WASHINGTON, DC — Former US national security adviser John Bolton is facing calls to elaborate on a claim in his new book that Donald Trump agreed to help Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by intervening in a federal investigation into a Turkish state-owned bank, the Guardian reports..
In excerpts of the memoir seen by US media, Bolton said Trump appeared to “give personal favors to dictators he liked”, that should have been included in the impeachment inquiry focusing on Trump’s dealings in Ukraine.
Bolton claimed that during a 2018 phone call Erdoğan sent Trump a memo insisting that the scandal-hit Halkbank was innocent. “Trump then told Erdoğan he would take care of things, explaining that the [New York] southern district prosecutors were not his people but were Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people,” Bolton wrote.
Bloomberg has reported that in April 2019, Trump instructed Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and Attorney General William Barr to address Erdoğan’s request that Halkbank avoid charges.
Halkbank, one of Turkey’s largest banks, has been under investigation by US prosecutors since a Turkish inquiry in 2013 found it was used to launder up to $20bn in a scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran. High-ranking Turkish officials allegedly exported gold to Tehran via the UAE in return for Iranian oil and gas.
The Democratic senator Ron Wyden, the ranking member of the Senate finance committee, said on Wednesday night that Bolton’s book provided “damning evidence” corroborating his findings so far that “Donald Trump attempted to interfere in a criminal investigation into the largest sanctions violations scheme in US history as a favour” to the Turkish president.
“If John Bolton has an interest in serving his country as opposed to selling books, he will respond promptly to my forthcoming request for more information about Donald Trump’s relationship with Turkey,” Wyden said in a statement.
The Turkish President, his son-in-law and finance minister, Berat Albayrak, have both been linked to the Halkbank scandal by Turkish investigators.
Two men with close ties to Erdoğan’s inner circle – Reza Zarrab, a flamboyant Turkish-Iranian businessman, and Mehmet Atilla, Halkbank’s deputy chief executive – have been sentenced to jail time in the US.