Judge Allows Bolton Memoir To Proceed, Despite Trump Administration Objection

Jun 20, 2020
Originally published on June 20, 2020 2:36 pm

Updated at 3:09 p.m. ET

The release of former national security adviser John Bolton's new book, The Room Where It Happened, remains on track after a federal judge on Saturday rejected the Trump administration's request to block its release.

Judge Royce Lamberth of the D.C. District Court said that Bolton may still be facing legal trouble and that because of a rush to print, it was likely his book contains classified information.

But with hundreds of thousands of copies of the book already out for sale, according to its publisher, the judge ruled that the administration's efforts had come too late. "The damage is done," he wrote in a 10-page opinion.

"Defendant Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States. He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability," Lamberth concluded. "But these facts do not control the motion before the Court. The government has failed to establish that an injunction will prevent irreparable harm."

The Justice Department had sought a temporary restraining order against Bolton and his publisher, Simon & Schuster, citing what it called the presence of classified information in Bolton's manuscript. But the book already has been widely reported on, and it is scheduled to be released Tuesday.

"We are grateful that the Court has vindicated the strong First Amendment protections against censorship and prior restraint of publication," the publisher said in a statement shared Saturday with NPR. "We are very pleased that the public will now have the opportunity to read Ambassador Bolton's account of his time as National Security Advisor."

Simon & Schuster previously said the injunction "would accomplish nothing."

Indeed, a number of the book's most damaging allegations against President Trump are free to find in a variety of media outlets, with the book already widely reviewed — including by NPR.

Bolton, who served in the administration for nearly a year and a half, alleges a wide array of indiscretions and outright violations of law, including promising favors to foreign leaders for help with Trump's reelection and conducting "obstruction of justice as a way of life" at the White House.

"In fact," Bolton writes in the book, "I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn't driven by reelection calculations."

The president and other deputies have denied the allegations made in the book and dismissed them as "lies and fake stories."

Despite the judge's ruling, the president sought to frame the decision on Saturday as a "BIG COURT WIN".

Trump tweeted that although it was too late for the judge to stop the book's release, Lamberth's rebukes of Bolton offered vindication for the administration.

"Bolton broke the law and has been called out and rebuked for so doing, with a really big price to pay," the president said. "He likes dropping bombs on people, and killing them. Now he will have bombs dropped on him!"

In preparation for publishing, Bolton undertook a months-long review of his manuscript with an official on the National Security Council. According to the government's complaint against Bolton, in late April, that official, Ellen Knight, concluded "that the manuscript draft did not contain classified information." The government says Bolton abandoned the process after the launch of "an additional review" by another member of the NSC, Michael Ellis. Bolton's attorneys deny that claim, saying he "has fully discharged all duties that the Federal Government may lawfully require of him."

The judge made his distaste for Bolton's conduct clear in order. He noted that, in opting out of the government's review process, the former national security adviser was likely to run afoul of his nondisclosure agreements with the government.

And that promises peril for Bolton, who still faces the possibility of prosecution and the government's attempts to claw back his profits from the book.

"Unilateral fast-tracking carried the benefit of publicity and sales, and the cost of substantial risk exposure," Lamberth said.

"This was Bolton's bet: If he is right and the book does not contain classified information, he keeps the upside mentioned above; but if he is wrong, he stands to lose his profits from the book deal, exposes himself to criminal liability, and imperils national security," the judge added. "Bolton was wrong."

Bolton's legal team said Saturday that it welcomed the decision — but took issue with the judge's preliminary finding that Bolton didn't comply with the government's prepublication review.

"The full story of these events has yet to be told," attorney Charles J. Cooper said in a statement, "but it will be."

Trump hired the George W. Bush administration veteran as his third national security adviser in 2018. But the two men clashed repeatedly over foreign policy and split in a flurry of acrimony last fall. Trump says he fired Bolton; Bolton says he offered to resign first.

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