Bolton on Trump-Trudeau relationship, and Canada’s role in Meng extradition

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OTTAWA —
John Bolton, the former national security adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump is imploring Canada to “bear with” the United States when it comes to the extradition proceedings of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Bolton says, despite the ongoing and “clearly” political detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, there shouldn’t be a “prisoner swap” some are suggesting.

“I know Canada’s being abused now. Its citizens are being held without any reason what[so]ever by the Chinese authorities, and I know there’s a debate about this in Canada. All I can say is, bear with us on this. It’s important we stick together,” said Bolton told Evan Solomon in a radio interview about his newly released book memoir about working in Trump’s White House: The Room Where It Happened.

The full interview aired Tuesday on the national iHeartRadio talk show The Evan Solomon Show.

“If this is the way China treats a country like Canada now, imagine how it will treat Canada when its influence around the world has expanded,” Bolton said.

As The Associated Press has reported, Bolton’s book details his time in the White House, and includes several allegations including a claim that Trump asked China for help winning the upcoming presidential election.

Bolton also writes that Trump made matters worse by implying that Meng’s extradition could be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations.

‘BIG MISTAKE’ TO RELEASE MENG

Asked if the Trump administration was using Canada by asking the Trudeau government to act on the U.S. extradition order and arrest Meng in Canada in order for Trump to have leverage with China, Bolton said Trump was the only one in the administration to think of Meng’s arrest as a political tool in China trade talks.

“It would be a big mistake to trade a criminal prosecution against Huawei and its chief financial officer for some kind of trade deal with China, which honestly, I don’t think China is going to abide by anyway,” Bolton said.

For U.S. politicians the trade-based argument against dropping the extradition proceedings is different than the current conversation unfolding in Canada, where 19 high-profile former diplomats, politicians and academics have all called on Canada to consider halting the extradition process in order to get “the two Michaels” released.

Kovrig and Spavor were arrested separately in the days following Meng’s arrest. Both men had been held in China without charges from December 2018 until June 19 when they were formally charged with espionage.

When asked about a swap, the prime minister strongly shot down the idea saying, if countries around the world including China saw that “arbitrarily arresting random Canadians” would be leverage to “get what they want out of Canada,” that would put Canadians abroad at risk.

Asked whether he thought the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor was retaliatory, Bolton said: “I think it clearly was for political reasons.”

“I don’t think it should be a prisoner swap,” Bolton said.

“Huawei is an arm of the Chinese State… It’s heavily subsidized and guided by decisions of the Chinese government, and it’s part of the of the Chinese effort to affect telecommunications and information technology systems all over the world,” Bolton said.

TRUMP ‘TOLERATED’ TRUDEAU

Among the revelations in the book was that, according to Bolton Trump doesn’t like Trudeau and that he “tolerated” him. Asked why he thought Trump allegedly is not a fan of the prime minister, Bolton cited the early tensions of the NAFTA renegotiations.

“Part of the problem with the way Trump approaches foreign policy, in my view, is that he has difficulty distinguishing between the national interest of the countries involved, let’s say the U.S. and Canada on the one hand versus the personal relationship between the leaders of the two countries on the other,” Bolton said.

He said, in his view, Trump’s personal feelings towards Trudeau “made it a lot harder to get things done.”

One particularly acrimonious interaction was at the 2018 G7 summit Canada hosted in Charlevoix, Que. It was after that meeting that Trump pulled out of the joint communique before he and his administration officials took aim at Trudeau, calling him “meek and mild” and “very dishonest and weak.”

“Trump felt that he had been backed into a corner in the G7 communique… When he saw Prime Minister Trudeau giving a closing press conference, he thought that he was unfairly treated, that led him to withdraw the U.S. from the communique… But that was an example where that personal reaction to what was being said led to a consequence that made the subsequent NATO Summit, for example, even more difficult than it would have been anyway,” Bolton said.

‘HOPED TO MAKE A CONTRIBUTION’

Bolton did not testify in the Trump impeachment trial, and he has been criticized for saving the accusations about his former boss for his book, which Trump’s lawyers tried to get stopped from being released.

Asked to respond to those who have said Bolton has lost his moral authority after withholding what he knew to cash in with his book, Bolton said it’s “completely wrong.”

“Look, if my objective in life had been to make money, I never would have worked for the administration of Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, George W. Bush or Donald Trump,” Bolton said.

He said he joined the Trump administration because he didn’t think it could have been as bad as people were saying.

“I hoped to make a contribution. The book is the story of whether I succeeded in that or not,” he said.

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