The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir

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Book Rating (166)

Narrator Rating (36)

Written By: John Bolton

Narrated By: Robert Petkoff

Date: June 2020

Duration: 20 hours 52 minutes



As President Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton spent many of his 453 days in the room where it happened, and the facts speak for themselves.

The result is a White House memoir that is the most comprehensive and substantial account of the Trump Administration, and one of the few to date by a top-level official. With almost daily access to the President, John Bolton has produced a precise rendering of his days in and around the Oval Office. What Bolton saw astonished him: a President for whom getting reelected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation. “I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” he writes. In fact, he argues that the House committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy—and Bolton documents exactly what those were, and attempts by him and others in the Administration to raise alarms about them.

He shows a President addicted to chaos, who embraced our enemies and spurned our friends, and was deeply suspicious of his own government. In Bolton’s telling, all this helped put Trump on the bizarre road to impeachment. “The differences between this presidency and previous ones I had served were stunning,” writes Bolton, who worked for Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43. He discovered a President who thought foreign policy is like closing a real estate deal—about personal relationships, made-for-TV showmanship, and advancing his own interests. As a result, the US lost an opportunity to confront its deepening threats, and in cases like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea ended up in a more vulnerable place.

Bolton’s account starts with his long march to the West Wing as Trump and others woo him for the National Security job. The minute he lands, he has to deal with Syria’s chemical attack on the city of Douma, and the crises after that never stop. As he writes in the opening pages, “If you don’t like turmoil, uncertainty, and risk—all the while being constantly overwhelmed with information, decisions to be made, and sheer amount of work—and enlivened by international and domestic personality and ego conflicts beyond description, try something else.”

The turmoil, conflicts, and egos are all there—from the upheaval in Venezuela, to the erratic and manipulative moves of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, to the showdowns at the G7 summits, the calculated warmongering by Iran, the crazy plan to bring the Taliban to Camp David, and the placating of an authoritarian China that ultimately exposed the world to its lethal lies. But this seasoned public servant also has a great eye for the Washington inside game, and his story is full of wit and wry humor about how he saw it played.


  • Donald W.

    An ego trip travelogue. The reporting is tiresome and the self-congratulation nettling. The author is certainly knowledgeable, and there is much to criticize and fear when it comes to our current POTUS, but he preens throughout about his reputation as a hawk, criticizing virtually everyone, colleague, ally and foe, as too stupid to see the world as he does - black and white. Things are so much simpler when one’s answer to every problem is regime change or an act of war, in response to which, he appears to assume, The foreign targets of his wrath will beat a quiet retreat More galling, perhaps, he spends gallons of ink explaining the stupidity of any number of decisions made during his tenure, apparently oblivious to the fact that he was by his own account in the room where it happened. We can take comfort in the fact that he isn’t any more.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful.

  • Michael H.

    Really disappointing, Bolton clearly a megalomaniac seems shocked and appalled that someone could be an even bigger megalomaniac. Thought the motivation for the book would be to reveal Trump’s mismanagement which it does but larger goal seems to Bolton talking himself up. Snore!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful.

  • Lupe C.

    I think Michael Bolton is pretty full of himself. Nothing in this book surprised me. It was long and boring. I found it interesting how he kept putting down the previous administration and writing a book on how terrifying this one is. Clearly he didn't testify because of this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Dennis I.

    Egotistical people stories

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Flavia R.

    I liked the many details in this book, but felt it was a play and repeat story of how POTUS could not focus on topics or stick to a plan. Mr. Bolton had one foot out the door ready with a resignation letter as he gained a true understanding of the chaotic nature of the white house and the people who worked there. Interesting that he highlighted the justification, some wrong, for certain decisions and when it came time to impeach Trump he did not have anything to say.

  • Anonymous

    I believe that is John more then Trump. His service to nation was very commendable. I definitely respect him and his opinion. He presents an accurate account of Trump’s time in office and his impacts on the nation. It’s truly inspiring and I find his conservative vision admirable

  • Anonymous

    heavy content and very ponderous read

  • Anonymous

    Bolton's book is just a policy wonk's disagreement with Trump's modus operandi. If you want to learn how decisions are made in the White House (any WH), this is a.good book to read. Bolton's book is mostly about Bolton justifying to his peers how and why foreign policy decisions were made within the WH and how the cabinet interacts. Overall, a good civics lesson.

  • Joseph H.

    a very detailed account of the interworking of the Trump Whitehouse.

  • Anonymous

    My favorite comment is in the introduction: if you don’t like stress get a different job! Easy to listen to and stay interested: informative and very much written from the emotional heart without being bitter I gave the Narrator 4 stars because his voice sounded vindictive tinged: however his speech is very articulate and understandable

  • Anonymous

    This book is about how much of a large racist the author is. Every chance he gets he takes very unnecessary unfounded pokes at President Obama.

  • Christian C.

    There is nothing in the book that I can recommend.

  • Anonymous

    After listening to his book, I wonder why he is not the president, since it seems he knows everything so much better than anyone else

  • Sarah B.

    BORING , to boring to write 10 letters

  • Lisa S.

    Extremely boring. It's a book for John Bolton to rave about his knowledge and pat himself on the back. If he said the sentence "From my previous role in the Reagan Administration" one more time I was going to fling myself off a roof. Do yourself as favor and- Pass on this book. Unless you're into hearing about Boltons boring achievements (so he thinks, it's his job) in a Administration, constantly stroking his ego One thing is obvious, this Country is being ran by ego maniac and a administration that acts like children.

  • Petra F.

    So boring. It’s hard to pay attention because either the book is boring or is it the narrator? Either way would not recommend.

  • Vinicius K.

    Too boring. Nothing really interesting.

Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir

by John Bolton

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