In a new book, former National Security Advisor John Bolton alleges President Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to buy more American agriculture goods to help him win farmers’ votes during the 2020 presidential election.
While talking with the Chinese president last year at a dinner, Bolton’s book claims “[Trump] stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”
Trump dodged a question about the allegation, but his trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, denied Trump said this. Regardless of whether this specific allegation is true, there is a clear pattern of Trump using his official authority to advance his private political fortunes, often at the expense of the public interest.
For instance, during a July 25, 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate, and threatened to withhold aid unless Zelensky cooperated. Bolton says that Trump refused to release the aid even after Secretary of State Pompeo, Bolton, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged him to do so.
This request appeared to serve no purpose other than to benefit Trump’s re-election efforts. By asking President Zelensky to use government resources to investigate Trump’s political opponent, Trump solicited a campaign contribution from the Ukrainian president. In the campaign finance world, a ‘contribution’ is any ‘thing of value’ given to affect an election, as Campaign Legal Center has previously explained.
Ultimately, Trump’s pattern of abusing power and the public trust is more concerning than whether any particular action itself violated campaign finance law.