national security review.

In the manuscript, Bolton alleges that Barr had been concerned certain Trump comments to Erdogan and Xi would jeopardize Department of Justice cases against Chinese telecommunications company ZTE and state-owned Turkish bank Halkbank. Barr "said he was worried that Mr. Trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries," according to the Times. More here.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) replied in a statement late last night that it had not yet reviewed Bolton's book manuscript but considered the Times article to have "grossly mischaracterize[d] what Attorney General Barr and Mr. Bolton discussed."

"There was no discussion of 'personal favors' or 'undue influence' on investigations, nor did…Barr stat[e] that the President's conversations with foreign leaders was improper," the DOJ statement continues. And:

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.

The leaked manuscript provides more fodder for those saying Bolton should be called to testify in the Senate impeachment proceedings.

On yesterday's Reason Roundtable podcast, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Peter Suderman, Nick Gillespie, and Matt Welch talked about whether Bolton would or should be called to testify and discussed whether anything he said could "change the way people interpret the Trump administration's 2019 actions vis-a-vis Ukraine."

"A week into the trial, most lawmakers say the chances of 51 senators agreeing to call witnesses are dwindling, not growing," write Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt. (Bolton has said that he would testify if it came to that.)

Here's how Trump responded on Monday to Bolton book allegations that he had indeed tied Ukrainian aid to the country doing his investigatory bidding:

But "if investigating Joe Biden was perfectly legitimate," as Trump and his allies claim, then "why deny a quid pro quo?" Jacob Sullum asks.


Reason is celebrating National School Choice Week by publishing a series of stories on K-12 educational options. So far, that includes:


More dairy industry protectionism and crony capitalism from Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D–Wisc.), who has found an ally in Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch: