John Bolton

Bolton Says Trump Proposal to Intervene in SDNY Investigation of Turkish Bank Felt ‘Like Obstruction of Justice to Me’


By Justine Coleman

WASHINGTON (The Hill) — Former national security adviser John Bolton said in an interview on Sunday that President Trump proposed intervening in the Southern District of New York’s (SDNY) investigation of a state-owned Turkish bank.

Bolton told ABC’s Martha Raddatz last week that Trump’s suggestion of getting involved in the investigation felt like “obstruction of justice to me.” The December 2018 episode is detailed in Bolton’s forthcoming book entitled The Room Where It Happened.

The SDNY had been examining the Turkish bank Halkbank for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. Bolton asserted that Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had discussed the investigation several times, with the Turkish president wanting a settlement for Halkbank.

“And the president said to Erdogan at one point, ‘Look, those prosecutors in New York are Obama people. Wait till I get my people in, and then we’ll take care of this,’” Bolton said.

“And I thought to myself — and I’m a Department of Justice alumnus myself,” he added. “I’ve never heard any president say anything like that. Ever.”

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The former national security adviser pointed out that if a U.S. bank had violated the sanctions against Iran “we would have toasted them and quite properly so.” He said Attorney General William Barr allowed for the appropriate prosecution of the bank after Turkey wouldn’t agree to a “reasonable settlement.”

Raddatz asked Bolton if he thought the incident qualified as “criminal” or “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which is required to impeach the president.

“I don’t think I know enough about all the circumstances, but I tell ya, it did feel like obstruction of justice to me,” Bolton said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bolton’s interview was recorded before Trump fired former SDNY U.S. Attorney Geoff Berman on Saturday, raising questions about the president’s involvement in the Justice Department.

The Justice Department initially announced Berman would be “stepping down” from his position on Friday, but the attorney refuted saying he would not resign without a Senate approved replacement. On Saturday, Barr asked Trump to officially fire him.

Berman’s office has been investigating Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and had prosecuted his former lawyer Michael Cohen, among other associates.


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