WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump came under attack from both sides of the American political spectrum on Thursday as liberal Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and former White House aide and conservative hawk John Bolton both declared him unfit to lead the country.
“President Trump is clearly ethically unfit and intellectually unprepared to be the president of the United States,” Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, told a news briefing.
In a new book, Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, has accused the Republican president of sweeping misdeeds, including explicitly seeking Chinese President Xi Jinping’s aid to win re-election in November.
“I don’t think he’s fit for office,” Bolton told ABC News in part of an interview aired on Thursday.
“There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s re-election.”
Pelosi told a weekly news conference she was consulting with her fellow Democrats on whether to subpoena Bolton about the allegations in the book, which has not yet been distributed.
If Bolton testifies before Congress, it could revive the issue of Trump’s competence as he faces a stiff challenge on Nov. 3 from Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, and fends off criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and protests over racial injustice and police brutality.
Bolton refused to testify in the House’s impeachment probe last year and threatened to sue if subpoenaed. He offered to testify in the subsequent trial in the Senate, but the Republican-controlled chamber did not take him up on the offer.
Republican senators on Thursday rejected criticism that they should have called Bolton to testify, and declined to talk about Bolton’s allegations.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, a staunch Trump ally, said Bolton was making “sensational” claims to sell books.
“Money drives a lot of people to say a lot of things,” he said.
Trump himself has rejected the memoir as a “compilation of lies” and called Bolton, who left the White House in September, a “sick puppy” who was trying to avenge his firing.
The book also exposed the sometimes dim view that Trump’s advisers have of him. During a 2018 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Bolton says he got a note from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mocking Trump.
“He is so full of shit,” Pompeo’s note said, according to a Bolton excerpt in the Washington Post, which said it was not clear whether the diplomat was referring to Trump or Kim.
Without addressing that anecdote, Pompeo issued a statement on Thursday night calling Bolton a traitor and accusing him of spreading “lies, fully-spun half-truths, and outright falsehoods.”
“It is both sad and dangerous that John Bolton’s final public role is that of a traitor who damaged America by violating his sacred trust with its people,” he added.
The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday sued to block Bolton from releasing the book on the grounds that the latest draft still contained classified information.
The agency’s submissions include an affidavit from General Paul Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency, which conducts electronic eavesdropping, that it contained secrets that could compromise a valuable NSA eavesdropping source.
Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who led the impeachment inquiry, sharply criticized Bolton as unpatriotic for withholding information from the probe.
The new allegations are “further proof” that Trump’s actions in Ukraine were part of a pattern of abusing his power and the U.S. government for personal political gain, Schiff said in a statement.
The allegations include far more extensive accusations of impropriety than those that drove Trump’s impeachment, however.
In his book, “The Room Where It Happened,” Bolton said Trump expressed a willingness to halt criminal investigations to favor dictators he liked.
He also wrote that Trump said invading Venezuela would be “cool” even as the U.S. government has said it does not favor using force to topple socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the disclosures explained the president’s stance on China, including his initial praise for Beijing’s response to the coronavirus outbreak and silence on alleged human rights abuses.
“President Trump cannot be trusted to deal with China policy any longer,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
According to Bolton, Trump encouraged China’s Xi in June 2019 to build camps for its mostly Muslim Uighur minority and other Muslim groups despite his administration’s criticism of China’s mass detention.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro disputed Bolton’s allegation that Trump also asked his Chinese counterpart for help in the 2020 election by making agricultural purchases from U.S. farmers.
“I didn’t hear that at all,” Navarro told reporters. “Bolton’s depiction of that event is not how I would describe it. That’s an alternate universe.”
Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Richard Cowan, Susan Heavey, David Morgan, Mark Hosenball and Mohammed Zargham in Washington; Writing by Sonya Hepinstall and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney