Justice Dept. sues to seize profits of tell-all Melania Trump book, citing White House nondisclosure pact

In a statement, Wolkoff said she fulfilled all the terms of the agreement and that its confidentiality provisions ended when the White House terminated it.

Winston Wolkoff, 50, had a 15-year friendship with Melania Trump before she was ousted in 2018 as an unpaid senior adviser to the first lady in a scandal involving President Trump’s $107 million inauguration. Winston Wolkoff has said she felt “betrayed” when news accounts focused on $26 million paid to her event-planning firm by the inauguration. Most of the money went to pay for inaugural events, and she personally retained $484,126, The Washington Post has reported.

In the book, Winston Wolkoff described what she viewed as extensive mismanagement and opaque accounting for the inauguration, after which she cooperated with law enforcement investigators.

But the former right-hand events planner to Vogue editor Anna Wintour has created a larger media storm this month by playing excerpts of phone conversations that she began secretly recording with the first lady in February 2018 without her knowledge.

Melania Trump’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, has lambasted Winston Wolkoff for the recordings.

“Secretly taping the first lady and willfully breaking an NDA to publish a salacious book is a clear attempt at relevance,” Grisham said in an Oct. 2 statement to CNN. “The timing of this continues to be suspect — as does this never-ending exercise in self-pity and narcissism.”

The lawsuit is likely to draw renewed attention to the tapes, which capture Melania Trump venting in profane language about her frustrations with critical media coverage, expectations about her role in planning White House Christmas decorations and defending the administration’s separation of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Who gives a f— about the Christmas stuff and decorations?” Trump said in one portion played in interviews with Winston Wolkoff by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

On another recording, the first lady refers to porn star Stormy Daniels as “the porn hooker.” Porn actresses took to Twitter and accused her of shaming sex workers. The recording played on “Mea Culpa,” a podcast hosted by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, who went to jail for lying to investigators about paying hush money to Daniels, who said she had an affair with Trump before he became president. President Trump has denied the affair.

According to the lawsuit, Winston Wolkoff served as an adviser to the first lady from January to August 21, 2017, helping Melania Trump assemble her staff, remodel the East Wing and communicate with the media.

Winston Wolkoff then entered a formal “Gratuitous services Agreement” that included, among other things, the handling of “nonpublic, privileged and/or confidential information,” the suit asserts. Serving as a volunteer policy and media adviser, Winston Wolkoff agreed that she was “specifically prohibited from publishing, reproducing or otherwise divulging any such information to any unauthorized person or entity in whole or in part,” the Justice Department said in court filings.

The agreement also bound Winston Wolkoff to not disclose her work with the first lady’s office to anyone without written

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Penguin Random House, PEN America team up to Book the Vote

NEW YORK (AP) — Neil Gaiman, Anita Hill and Ann Patchett will be among the contributors to Book the Vote, an online initiative to provide information on the electoral system, voting registration and civic topics.



FILE - Anita Hill attends the 10th annual DVF Awards in New York on April 11, 2019. Hill, Neil Gaiman and Ann Patchett will be among the contributors to Book the Vote, an online initiative to provide information on the electoral system, voting registration and civic topics. Book the Vote (bookthevote.com) is a collaboration among Penguin Random House, PEN America, the non-profit organization When We All Vote and the literary retailer Out of Print, which is owned by Penguin Random House. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)


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FILE – Anita Hill attends the 10th annual DVF Awards in New York on April 11, 2019. Hill, Neil Gaiman and Ann Patchett will be among the contributors to Book the Vote, an online initiative to provide information on the electoral system, voting registration and civic topics. Book the Vote (bookthevote.com) is a collaboration among Penguin Random House, PEN America, the non-profit organization When We All Vote and the literary retailer Out of Print, which is owned by Penguin Random House. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)

Book the Vote is a collaboration among Penguin Random House, PEN America, the non-profit organization When We All Vote and the literary retailer Out of Print, which is owned by Penguin Random House.

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The web site will include videos from Gaiman, Hill, Patchett and other authors and public figures, including Jennifer Egan, Jeffrey Tobin, Susan Orlean and Alan Cumming. One feature is called “How America Works” and covers four topics: the right to vote, voting for the president, the Supreme Court and the electoral college.

“Truth, facts, press freedom, and the future of open discourse are all on the ballot this November,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.

Noseel and Penguin Random House U.S. CEO Madeline McIntosh said they were pleased to be working together to provide credible and authoritative information about the U.S. election and voting rights.

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Online: bookthevote.com

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The Bidens earned $16.5 million from book deals, speeches since 2017

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, former second lady Jill Biden, reported earning over $16 million since leaving the White House, according to new 2019 tax returns released on Tuesday.
  • The couple reported earning $11 million immediately after leaving the White House in 2017, $4.5 million in 2018, and over $944,000 in 2019. 
  • Their tax returns showed they paid over $5.5 million in federal taxes between those three years.
  • Their main sources of income were from book deals they signed after leaving the White House and dozens of speaking engagements, with Joe Biden regularly charging six figures for a single speech.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, former second lady Jill Biden, reported earning over $16.5 million in total since leaving the White House, according to new 2019 tax returns filed on Tuesday.

