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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Here's the takeaways from John Bolton's book so you don't actually have to buy John Bolton's book

Illustration for article titled Heres the takeaways from John Boltons book so you dont actually have to buy John Boltons book
Photo: Brendan Smialowski (Getty Images)

John Bolton will publish a book next week in which the former national security adviser reveals that he, too, thinks Donald Trump is a big piece of shit.

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Bolton, a soulless warmonger who’s been charitably compared to Satan Flanders, is also a piece of shit, and we’d encourage you not to buy his book. The best bits have been mined by the press already, and the book itself is just a reminder that Bolton had all of its damning info at the ready during the House impeachment inquiry, and just chose to keep it in his pocket until it could benefit him financially.

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There are so many other books to read. Here’s a few. Here’s a few more. Ilze Hugo’s The Down Days is great. Ditto for Ilana Masad’s All My Mother’s LoversDid you know Val Kilmer wrote a memoir called I’m Your Huckleberry? You do now. 

Anyways, in the interest of encouraging you not to buy Bolton’s book, we’re sharing some of its essential takeaways below. For a full breakdown of its contents, head over to the New York Times or the Washington Post.

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Everyone thinks Trump is dumb

“He second-guessed people’s motives, saw conspiracies behind rocks, and remained stunningly uninformed on how to run the White House, let alone the huge federal government,” Bolton writes, describing the president as “erratic” and eager to indulge his “reality TV showmanship.”

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During a 2018 meeting with Kim Jong-un, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly slipped Bolton a note that said, “He is so full of shit.” Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, meanwhile, told Bolton, “This is a bad place to work, as you will find out.” Per Bolton, even some of Trump’s most loyal sycophants “hold a dim view of him in private.”

Bolton shares plenty of amusing stories, including one in which Trump asked if Finland is part of Russia. He repeatedly confused the current and former presidents of Afghanistan, had no idea the U.K. had nuclear weapons, and remarked that invading Venezuela would be “cool.”

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Trump “pleaded with” Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him get reelected

Trump apparently asked Xi to buy up American agricultural products so as to help win the votes of those in rural areas. “He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome,” writes Bolton.

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So obsessed with currying Xi’s favor, Trump didn’t bat an eye when Xi explained to him “why he was basically building concentration camps” for Uighur Muslims, an ethnic minority, in Xinjiang. Trump apparently “spoke approvingly of the camps.” (Just today, Trump signed into law an act condemning these internment camps. Interesting timing!)

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Trump loves dictators

Trump longs for the approval of autocrats like Xi. According to Bolton, the president was quick to promise favors to leaders like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and, of course, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who Trump sided with over U.S. intelligence agencies at the infamous Helsinki summit of 2018. Trump also sought to befriend North Korea’s Kim Jong-un by giving him American gifts.

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Bolton says he was so alarmed by this behavior that, in 2019, he took his concerns to Attorney General William P. Barr, who agreed that, yes, this is all very fucked up.

Bolton also criticized House Democrats for focusing so much on Ukraine during their impeachment inquiry when they could also have looked into Trump’s willingness to intervene in the investigations of companies like Turkey’s Halkbank and China’s ZTE. (He also, for the record, provides firsthand evidence of his own that Trump refused to send U.S. military aid to Ukraine “until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over.” According to Bolton, he, Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper tried “eight to 10 times” to get Trump to release the aid.)

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Trump defended Mohammed bin Salman to distract from an Ivanka Trump scandal

After Ivanka found herself in hot water for using her personal email account to conduct government business, Trump reportedly sought to bury the scandal by writing a full-throated defense of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was accused of ordering the killing of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

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“This will divert from Ivanka,” Trump reportedly said. “If I read the statement in person, that will take over the Ivanka thing.”

Considering you probably forgot about the whole Ivanka/email thing, it seems like it worked. Depressing, huh?

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For more detail into these scandals, head over to the Times or the Post.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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