"The Room Where it Happened." Photo: Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department has convened a grand jury to criminally investigate whether former national security adviser John Bolton disclosed classified information in his recent book, issuing subpoenas to Bolton's publisher and literary agent, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Why it matters: Bolton has denied that his memoir contains any classified information, but the White House says he published it prior to completing a full pre-publication review. Bolton has claimed that he underwent a four-month review process and that the White House attempted to block the book at the last minute because it contained damaging information about the president.

The big picture: This is the latest step by the Trump administration to seek retribution against Bolton, whose inside-the-room allegations painted a picture of an out-of-control president whose sole priority was his own re-election.

  • The Trump administration previously filed a lawsuit requesting that Bolton be ordered to pull the book from publication, but a federal judge ruled that the effort was too late.
  • Trump told reporters in June: "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."

Catch up quick: The book alleges several episodes in which the president's dealings with foreign leaders reflected this apparent single-minded desire to be re-elected.

  • On several occasions, Bolton claims Trump expressing willingness to intervene in criminal investigations "to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked."
  • Bolton writes that he scheduled a meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr in 2019 to discuss Trump's alleged enthusiasm for doing favors for autocrats, and that Barr agreed that he was worried about the appearances created by Trump's behavior.

What they're saying: “We are aware of reports that grand jury subpoenas have been issued seeking information concerning the publication of Ambassador Bolton‘s recent book," Bolton's attorney Charles Cooper said in a statement.

  • "Ambassador Bolton emphatically rejects any claim that he acted improperly, let alone criminally, in connection with the publication of his book, and he will cooperate fully, as he has throughout, with any official inquiry into his conduct."

The Justice Department, Simon & Schuster and Javelin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Go deeper: More highlights from excerpts of John Bolton's book

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