U.S. judge questions Bolton’s political motives as he battles White House lawsuit for book profits

“Isn’t the question whether the information is classified or not?” Lamberth prodded Bolton’s defense. “You’ve engaged in that whole political diatribe, but it really has no place in what we’re arguing today.”

The oral argument came after a lawyer for the career government official who conducted the initial review for classified information in Bolton’s manuscript contended in a letter to the court that Trump aides had “commandeered” the process, then erroneously claimed the memoir contained classified information and failed to propose edits to facilitate publication.

Lamberth refused to halt publication in a June 20 ruling, saying the government acted too late to prevent the sale of already distributed books.

At issue Thursday was Bolton’s motion to toss out the case, and the government’s motion for a summary ruled that the government can seize Bolton’s profits because the book contained classified information.

Bolton attorney Charles J. Cooper argued that the government had failed to allege he knowingly disclosed such information and asserted that the nondisclosure agreements he signed required him to obtain written authorization to release only material he knew to be classified.

If unsure, Cooper argued, he was required only to confirm from “an authorized official” — in this case, he said, Ellen Knight, the National Security Council’s senior director for records access — that the information was unclassified. Cooper claimed that this is what Knight verified by phone and email after the initial review and that Bolton knew of no other classified information remaining in the manuscript he submitted to his publisher April 27.

“The government must be able to allege that Bolton knew or had reason to believe that his manuscript contained SCI, or it contained a description of activity that derived from SCI,” the most sensitive compartmented information, Cooper argued. “They have not alleged that, and we would submit they cannot allege that.”

Arguing for the government, Deputy Associate Attorney General Jennifer B. Dickey denied that the contracts required violations to be known. Dickey said there was no dispute that Bolton gave the manuscript to his publisher without receiving formal written authorization that the pre-publication review he initiated was concluded.

The government earlier produced six samples of what it asserted was classified material, three of which were classified before April 27 and one Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency, said in a declaration “implicates” the most sensitive level of material.

“It would make no sense for the pre-publication review to attach and then say an author could opt out before written authorization that it was completed,” Dickey argued. If he objected with the process, Bolton should have sued instead of walking away.

“What is unprecedented is for the most recent national security adviser, who had been entrusted with classified information on a daily basis, who has a Yale law degree and experienced counsel, would think it’s consistent with his contractual or fiduciary duty to simply sign off to his publisher on April 27 without waiting for written authorization that it did not contain

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Judge appears skeptical of Bolton’s defense of publishing book without White House approval

A federal judge on Thursday appeared skeptical of former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonMaximum pressure is keeping US troops in Iraq and Syria Woodward book trails Bolton, Mary Trump in first-week sales Ex-NSC official alleges ‘unprecedented’ intervention by White House aides in Bolton book review MORE‘s defense against the Trump administration’s allegations that he published his new memoir without proper clearance from officials reviewing it for classified information.

Judge Royce Lamberth heard arguments from both sides during a hearing on Thursday, a day after an official said in a court filing that the White House’s national security leaders took an “unprecedented” level of interest in the customary prepublication review of Bolton’s book.

But Lamberth, who was appointed to the federal district court in D.C. by former President Reagan, appeared unmoved by Bolton’s legal team, who argued that the submission from the official was further evidence that the White House is seeking to harm the book in retaliation for its unflattering portrayal of President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden on Trump’s refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: ‘What country are we in?’ Romney: ‘Unthinkable and unacceptable’ to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE.

“I’m very much of the notion that I just let you engage in that whole political diatribe that really has no place in what we are arguing today,” Lamberth said in response to one of Bolton’s lawyers who pointed to the filing as evidence of bad faith from the Trump White House.

Lamberth had rejected the administration’s effort in June to block the publication of “The Room Where it Happened,” saying it was too late to prevent the release when copies had already been shipped across the country and were widely available.

But he still chided the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for moving forward with the publication without receiving express written authorization from the government.

“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,” Lamberth wrote in his June decision.

The Trump administration is now seeking to have Bolton’s book royalties seized, alleging that he violated a nondisclosure agreement forbidding him from discussing any classified information from his time in the White House.

Jennifer Dickey, an attorney with the Department of Justice, argued on Thursday that there was legal recourse Bolton could have pursued before rushing ahead with the publication.

“He could have filed a suit at any time during the process if he thought the government was engaging in bad faith,” Dickey said. “He could have notified the government in any way if he thought there was bad faith, but he did not do so. Instead, he walked away, opted out and sent his manuscript to the publisher.”

The ongoing lawsuit is a civil matter, but the Department of Justice is reportedly investigating whether to bring criminal charges against

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White House Accused of Intervening to Keep Bolton’s Book From Becoming Public

WASHINGTON — White House aides improperly intervened to falsely assert that a manuscript by the former national security adviser John R. Bolton contained classified information in an attempt to prevent its contents from becoming public, a lawyer for the career official overseeing the book’s prepublication review said in a letter filed in court on Wednesday.

At one point, the aides halted a request from Mr. Bolton to review his account of President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine so he could release that section of the memoir during the impeachment trial, according to the lengthy account of the White House review written by Kenneth L. Wainstein, a lawyer for the official, Ellen Knight.

Mr. Wainstein said that his client had determined in April that Mr. Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened,” no longer contained any classified information, but the “apolitical process” was then “commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose” to go after Mr. Trump’s former aide and that the actions she was asked to take were “unprecedented in her experience.”

“She had never previously been asked to take the above-described measures, and she has never heard that predecessors in her position ever received such instructions in the course of their prepublication reviews,” the letter said.

The filing was an extraordinary twist in the legal saga surrounding Mr. Bolton’s book. The Trump administration sought to block Mr. Bolton from publishing the manuscript after the book was already published and has opened a criminal investigation into whether he unlawfully disclosed classified information.

But the letter called into question the premise of those efforts — that the book contains any classified information. Mr. Wainstein recounted a series of irregularities that he said were unlike any other prepublication review Ms. Knight had handled in her two years working at the National Security Council.

Political appointees in the White House directed her not to communicate with them in writing about the book, and proceeded to have a politically appointed lawyer — Michael Ellis, a former aide to Representative Devin Nunes, a close Trump ally and California Republican — conduct his own review of the book.

Mr. Ellis had no training in prepublication reviews at the time — he underwent it after he completed his review — and pronounced the book replete with still-classified information, a position the Justice Department then made in court seeking to block Mr. Bolton from distributing the book.

But Mr. Ellis was wrong, Mr. Wainstein wrote. Rather than evaluating the book by prepublication review standards for writings by a private citizen, he essentially treated the manuscript as a government document being subject to a classification review.

But the two are very different, the letter explained, on matters like discussing a phone call between a president and a foreign leader. Mr. Bolton’s book contains numerous accounts of such discussions between Mr. Trump and his counterparts.

This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.

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