Feb 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Bolton indicates more Ukraine details if book prevails over WH "censorship"

Former national security adviser John Bolton on stage at Duke University on Monday. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

Former national security adviser John Bolton said during a talk at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, he hopes his new book is "not suppressed" by the White House, according to journalists present in the room.

This is an effort to write history and I did it the best I can. We'll have to see what comes out of the censorship."
— JohnBolton's comments, per Bloomberg and the New York Times

Why it matters: This is the first time Bolton has spoken publicly following President Trump's acquittal in the Senate on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

  • Per Axios' Jonathan Swan, Bolton alleges in his book that the president tied the freezing of $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine to demands for investigations into his political opponent former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump strongly denies the claim.

The big picture: Bolton and his lawyers have clashed with the White House over the contents of his book, "The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir," due to be published on March 17.

  • The White House has said that Bolton's manuscript contains "significant amounts of classified information" that could "cause exceptionally grave harm" to U.S. national security. Bolton rejects this assertion.

What they're saying: During their discussion, Duke University professor Peter Feaver asked Bolton about Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which was at the heart Trump's impeachment and Senate trial, according to the News & Observer, which had a reporter present at the event where audio and livestreaming were not permitted.

  • Per journalists present, Bolton said, "To me, there are portions of the manuscript that deal with Ukraine. ... I view them like the sprinkles on the ice cream sundae, meaning in terms of what’s in the book."
  • When asked if Trump's call with Zelensky was as "perfect" as the president described, Bolton replied, "You'll love chapter 14," the News & Observer noted.
  • Bolton said he couldn't answer some questions because of the "threat of litigation from the executive branch," the News & Observer noted.
  • Feaver also asked Bolton about Trump's tweets about him since he left the White House last September, "including on their disagreement over Venezuela policy," according to the Wall Street Journal, which had a reporter at the event.
  • Per journalists present, Bolton pointed to the White House review of his manuscript and said, "He tweets, but I can't talk about it. How fair is that?"
  • Axios has contacted the White House for comment on Bolton's latest remarks.

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The publication of former national security adviser John Bolton's book "The Room Where It Happened" has been delayed from March 17 until May as the White House continues to review the manuscript, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The memoir, which claims that President Trump linked Ukraine aid to investigations of his political rivals, was at the heart of Trump's impeachment inquiry — although Bolton ultimately never testified before the House or Senate. The Trump administration says that it is reviewing the book's content to ensure it does not endanger national security, though Bolton publicly worried last month that the White House may use the review process to suppress its publication.

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Daniel Goldman, the former federal prosecutor who questioned witnesses during the impeachment inquiry as counsel to Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, is stepping down, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The departure reflects the de-escalation of House Democrats' investigations into President Trump in the aftermath of his impeachment acquittal. Democratic leaders have left open the question of whether they will continue their Ukraine probe, including by subpoenaing former national security adviser John Bolton.