Updated Jun 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump administration sues to block publication of John Bolton's book

John Bolton

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday seeking to block former national security adviser John Bolton from publishing his tell-all book on June 23, claiming that Bolton breached his contract by failing to complete a pre-publication review for classified information.

The big picture: The memoir by Bolton, a prolific note taker, is expected to shed light on alleged misconduct by President Trump related to his dealings with foreign countries. Trump claimed on Monday that Bolton would have a "very strong criminal problem" if he proceeded with publishing the book, stating: “I will consider every conversation with me as president to be highly classified."

The other side: Bolton's lawyer Charles Cooper said in a statement in response to the lawsuit, "We are reviewing the Government’s complaint, and will respond in due course."

  • Cooper claimed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week that his client has already undergone four months of "perhaps the most extensive and intensive prepublication review in NSC history," before the White House official who Bolton was coordinating with suddenly stopped responding.
  • The attorney claims that the White House has purposely stalled the process as a "transparent attempt to use national security as a pretext to censor Mr. Bolton."
  • Bolton pointed on Twitter to the following statement from the ACLU: "50 years ago, SCOTUS rejected the Nixon administration's attempt to block the publication of the Pentagon Papers, establishing that government censorship is unconstitutional. Any Trump administration efforts to stop John Bolton’s book from being published are doomed to fail."

Between the lines: National security lawyer Bradley Moss tweeted Tuesday, "The civil case against Bolton is easy and expected: he'll never see a dime from this book. The big question, given that the lawsuit alleges there is classified information that was disseminated via the book, is if they bring criminal [charges]. That gets trickier to prove."

What they're saying:

"The United States is not seeking to censor any legitimate aspect of Defendant’s manuscript; it merely seeks an order requiring Defendant to complete the prepublication review process and to take all steps necessary to ensure that only a manuscript that has been officially authorized through that process—and is thus free of classified information—is disseminated publicly.
Given that Defendant has already taken steps to disclose or publish the manuscript to unauthorized persons without prior written authorization, the United States also seeks an order establishing a constructive trust on any profits obtained from the disclosure or dissemination of The Room Where it Happened, particularly if Defendant refuses to complete the prepublication review process and obtain the required prior written authorization before proceeding with publishing the book."
— Justice Department lawsuit

Read the full lawsuit.

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