Both the Bidens and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff released their 2019 tax returns ahead of the first presidential debate between Biden and President Donald Trump set to take place on Tuesday night in Ohio. 

The Bidens reported earning over $944,000 in taxable income, paid a little over $346,000 in taxes, and received a refund of nearly $47,000 in 2019, their returns show. 

The debate also comes after The New York Times published their first installments of reporting on Trump tax returns they obtained, highly sought-after documents that Trump has refused to voluntarily disclose. The Times revealed that Trump paid no income tax in ten of the fifteen years between 2000 and 2015, and paid just $750 in income taxes in both 2016 and 2017. 

Harris and Emhoff, a prominent entertainment lawyer, jointly reported over $3 million in taxable income and paying $1.18 in taxes in 2019, including payments of $732,000 in taxes throughout the year, their returns show. 

The new tax returns, combined with previously released tax returns and financial disclosures made public in 2019, show that since 2017, both Bidens signed lucrative book deals. Joe Biden earned anywhere from $8,000 to $90,000 for book-tour stops to promote his 2017 memoir, “Promise Me, Dad,” and continued to earn royalties from his New York Times bestselling 2008 book, “Promises to Keep.”

The couple reported earning $11 million immediately after leaving the White House in 2017, $4.5 million in 2018, and over $944,000 in 2019, when Biden was running in the Democratic presidential primary for most of the year. Their tax returns showed they paid $5.5 million in federal taxes between those three years, NBC reported.

In addition to a position at the University of Pennsylvania that paid over $400,000 over the course of several years, Biden regularly brought in six figures from a single paid speech, earning between $66,000 and $182,679 per speech for 18 speeches he gave in 2017 and 2018.

According to an in-depth June 2019 report from The Washington Post, Biden’s contracts for speaking engagements often included allocations for travel to allow Biden to fly on

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Ex-NSC official alleges ‘unprecedented’ intervention by White House aides in Bolton book review

A former National Security Council (NSC) official says the White House intervened in “unprecedented” fashion in the prepublication review process of former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonJudge appears skeptical of Bolton’s defense of publishing book without White House approval Maximum pressure is keeping US troops in Iraq and Syria Woodward book trails Bolton, Mary Trump in first-week sales MORE’s book in an effort to deem information classified and prevent the memoir’s publication. 

Kenneth Wainstein, a lawyer for Ellen Knight, a career federal employee and a former NSC senior director who led the prepublication review of Bolton’s book, filed a letter in federal court on Wednesday detailing Knight’s concerns with the actions of White House officials in the review of Bolton’s memoir, “The Room Where it Happened,” earlier this year. He writes that she harbors concerns about the potential politicization of the prepublication review process.  

Wainstein conveys Knight’s view that NSC lawyers played “an outsize role in the review process” after she informed them of her receipt of Bolton’s manuscript.

For instance, NSC officials oversaw and dictated the timing of correspondence between Knight and Chuck Cooper, Bolton’s attorney, according to the letter. It says that, at one point, Michael Ellis, then the NSC deputy legal adviser, instructed Knight to “temporarily withhold any response” to Bolton’s attorney when he asked that a section of the book on Ukraine be prioritized so that it could become public during President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick ‘threatens’ Affordable Care Act MORE’s impeachment trial.

“These interactions with NSC Legal in the course of a prepublication review 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,” Wainstein writes. 

The letter, which stretches 18 pages, describes the prepublication review process that took place when Bolton’s more than 500-page manuscript was submitted to the NSC for review at the end of December. 

It says that Knight and her staff worked closely with Bolton, who served as Trump’s third national security adviser, to revise his manuscript and eventually determined that the book did not contain classified information in April.

But, according to Knight’s account, political appointees at NSC intervened, delaying the issuance of a clearance letter to Bolton and ultimately challenging her assessment of the book’s contents. Ellis had conducted his own review of the book, which Knight learned of in the weeks after she informed NSC lawyers that her review was completed. Knight says Ellis undertook a “flawed approach” because he conflated a classification review with a prepublication review.

The letter also claims that White House attorneys sought to persuade Knight to sign a declaration in the administration’s eventual lawsuit against Bolton about her role in the review process that contended

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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 ‘pressured official to say John Bolton book was security risk’



a person holding a sign: Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP


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Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

A former National Security Council official who while working there reviewed John Bolton’s memoir for classified information before publication, has claimed that White House lawyers tried to pressure her into signing misleading statements to prevent the publication ofthe book.

The allegations come a week after the US Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation into whether Bolton, the former national security adviser, mishandled classified information in his book, The Room Where It Happened. Highly critical of Trump, the book was a bestseller when it was published in June, selling 780,000 copies in its first week.

In a letter filed in federal court in Washington on Wednesday, lawyers for Ellen Knight, the former senior director for records, access and information security management at the NSC, said that her prepublication review of Bolton’s book had actually cleared it in April.

