Skip to main content

Turkey says Bolton misrepresented Erdogan-Trump call in 'manipulative' memoir

In his tell-all book, Bolton alleges Trump told Erdogan he would 'take care' of investigation against Turkish bank suspected of sanctions-busting
US President Donald Trump and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Nato summit in London last December (AFP/File photo)

Turkey dismissed claims made by John Bolton in his tell-all memoir, accusing the former US national security adviser of manipulating the narrative around conversations between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump. 

Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish presidency's communications director, accused Bolton of publishing "mischaracterisations and falsehoods" motivated by "domestic political considerations as well as personal gain", in a lengthy Twitter thread on Wednesday.

In his memoir, The Room Where It Happened, Bolton alleges that in 2018, Erdogan sent Trump a memo insisting that Turkey's Halkbank, which was accused of violating US sanctions on Iran, was innocent of the charges against it.

Halkbank, one of Turkey's biggest banks, has been under investigation by the Southern District of New York since 2018, when it was accused of using its currency businesses and front companies to transfer $20bn in oil revenue to Iran.

Bolton said that Trump responded to Erdogan's memo by telling the Turkish president "he would take care of things".

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Bolton claims Trump agreed to intervene in Halkbank probe at Erdogan's request
Read More »

Trump allegedly said "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", Bolton wrote. 

Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the district, was forced by the Trump administration to step down last weekend after Attorney General William Barr first tried to oust the powerful prosecutor.

Berman's office had also been investigating Trump's personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani. 

"[The] recent publication of a book authored by a high-level former US official includes misleading, one-sided and manipulative presentations of President Erdogan's conversations with the US president," Altun said. 

The Turkish official asserted that Erdogan and Trump had made great efforts to mend ties and that Trump "has done a lot more listening to a key Nato ally than some of the previous administrations".

On Thursday, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also lashed out at the book, describing Bolton's account as a "complete delusion".

Last week, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, the ranking member of the Senate's finance committee, said Bolton's book provided "damning evidence" corroborating the findings of his own investigation that "Donald Trump attempted to interfere in a criminal investigation into the largest sanctions violations scheme in US history as a favour" to Erdogan.

"I have been investigating potential political interference by Donald Trump as it relates to Turkey and sanctions enforcement, and this damning evidence corroborates what my investigation has uncovered to date," Wyden wrote, calling on Bolton to respond to requests for more information about Trump's relationship with Turkey. 

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.