The request for electoral assistance from Xi is just one of many instances described by Bolton in which Trump seeks favors or approval from authoritarian leaders. Many of those same leaders were also happy to take advantage of the U.S. president and attempt to manipulate him, Bolton writes, often through simplistic appeals to his various obsessions.

In one May 2019 phone call, for example, Russian President Vladimir Putin compared Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, part of what Bolton terms a “brilliant display of Soviet style proganda” to shore up support for Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro. Putin’s claims, Bolton writes, “largely persuaded Trump.”…

Bolton attributes a litany of shocking statements to the president. Trump said invading Venezuela would be “cool” and that the South American nation was “really part of the United States.” Bolton says Trump kept confusing the current and former presidents of Afghanistan, while asking Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to help him strike a deal with Iran. And Trump told Xi that Americans were clamoring for him to change the constitutional rules to serve more than two terms, according to the book.

He also describes a summer 2019 meeting in New Jersey where Trump says journalists should be jailed so they have to divulge their sources: “These people should be executed. They are scumbags,” Trump said, according to Bolton’s account.