United States President Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win the 2020 United States election, US media report.
According to an explosive new book by former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Trump told Xi during a summit dinner last year that increased agricultural buys by China from American farmers would help his electoral prospects.
The impeachment hearings against Trump were about whether the President improperly pressured Ukraine to help his re-election bid. Trump wanted the Ukrainian president to help dig up dirt on Democratic rival former Vice-President Joe Biden in exchange for military aid.
The Trump Administration has sued Bolton to delay the publication of a book that the White House says contains classified information and that paints an unfavourable portrait of the President's foreign policy decision-making.
The civil lawsuit filed in Washington's federal court follows warnings from Trump that Bolton could face a "criminal problem" if he doesn't halt plans to publish the book, which is scheduled for release next week.
The Washington Post reports that during a one-on-one meeting at the G20 summit in Japan a year ago, Xi complained to Trump about China critics in the US.
Bolton writes: "Trump immediately assumed Xi meant the Democrats. Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility among the Democrats.
"He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China's economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he'd win.
"He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome. I would print Trump's exact words but the government's prepublication review process has decided otherwise."
The Washington Post reports that at the same meeting, Xi defended China's camps containing Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Bolton writes that Trump signalled his approval. "According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do."
The legal complaint is the latest salvo in a contentious relationship between Trump and the hawkish Bolton, who was abruptly forced from the White House last September after repeated disagreements on national security matters.
It moves their rift into court, where a judge will be asked to decide whether Bolton short-circuited proper procedures to get his book on the market — something his lawyer and publisher have strongly denied.
His publisher, Simon & Schuster, called the lawsuit "nothing more than the latest in a long running series of efforts by the Administration to quash publication of a book it deems unflattering to the President." It said in a statement that Bolton had worked with White House officials to address their concerns, and that it "fully supports his First Amendment right" to tell his story.
Chuck Cooper, Bolton's lawyer, said that his team was "reviewing the Government's complaint and will respond in due course."
Cooper has said Bolton worked for months with classification specialists to avoid releasing classified material. He has accused the White House of using national security information as a pretext to censor Bolton.
The Justice Department also is seeking to prevent Bolton from profiting off the book, particularly if he "refuses to complete the prepublication review process and obtain the required prior written authorisation before proceeding with publishing the book."
In its lawsuit, the Justice Department argues that Bolton's job meant he "regularly came into possession of some of the most sensitive classified information that exists in the US government." Officials said Bolton's manuscript was more than 500 pages and was "rife with classified information, which he proposed to release to the world."