Jun 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Judge denies Trump administration request to block Bolton book

Trump and Bolton.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A federal judge on Saturday denied the Trump administration an emergency temporary restraining order to block the release of former national security advisor John Bolton’s book, "The Room Where It Happened."

The big picture: Copies of the book already leaked to a number of media outlets and its biggest claims have been widely published, including Bolton's allegation that President Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to increase agricultural purchases from the U.S. in order to improve his electoral prospects in farm states.

The White House has claimed that the book contains classified information. The Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Tuesday claiming Bolton breached his non-disclosure agreement by failing to have the book properly reviewed.

  • Judge Royce Lamberth said the fact that Bolton did not obtain an official endorsement from the White House that the book was free of classified material effectively violated his NDA.
  • He added that Bolton should have proactively sued instead of moving to publish if he felt the White House had disrupted the classification review process: "I don’t really understand why you decided to take that risk."
  • Bolton's lawyer, Charles Cooper argued during the hearing that the government's case was "theater": "The horse is out of the barn. ... The speech has been spoken. It can’t now be unspoke."

What they're saying:

"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. But these facts do not control the motion before the Court. The government has failed to establish that an injunction will prevent irreparable harm."
— U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth
  • Charles Cooper, Bolton's attorney, said: "We respectfully take issue, however, with the Court’s preliminary conclusion at this early stage of the case that Ambassador Bolton did not comply fully with his contractual prepublication obligation to the Government, and the case will now proceed to development of the full record on that issue."
  • Trump's press secretary Kayleigh McEnany released a statement saying, "The court rightly chastised Bolton for treating as 'intolerable' a review process for his book that the court believed was 'reasonable...' The Government intends to hold Bolton to the further requirements of his agreements and to ensure that he receives no profits from his shameful decision."

Worth noting: Bolton has come under criticism for declining to testify during Trump's impeachment hearings, despite claiming to know about the president's involvement in a campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including Joe Biden.

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