The Room Where It Happened

As President Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton spent many of his 453 days in the room where it happened, and the facts speak for themselves.

The result is a White House memoir that is the most comprehensive and substantial account of the Trump Administration, and one of the few to date by a top-level official. With almost daily access to the President, John Bolton has produced a precise rendering of his days in and around the Oval Office. What Bolton saw astonished him: a President for whom getting reelected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation. “I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” he writes. In fact, he argues that the House committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy—and Bolton documents exactly what those were, and attempts by him and others in the Administration to raise alarms about them.

He shows a President addicted to chaos, who embraced our enemies and spurned our friends, and was deeply suspicious of his own government. In Bolton’s telling, all this helped put Trump on the bizarre road to impeachment. “The differences between this presidency and previous ones I had served were stunning,” writes Bolton, who worked for Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43. He discovered a President who thought foreign policy is like closing a real estate deal—about personal relationships, made-for-TV showmanship, and advancing his own interests. As a result, the US lost an opportunity to confront its deepening threats, and in cases like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea ended up in a more vulnerable place.

Bolton’s account starts with his long march to the West Wing as Trump and others woo him for the National Security job. The minute he lands, he has to deal with Syria’s chemical attack on the city of Douma, and the crises after that never stop. As he writes in the opening pages, “If you don’t like turmoil, uncertainty, and risk—all the while being constantly overwhelmed with information, decisions to be made, and sheer amount of work—and enlivened by international and domestic personality and ego conflicts beyond description, try something else.”

The turmoil, conflicts, and egos are all there—from the upheaval in Venezuela, to the erratic and manipulative moves of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, to the showdowns at the G7 summits, the calculated warmongering by Iran, the crazy plan to bring the Taliban to Camp David, and the placating of an authoritarian China that ultimately exposed the world to its lethal lies. But this seasoned public servant also has a great eye for the Washington inside game, and his story is full of wit and wry humor about how he saw it played.


The Room Where It Happened - John Bolton Summary

The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir is a memoir by John Bolton, who served as National Security Advisor for U.S. President Donald Trump from April 2018 to September 2019. Bolton was reportedly paid an advance of $2 million.In late December 2019, one copy of the manuscript was provided to the White House for standard pre-publication review. In late January 2020, during the Senate impeachment trial, news of the book broke. Bolton's team was surprised that multiple copies of the manuscript had apparently been made and circulated. Leaked information about the book's contents increased the pressure for having Bolton testify in the Senate trial of Trump.According to Bolton's original draft manuscript, William Barr and Bolton had a conversation about concerns Trump had appeared to have undue influence over two US Justice Department investigations of companies in China and Turkey; specifically regarding China's paramount leader Xi Jinping with regard to ZTE and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with regard to Halkbank. Bolton alleged that Trump, in an attempt to win re-election in agricultural states in the 2020 election, "[pleaded] with Xi to ensure he'd win. [Trump] stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome". (Bolton also wrote that he wanted to directly quote Trump, but could not due to "the government's pre-publication review process".) He also stated that Trump asked if Finland was a part of Russia, and was unaware the United Kingdom is a nuclear power. Bolton alleged Trump intervened in U.S. law enforcement and practiced "obstruction of justice as a way of life."On June 16, 2020, the Trump administration sought to block release of the book by Simon & Schuster, contending that Bolton had breached nondisclosure agreements he signed as a condition of his employment and that the book endangered national security. U.S. federal judge Royce Lamberth denied this request on June 20. On June 21, pirated copies of the book appeared online. The book was released on June 23. ..


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