John Bolton, the former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, says he is willing to testify in a Canadian court that the U.S. extradition request for Huawei senior executive Meng Wanzhou is “not politically motivated.”
In an interview with CBC’s The Current on Friday, Mr. Bolton said U.S. law enforcement has a legitimate case against Ms. Meng, the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, founder of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., on allegations of fraud and violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
“It was not politically motivated at all, and I’d be happy to testify under oath to that effect in a Canadian court.”
He was interviewed about his recently released memoir on the Trump presidency, The Room Where It Happened.
In his book and in the CBC interview, Mr. Bolton said that after the U.S. President suggested in December, 2018, that the U.S. extradition request could be used as a bargaining chip in trade talks with China, it was difficult to make him understand that Huawei was accused of financial fraud.
“It took a lot of effort to explain that Huawei and people involved in Huawei had committed financial fraud in very serious respects – regarding violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran – and that if this were an American company, we would have been prosecuting them very vigorously,” he said. “So this was not anything directed in an anti-China mode, or even anti-Huawei for that matter, although I do think Huawei is effectively an arm of the Chinese state.”
The Chinese government was furious after Canada agreed to the U.S. extradition request in early December, 2018, and shortly afterward arrested Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on allegations of espionage. The two men were recently charged with spying, and have been in prison since their arrest, while Ms. Meng is out on bail and living in one of her Vancouver mansions.
Mr. Bolton recalled in his memoirs that at a 2018 White House Christmas dinner, the President turned to him and said: “ ‘Do you realize you arrested the Ivanka Trump of China?’ and I thought to myself, ‘Gee, I never knew Ivanka was a spy.‘ ”
Mr. Bolton said everyone in the U.S. government found Mr. Trump’s suggestion the case of against Ms. Meng could be used in Sino-U.S. trade talks to be abhorrent.
“What bothered me was the President’s tendency to get involved in criminal prosecutions to give effectively personal favours to dictators he was trying to improve his relationship with, and I just think that is just a mistake, and it calls into question the evenhandedness of U.S. law enforcement,” he said.
Mr. Bolton lauded the Trudeau government for honouring its obligations under the extradition treaty with the United States; and he accused Beijing of acting like an international bully.
“The Chinese have responded in an authoritarian fashion. They’ve arbitrarily arrested Canadian citizens, and I fully understand why the government of Canada [and] why Canadian citizens worry about their citizens being caught up in what is really a dispute between the United States and Huawei,” he said.
But he urged Canadians to consider that “if we don’t stand up to this kind of behaviour now, what is it going to be like as China grows in economic strength?”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing domestic pressure from former politicians and officials from the Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien years to free Ms. Meng and bring about the return of the two Michaels to Canada. Mr. Trudeau rejected the proposal earlier this week.
He said it would be wrong to intervene in the extradition process before the courts and that Canada cannot give in to what amounts to hostage-taking by Beijing’s authoritarian rulers.
The Prime Minister told reporters on Friday that he has sympathy for the families of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor, but caving in to China would undermine Canada’s efforts to build an international coalition to win their release. Other countries have the same concerns about Bejjing using hostage diplomacy, he said.
“This is a real concern upon which, as a world, we need to continue to be united, and I am very pleased by the kind of support we have got from friends and allies and partners all around the world on this issue,” he said.