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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.

Go deeper

Sep 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Judge orders Eric Trump to testify in New York probe before election

Photo: Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

A judge on Wednesday ordered Eric Trump to comply with a subpoena to testify before the presidential election in a New York probe into the Trump family business.

The state of play: New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) last month said her office had filed a lawsuit to compel the Trump Organization to comply with subpoenas related to an investigation into whether President Trump and his company improperly inflated the value of its assets on financial statements.

Sep 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Federal judge rules Trump administration can't end census early

Census workers outside Lincoln Center in New York. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the 2020 census a month early.

Why it matters: The decision states that an early end — on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31 — would likely produce inaccuracies and thus impact political representation and government funding around the country.

Trump pressures Barr to release so-called Durham report

Bill Barr. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

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