The Justice Department filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to block the publication of former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book, which is scheduled for release next week.
The lawsuit alleges that Bolton breached his non-disclosure agreement with the government by moving forward with the release, despite having not finished the prepublication review process with the National Security Council. The lawsuit claims that the book, titled The Room Where It Happened, contains classified information.
Claiming portions of the draft contain classified information — “some up to several paragraphs in length”— the lawsuit alleges that disclosure of that information could be “expected to cause serious damage, or exceptionally grave damage, to the national security of the United States.”
Since the book deal was announced, President Trump has warned repeatedly that he’d take action to block its publication. Just this week, Trump said that Bolton will face “legal consequences” because he considers ever conversation Bolton had “with me as President highly classified.”
The lawsuit, meanwhile, alleges that,”dissatisfied at the pace of NSC’s review,” Bolton had “decided to take matters into his own hands” by announcing the June 23 release date.
“Simply put, Defendant struck a bargain with the United States as a condition of his employment in one of the most sensitive and important national security positions in the United States Government and now wants to renege on that bargain by unilaterally deciding that the prepublication review process is complete and deciding for himself whether classified information should be made public,” the lawsuit said.
Bolton’s lawyer Chuck Cooper has said the NSC official who was reviewing the draft had told Bolton in late April that she had not more edits for him, and only this month did he hear from a White House lawyer that there was still an issue with publishing the book. Cooper said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the White House’s claims were a “transparent attempt to use national security as a pretext to censor Mr. Bolton, in violation of his constitutional right to speak on matters of the utmost public import.”
Cooper did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment about the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that after the NSC official who had been working with Bolton had finished her review, Michael Ellis, the NSC’s Senior Director for Intelligence, began his own review of the draft. Ellis “was concerned that the manuscript still appeared to contain classified information, in part because the same Administration that the Author served is still in office and that the manuscript described sensitive information about ongoing foreign policy issues,” the lawsuit says.
The book is expected to cover the Ukraine saga and similar “transgressions” that “existed across the full range of his foreign policy,” according to a preview from the publisher.
Bolton refused the House’s request that he testify about the Ukraine matter, saying he’d only do so if a court first upheld a congressional subpoena for his testimony.
The DOJ lawsuit requests that a court order Bolton to seek a delay in the release date of the book and that Bolton instruct his publisher to take “all available steps to retrieve and dispose of any copies” of the book that have been distributed to third parties. Read the DOJ lawsuit.
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