John Bolton book: Trump administration loses legal battle to block publication

Judge says Bolton may have caused the US irreparable harm, but refuses to block publication

Richard Hall
New York
Saturday 20 June 2020 16:41 BST
John Bolton's most explosive claims about Donald Trump in his new book

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A federal judge has denied an attempt by the Trump administration to block the publication of a tell-all book by former national security advisor John Bolton.

The justice department had sought an emergency order to block the release of Mr Bolton’s forthcoming memoir, which includes startling revelations about the inner-workings of Donald Trump’s White House.

In his ruling, Judge Royce C. Lamberth said while Mr Bolton "gambled with the national security of the United States", but said that he would not block publication.

"While Bolton’s unilateral conduct raises grave national security concerns, the government has not established that an injunction is an appropriate remedy,” he added.

Mr Bolton's troubles may not be over yet, however. The ruling also said that he may be forced to forfeit his $2 million advance for the book and is still at risk of prosecution.

Mr Trump launched into a tirade about Mr Bolton on Twitter shortly after the ruling was announced, saying that his former top advisor "was all washed up until I brought him back and gave him a chance."

"BIG COURT WIN against Bolton. Obviously, with the book already given out and leaked to many people and the media, nothing the highly respected Judge could have done about stopping it...BUT, strong & powerful statements & rulings on MONEY & on BREAKING CLASSIFICATION were made," he wrote.

"Bolton broke the law and has been called out and rebuked for so doing, with a really big price to pay. He likes dropping bombs on people, and killing them. Now he will have bombs dropped on him!" he added.

Much of the most controversial content contained in the book has already been made public through advance copies given to the media.

The claims include recollection that Mr Trump “pleaded” with Chinese president Xi Jinping to help him win re-election in 2020 by purchasing more US farming productsm and that the president telling his Chinese counterpart that building concentration camps to “re-educate” Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang was the right thing to do.

The justice department filed its suit a Washington, DC, federal court, alleging that Mr Bolton and publisher Simon & Schuster did not complete a routine vetting process used by all administrations to ensure a book by a former aide does not reveal classified information or give away national secrets.

"(Bolton) struck a bargain with the United States as a condition of his employment in one of the most sensitive and important national security positions in the United States Government and now wants to renege on that bargain by unilaterally deciding that the prepublication review process is complete and deciding for himself whether classified information should be made public," the Trump administration wrote to the court.

But while the denying the attempt to halt the book's release, judge Lamberth suggested that a separate application to have Mr Bolton forfeit the $2 million advance he received for the book may yet succeed. And that he may yet face prosecution for publishing the book before receiving the official review process to ensure it had no classified information was complete.

"For reasons that hardly need to be stated, the Court will not order a nationwide seizure and destruction of a political memoir," judge Lamberth said in his ruling Friday.

Former national security adviser John Bolton looks on as Donald Trump speaks at the White House. AFP via Getty Images
Former national security adviser John Bolton looks on as Donald Trump speaks at the White House. AFP via Getty Images (AFP via Getty Images)

"In taking it upon himself to publish his book without securing final approval from national intelligence authorities, Bolton may indeed have caused the country irreparable harm. But in the Internet age, even a handful of copies in circulation could irrevocably destroy confidentiality."

He said he was “persuaded that defendant Bolton likely jeopardized national security by disclosing classified information in violation of his nondisclosure agreement obligations," and that by publishing his book before waiting for the final approval he had gambled and lost.

“This was Bolton’s bet: If he is right and the book does not contain classified information, he keeps the upside mentioned above; but if he is wrong, he stands to lose his profits from the book deal, exposes himself to criminal liability, and imperils national security,” he wrote. “Bolton was wrong.”

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