Law & the Courts

Justice Department Asks Court for Emergency Halt of Bolton Book Release

Former U.S. national security advisor John Bolton during his lecture at Duke University in Durham, N.C., February 17, 2020 (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

The Justice Department asked a judge on Wednesday evening to issue an emergency order to block the release of former national security adviser John Bolton’s upcoming book, saying the book contains government secrets.

The move marks an escalation by the Trump administration of its civil suit filed Tuesday against Bolton, in which the government asked a court to postpone the June 23 release of Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened,” which details Bolton’s 19 months as national security adviser.

“Disclosure of the manuscript will damage the national security of the United States,” the administration said in a court filing. “The United States asks this court to hold defendant to the legal obligations he freely assumed as a condition of receiving access to classified information and prevent the harm to national security that will result if his manuscript is published to the world.”

Some of the contents of the book were outlined in news articles on Wednesday, including Bolton’s allegation that the president was willing on several occasions to pump the brakes on criminal investigations “to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked.”

“The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn’t accept,” Bolton writes, according to an excerpt of the book.

Bolton also claims Trump appealed to Chinese President Xi Jinping for help with his reelection, an assertion U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer called “absolutely untrue” during a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday.

Bolton’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, called the new court filing “a frivolous, politically motivated exercise in futility” that would “accomplish nothing” since hundreds of thousands of copies of Bolton’s book have already been distributed around the country and the world.

Trump sharply criticized Bolton on Wednesday, saying he “broke the law” and that his book was “made up of lies.”

Bolton’s attorney, Charles Cooper, pushed back on the administration’s claim that the book contains classified information, calling assertions to the contrary “a transparent attempt to use national security as a pretext to censor Mr. Bolton, in violation of his constitutional right to speak on matters of the utmost public import.”

In order to prevent the publication of classified information, Cooper said he worked closely with Ellen Knight, a National Security Council official in charge of the prepublication review of materials written by council personnel, who said in late April that she had completed her edit of the book, Cooper said.

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