Trump ‘damaging’ Aus-US relationship
US President Donald Trump is "damaging" the long and deep relationship between Australia and America and is an "aberration" among presidents, one of his former closest advisers has said.
John Bolton served as National Security Adviser to the Trump White House for 17 months before leaving in contentious circumstances last September.
The President said he had fired Mr Bolton, citing "strong" disagreements with much of his advice. Mr Bolton claimed he had offered to resign.
Now Mr Bolton has written a book describing his time working for Mr Trump, which the White House unsuccessfully tried to get banned. It contains a series of troubling allegations about the President's temperament and behaviour.
Mr Trump says it is "a compilation of lies and made up stories". He has labelled Mr Bolton a "wacko" and a "sick puppy".
Unfazed, Mr Bolton spoke to the ABC's Leigh Sales on 7.30 Thursday night where he also claimed Trump had cosied up to tyrants to serve his political ends.
TRUMP 'UNFIT' TO BE LEADER
Asked by Sales if Trump was fit to be president, Bolton was blunt.
"I don't think he is fit. He doesn't have a guiding philosophy, a grand strategy, a policy. He is the only president I have every seen whose exclusive notion is concentrating on his own re-election.
"With the coronavirus pandemic, we've seen some of the problems that have emerged really as a result of this inadequate decision making, unwillingness to learn, unwillingness to adapt to the circumstances he finds himself in."
As an example, Mr Bolton said Trump didn't read daily briefings given to him and didn't "absorb knowledge".
'DAMAGING' AUSTRALIA AND US
Mr Bolton said the Australia-US relationship was strong but Trump was doing it no favours and it could be weakened if he was re-elected. Other US allies were in a similar position.
"The fundamental question for Australia is, over the long-term, the US alliance beneficial to Australia? And I think overwhelmingly I could make that case - notwithstanding what I truly believe is an aberration in Donald Trump.
"The country to country relationship, strategically, politically, economically, and in terms of shared values, none of that will change because of Donald Trump, the damage he's caused, I feel very confident the United States can repair after one term."
"Two terms, I would be a bit more worried," he added.
In contrast, Mr Bolton said the way Trump dealt with world leaders who were no fans of democracy was a concern.
"There's a number of cases where he was doing what seemed to me like personal favours for authoritarian leaders.
"How he handled the Huawei and ZTE (two controversial Chinese tech firms) matters. The idea that he could get China to help out in his re-election efforts by buying more farm products, a whole range of things like that."
"I felt it was certainly inappropriate behaviour. I don't pretend to say I knew everything that was going on. But this kind of involvement, particularly in judicial and regulatory and law enforcement matters on the part of a president, where his own personal or political interest was at stake, is unusual and irregular at best and may well be much more problematic than that."
The former adviser had some criticisms for the Democrats as well, and said they rushed the impeachment of Trump. In doing so they "pushed Republicans into a partisan corner in the House."
But he said the basis for the impeachment was solid. That was that Trump has held up military aid to Ukraine - parts of which had been invaded by forces loyal to Russia - in an attempt to pressure it into announcing an investigation of his opponent in the upcoming election, former vice president Joe Biden.
Mr Trump's team argued he was merely concerned about corruption in Ukraine, and wanted the country to clean up its act.
In an earlier interview on the US' ABC News Mr Bolton said that excuse was "utter nonsense", and Mr Trump had actually been driven by his belief in a conspiracy theory.
"There is no question in my mind that the President felt that the prior Ukrainian government had been part of a conspiracy to take him down. He said that on any number of occasions."
"He wanted a probe of Joe Biden in exchange for delivering the security assistance that was part of the congressional legislation that had been passed several years before. So that, in his mind, he was bargaining to get the investigation using the resources of the federal government, which I found very disturbing," Bolton said.
"Now, in the course of the impeachment affair, the defence of the President was he cares about the general corruption in the Ukraine, and that was on his mind. That is utter nonsense.
"There's corruption all over the world. The corruption he was concerned about in Ukraine was that they tried to take him down. And that, to me, was something that I found very disturbing.
"So did a lot of other people in very senior levels in the government. I describe that in the book. And our objective was to find a way to get the President to approve the security assistance, the military aid, and get it delivered, and not tie it to an investigation of his political opponents."
The Democrats have criticised Mr Bolton for not coming forward to say what he knew during the impeachment investigation. Mr Bolton bluntly rejected that criticism.
"I was fully prepared (to testify), if I got a subpoena, like everybody else who testified got a subpoena. I think the way the House advocates of impeachment proceeded was badly wrong. Like, I think it was impeachment malpractice."
Additional reporting by Sam Clench.
Originally published as Trump 'damaging' Aus-US relationship