The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:
Shortly thereafter, Trump flipped again on Erdogan and Turkey. With the Brunson matter now six weeks behind us, the two leaders met bilaterally on December 1 at the Buenos Aires G20 summit, largely discussing Halkbank. Erdogan provided a memo by the law firm representing Halkbank, which Trump did nothing more than flip through before declaring he believed Halkbank was totally innocent of violating US Iran sanctions. Trump asked whether we could reach Acting US Attorney General Matt Whitaker, which I sidestepped. Trump then told Erdogan he would take care of things, explaining that the Southern District prosecutors were not his people, but were Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people.
Of course, this was all nonsense, since the prosecutors were career Justice Department employees, who would have proceeded the same way if the Halkbank investigation started in the eighth year of Trump’s presidency rather than the eighth year of Obama’s. It was as though Trump was trying to show he had as much arbitrary authority as Erdogan, who had said twenty years earlier as mayor of Istanbul, “Democracy is like a streetcar. You ride it to the stop you want, and then you get off.” Trump rolled on, claiming he didn’t want anything bad to happen to Erdogan or Turkey, and that he would work very hard on the issue. Erdogan also complained about Kurdish forces in Syria (which Trump didn’t address) and then raised Fethullah Gulen, asking yet again that he be extradited to Turkey. Trump hypothesized that Gulen would last for only one day if he were returned to Turkey. The Turks laughed but said Gulen needn’t worry, since Turkey had no death penalty. Fortunately, the bilateral ended shortly thereafter. Nothing good was going to come of this renewed bromance with yet another authoritarian foreign leader.
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