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Former top US official worried Trump was granting personal favors to Turkey’s Erdoğan

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John Bolton, former national security advisor to US President Donald Trump, in an unpublished manuscript said he had concerns last year that the president was granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to The New Arab, citing a report by The New York Times on Monday.

Bolton — an infamous Iran war hawk who left the White House in September of last year — privately told Attorney General William Barr that he was worried Trump had granted favors to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Barr also expressed doubts about the president, pointing to Justice Department investigations of companies operating in Turkey and China, Bolton says in an unpublished manuscript for his upcoming memoir “The Room Where It Happened.”

Trump seemed to have created the impression he could unduly influence what would typically be independent investigations, Barr reportedly told Bolton, using the president’s conversations with Xi and Erdoğan to back up his point.

Leaked sections of the bombshell manuscript, which was submitted to the White House for a standard pre-publication review last month, appeared in the media this week.

Trump — who last year declared himself a “big fan” of the Turkish president — reportedly discussed the Justice Department’s investigation of Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank with Erdoğan in 2018.

According to Bolton’s manuscript, the attorney general expressed concerns that Trump had responded to appeals by the Turkish president to halt any punishment of the bank, which the department was investigating on fraud and money-laundering charges.

Erdoğan himself said the US president had instructed Cabinet members to “follow through” on the matter.

Regardless of the accusations, the Justice Department indicted Halkbank for evading sanctions on Iran in October of last year.

Analysts saw the indictment as the administration showing itself to be taking a tough line on Turkey as scrutiny of the president’s relationship with his Turkish counterpart built up.

In October Trump was accused of effectively giving Erdoğan the green light for a much-feared military offensive against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeastern Syria.

The US president has also been accused of allowing Turkey off the hook for legally mandated sanctions over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

Bolton’s statements in the book align with other comments he has made since leaving the White House in September. In November he said in a private speech that none of Trump’s advisers shared the president’s views on Turkey and that he believed Trump had adopted a more permissive approach to the country because of his financial ties there, NBC News reported.

Trump’s company has a property in Turkey.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department on Tuesday posted a statement on Twitter disputing aspects of Bolton’s account.

“There was no discussion of ‘personal favors’ or ‘undue influence’ on investigations, nor did Attorney General Barr state that the President’s conversations with foreign leaders [were] improper,” spokeswoman Kerri Kupec tweeted.

“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,” she added.

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