Jun 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump claims Bolton will have "very strong criminal problem" if he publishes book

President Trump told reporters Monday that his former national security adviser John Bolton will have a "very strong criminal problem" if he proceeds with publishing his tell-all book on June 23, calling it "highly inappropriate" and claiming: “I will consider every conversation with me as president to be highly classified."

Why it matters: The memoir by Bolton, a prolific note taker, is expected to shed light on alleged misconduct by Trump related to his dealings with foreign countries. ABC News reported Monday that the administration is planning to file a lawsuit this week seeking an injunction in federal court to block the book from publishing.

  • "If he wrote a book and if the book gets out, he's broken the law and I would think you would have criminal problems. I hope so," Trump said.
  • "If this guy is writing things about conversations or about anything — and maybe he is not telling the truth. He's been known not to tell the truth, a lot."

The big picture: Attorney General Bill Barr claimed that Bolton did not complete the process of pre-publication review with the White House to ensure classified information is not published.

  • But Bolton's lawyer contests that, writing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week that Bolton underwent a four-month review process and that the White House attempted to block publication at the last minute by claiming the book still contained classified information.
  • This came after "weeks of silence" from the White House, Bolton's lawyer claimed, accusing the administration of a "transparent attempt to use national security as a pretext to censor Mr. Bolton."

Between the lines: National security lawyer Mark Zaid notes that a court-ordered injunction, even if successful, is unlikely to stop sensitive information from Bolton's book from being released, since a number of major media outlets are likely to have to have review copies.

  • However, that does not rule out the possibility that Bolton will face serious criminal or civil liability at some point in the future.
  • Bolton has been criticized for declining to testify during Trump's impeachment, despite claiming to have firsthand knowledge of the president's involvement in a campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

Go deeper: Bolton book to argue Trump committed misconduct

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