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Trump and Xi’s concentration camps: When a quid pro quo is the least horrific explanation

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

[Regarding this story: Don’t Buy John Bolton’s Book. But Don’t Ignore Its Revelations]

Most of the reporting on John Bolton’s telling of the exchange between Trump and Chinese President Xi has focused on Trump asking Xi to help him get reelected, which was essentially the same thing for which he was impeached and which formed the basis for the investigation that led to him firing the investigators.

Whether or not a quid pro quo is evident to the satisfaction of criminal law or impeachment standards, the pattern is amply demonstrated to an inarguable dead end: Trump is willing — eager even — to sell out the country’s foreign policy interests in exchange for the interference of foreign leaders in US elections on his behalf.

It’s perfectly understandable why that would be the focus, but lost in that framing are horrifying nuggets like this:


“Xi explained to Trump why he was basically building [Uighur] concentration camps in Xinjiang. According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which he thought was exactly the right thing to do.”

I guess you could debate whether this adds up to a quid pro quo — withholding criticism of China’s concentration camps in exchange for Xi’s help getting Trump reelected — or not, but it’s almost worse if the reality is that Trump didn’t make the connection and seek to leverage one for the other, because then it’s the case that he sees no problem with China’s concentration camps — it’s “exactly the right thing to do.”

And I get that Bolton has a questionable moral compass of his own, but to the extent there’s any question as to his accurate recounting, realize that while Trump and his supporters are calling Bolton bad names, some deserved, they aren’t actually challenging his allegations as false.

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