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Bolton's book helps sum up the Trump presidency four months before the election

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping leave a business leaders event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov. 9, 2017.Nicolas Asfouri / AFP via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The hits keep coming for President Trump — a pandemic, an unemployment rate above 13 percent, social unrest and protests, brutal poll numbers, and now a tell-all memoir from former national security adviser John Bolton.

And the revelations from Bolton’s book pretty much confirm what we already know about the Trump presidency.

But in one book. From a well-known Republican. And just four months before the election.

Among Bolton’s observations and revelations:

Trump held up aid to Ukraine until it helped with an investigation in 2016: “I thought the whole affair was bad policy, questionable legally and unacceptable as presidential behavior,” Bolton writes, per the Washington Post.

Trump asked other countries, including China, for their help in his re-election effort: “Trump then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability and 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,” Bolton writes.

Trump’s easily manipulated by other world leaders: “In one May 2019 phone call, for example, Russian President Vladimir Putin compared Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Clinton, part of what Bolton terms a ‘brilliant display of Soviet style propaganda’ to shore up support for Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro. Putin’s claims, Bolton writes, ‘largely persuaded Trump,’” per the Post.

Trump doesn’t stand up for human rights: “At the opening dinner of the Osaka G20 meeting, with only interpreters present, Xi explained to Trump why he was basically building 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.”

Trump’s uninformed about world: “Isn’t Finland kind of a satellite of Russia?” he asked. (Later that same morning, Trump asked [former chief of staff John] Kelly if Finland was part of Russia”) Bolton writes.

No one comes off looking good from this book.

Not Bolton, who didn’t share this information with the public earlier and who’s about to get Comey-ed (i.e., have no friends on either side of the aisle).

Not Republicans, who refused to hear from Bolton during the Senate impeachment trial.

Not Democrats, who weren’t able to use their oversight powers in the House to dig into the China and Turkey allegations.

And most of all, not the president of the United States.

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Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

2,178,505: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 28,393 more than yesterday morning.)

118,441: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 810 more than yesterday morning).

24.94 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

Three: The number of states — Texas, Arizona and Florida — that just hit new records for positive coronavirus cases, as their governors balk at re-implementing restrictions

About 1 in 5: The share of people worldwide who have an underlying health condition that puts them at increased risk for a severe coronavirus case, according to a new study

More than 40 percent: The share of black business owners who said they were not working in April, compared to just 17 percent of white business owners who said the same

11: The number of counts — including felony murder — faced by Garrett Rolfe, the former Atlanta police officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks

2020 Vision: Biden launches his first general-election TV ads

After months of being off the air, Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has launched its first TV ads of the general election, NBC’s Mike Memoli reports.

The first is a 60-second spot that features remarks from his recent speech in Philadelphia, saying the country is “crying out for leadership."

A second ad is more focused on the economy.

And a third is a Spanish-language ad:

Per Memoli, Team Biden says this is initially at $15 million campaign that includes TV, digital, radio and print advertising. The states targeted: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida and Arizona, plus national cable that they note will include Fox News (!).

Things get heated on Capitol Hill

The political battle over police reform devolved into arguments on race and language on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

First in the upper chamber, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., took issue with the Senate Republican bill on police reform calling it a “token”: “Let's not do something that is a token, half-hearted approach. Let's focus instead on making a change that will make a difference in the future of America.”

South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott, who is the only Black Republican senator and just one of three Black senators, took immediate issue with Durbin’s language: “To think that the concept of anti-lynching as a part of this legislation to be considered a token piece of legislation because perhaps I'm African American, the only one on this side of the aisle, I don't know what he meant, but I can tell you that this day to have those comments again hurts the soul,” Scott said.

And the battle was no less emotional in the lower chamber. The House Judiciary Committee meeting began its markup of the Democrats’ police reform bill when Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., attacked Republicans for introducing amendments on antifa: “You all are white men who have never lived in my shoes, and you do not know what it is like to be an African American male," said Richmond, who is Black. "And if you are opposed, let's just have the vote. But please do not come into this committee and make a mockery of the pain that exists in my community."

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., took issue with Richmond’s statement and responded that being white does not mean those on the committee don’t have non-white children. The two went back-and-forth until their debate ended with this:

“You are claiming you have more concern for your family than I do? Who in the hell do you think you are? That is outrageous,” Gaetz said.

"Was that a nerve?" Richmond responded.

Our take: These backs-and-forths aren’t a good sign for getting police reform passed into law.

The Lid: Bluegrass barn-burner

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we checked in on the dynamics of the surprisingly competitive Democratic Senate primary in Kentucky.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The White House may be reconsidering its stance toward renaming military bases named for Confederate generals.

The New York Times asks in an eyebrow-raising piece: “Does Trump want to fight for a second term?”

More than 5 million people have become American citizens since 2014. Activist groups want to be sure to turn them into voters.

GOP leaders are distancing themselves from a Q’Anon-believing congressional candidate after more controversial comments have come to light.

The Senate has passed a sweeping bill directing billions of dollars to state and national parks.