John Bolton served as National Security Advisor to Donald Trump from April 2018 to September 2019. He refused when asked to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee, in the impeachment inquiry. Interestingly, he was never subpoenaed to testify, His book, entitled “The Room Where It Happened” will be distributed on June 23, 2020. Release has been delayed several months in order to obtain a security clearance. After nearly 6 months, no security clearance was given, and the publisher decided to proceed without it.
I ordered a copy from Amazon, and hope they will deliver my copy on June 23, 2020 as promised. I have not read the other books by John Bolton, but just by their titles, I know he advocates a more militant posture for the US, particularly in our relations to Iran. John Bolton was a very frequent guest on Fox News as was KT McFarland, typically critical of President Obama’s foreign policy.
A lawsuit has been filed by the Department of Justice, as reported below by CNN:
Trump said Bolton would have “criminal problems” if the book was published as is. The lawsuit filed Tuesday is a civil suit, and carries no criminal penalties. Initially, Attorney General William Barr did not confirm that his department was preparing a lawsuit but said the administration was focused on getting Bolton to complete the clearance process for publishing books.
At the end of the CNN article as given below, there is a link to the DOJ civil complaint. If this were a criminal charge, the lawsuit would have cited violations of rule 18 US Code 798, “Disclosure of Classified Information” and charged John Bolton or the publisher of releasing information which damages the interests of the US. The lawsuit claims John Bolton violated his non-disclosure agreement. The remedies for this breach are generally monetary.
According to the DOJ lawsuit, the process to obtain clearance was an iterative one, beginning in December 30, 2019. In the DOJ filing, it is stated that, “In late January 2020, … [it was] confirmed in writing [by the NSC reviewer, Ellen Knight] that the chapter in question contained significant classified information.” This indicates it was not the entire book, but just one chapter that the reviewer was concerned about. The lawsuit also reveals that on April 27, 2020 this NSC reviewer had concluded that the book contained no classified material. It is very clear from the filing, that there was a very active period between mid February to April 27, 2020 when the book was being revised to eliminate classified information. On April 28, 2020, NSC decided to cut off this interaction, and Bolton was simply told the process was ongoing. Anyone reading the DOJ filing can feel that John Bolton was being given the run around, after close interactions with Ellen McKnight.
What happen after April 28 is clear from the filing. Ellen Knight’s expedited review process was the normal process. She worked with John Bolton to make the necessary changes so the manuscript was good to go. Likely, a lot of factual details had to be removed. The “chapter in question” as identified in January 2020, containing classified information, I am assuming, was the one on the Ukraine scandal leading to the impeachment of Donald Trump. The White House did not want to see the book published, so they restarted the entire review, not wanting a single sentence to be published. It was no longer a chapter, but the book in its entirety that was under a new review. On May 1, 2020, this new review can only be described as a slow boat to China. Michael Ellis holds the title of Senior Director of Intelligence Programs. He assumed the position in March 1, 2020, and on May 1, 2020 began his review. This time around, there were no meetings or phone calls with John Bolton or his lawyer. It sure looks as if this was a desperate attempt to stop the publication of the book by the White House as, unlike the Knight’s review, Ellis simply informed Bolton that “the process is ongoing” and that he was bound by the Non-Disclosure Agreement. Unlike McKnight’s review, Ellis kept Bolton in the dark.
I have read the complaint. The DOJ lawsuit does not accuse either John Bolton nor the publisher of committing the crime of disclosure of classified information. No lawsuit has been filed against Simon and Schuster, so there is nothing preventing them from printing the book. Everything Trump says or does as President is not automatically classified and former employees have First Amendment rights.
In fact, the DOJ filing, provides sufficient evidence that the government did not expeditiously and in good faith work with John Bolton from May 1 to June 7, 2020 to revise or remove any classified information. They basically stonewalled him for 5 weeks, after the book had been with the NSC for 5 months. The second phase of the review was simply to push approval to after November 2020. If the book was in praise of Trump, it would have been out the door in days. Certainly, Nikki Haley’s book faced no long term scrutiny.
The court case will be a civil lawsuit, as whether Bolton breached his non-disclosure agreements and what remedies are appropriate. It will be a drawn out process. As part of the remedy, the lawsuit asks the court to instruct the Bolton to tell Simon and Schuster to destroy all the pre-print copies of the book, if he can. Just not going to happen.
I will get my copy of The Room Where it Happen. Amazon, Simon and Schuster and of course, John Bolton will get more publicity than they can imagine. Amazon will publish two more books, one by Trump’s niece in July 2020, Too much is never enough, and the second book by H.R. McMasters entitled, Battlegrounds. See links below.
Stay tuned and healthy,
Trump Administration sues Bolton over Book Dispute (includes a link to the lawsuit)
John Bolton: The Room Where it Happened (June 23, 2020)
Mary Trump: Too much and never enough: How my family created the world’s most dangerous man (July 2020)
H.R McMasters: Battlegrounds: The fight to defend the free world, Sept 2020