According to the letter, Knight and her colleagues spent “hundreds of hours over the course of four months reviewing and researching information found in the over 500-page manuscript”.

Initially, they found the manuscript “contained voluminous amounts of classified information and that it would take a significant effort to put it into publishable shape”. But after a four-month consultation described as “regular, intensive and occasionally spirited”, Knight’s team determined that the “heavily revised” manuscript “would disclose no information that would cause harm to our national security”.

But Knight’s lawyers allege that White House officials then conducted their own review of Bolton’s revised manuscript and claimed it still contained classified information, in a process that Knight called “fundamentally flawed”. Knight alleges that the officials then tried “to get her to admit that she and her team had missed something or made a mistake”, which could be used to support their argument to block publication.



a person holding a sign: A copy of The Room Where It Happened outside the White House.


© Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP
A copy of The Room Where It Happened outside the White House.

Knight then declined to sign a declaration saying that Bolton’s book still contained classified information, intended to be filed in the lawsuit against Bolton. Despite efforts from what she described as “a rotating cast of Justice Department and White House attorneys … over the course of five days and a total of 18 hours of meetings”, she refused.

“Ms Knight asked the attorneys how it could be appropriate that a designedly apolitical process had been commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose. She asked them to explain why they were so insistent on pursuing litigation rather than resolving the potential national security issues through engagement with Ambassador Bolton and her team,” the letter reads. “The attorneys had no answer for her challenges, aside from a rote recitation of the government’s legal position that Ambassador Bolton had violated his contractual obligations by failing to wait for written clearance.”

The letter claims that when Knight “speculated that this litigation was happening ‘because the most powerful man in the world said that it needed to happen’, several registered their agreement with that diagnosis of the situation”.

Knight

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White House aides tried to block Bolton book, court is told

An aide to Trump also “instructed her to temporarily withhold any response” to a request from Bolton to review a chapter on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine so it could be released during the impeachment trial, wrote Knight’s lawyer, Kenneth L. Wainstein.

Wainstein said that his client had determined in April that 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 Bolton. The actions she was asked to take were “unprecedented in her experience,” the letter said.

Knight said that political appointees repeatedly asked her to sign a declaration to use against Bolton that made a range of false assertions. She said that after her refusal, she was reassigned from the White House despite earlier expectations that she would transition to a permanent position there.

“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.

Representatives for the National Security Council and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for Bolton, Charles J. Cooper, declined to comment on the specifics of the letter but said that his client had not asked Knight to disclose her account of events and that he had received a copy of the letter unexpectedly Tuesday evening.

The filing was an extraordinary twist in the legal saga surrounding Bolton’s book. The Trump administration unsuccessfully sought to block distribution of the book earlier this year after it was already printed, claiming despite Knight’s assessment that it contained large amounts of classified information. It is moving to seize his $2 million advance and has opened a criminal investigation, threatening criminal charges for unauthorized disclosures of secrets.

But the letter called into question the premise of all of those efforts — that the book, in its published form, contains any classified information.

Knight’s account is also the latest in a series of disclosures by current and former executive branch officials as the election nears accusing the president and his political appointees of putting his personal and political goals ahead of the public interest and an evenhanded application of the rule of law.

Wainstein recounted a series of irregularities that he said were unlike any other prepublication review that Knight had handled in her two years working at the National Security Council.

Knight, after extensive work with Bolton to change aspects of his draft to eliminate classified information, had told his team informally that it no longer had any unpublishable material. But the White House never sent a formal letter saying the process was over and political appointees in the White House directed Knight not to communicate with them in writing about the book.

In June, as the delay dragged on, Bolton and Simon & Schuster published the book, arguing that Knight’s informal assurance fulfilled the legal commitment

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Former staffer: White House politicized Bolton book review

WASHINGTON — Trump administration officials repeatedly exerted political pressure in an unsuccessful effort to block the release of former national security adviser John Bolton’s tell-all book, a career government records professional said in a court filing Wednesday.

After Bolton submitted his book for prepublication review last last year, it was Ellen Knight’s job at the White House to make sure it did not contain classified information that could possibly threaten U.S. national security.

For the first time, Knight recounted the monthslong prepublication review process that she says was replete with delay tactics, legal maneuverings and a shadow review by a political appointee who had no experience in that area. She contends the actions were aimed at discrediting her work and blocking the publication of Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened.”

Bolton’s book, offering a behind-the-scenes account of Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders, went on sale earlier this year. The Trump administration maintains that it contains classified information, and the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into its release.

Earlier, the Justice Department sued unsuccessfully to block the release of the book. A federal judge rejected the suit, partly because hundreds of thousands of copies had already been distributed. But the judge expressed concern that Bolton published the book before receiving a formal clearance letter, which Knight said was blocked by the White House.

Knight asked her attorney, Ken Wainstein, to write a letter for the court to give her first-hand account of the controversial review.

“As a career professional in the field of classified information management, Ms. Knight is very concerned about the politicization — or even the perceived politicization — of the prepublication review process,” Wainstein wrote.

If authors lose confidence in the process, they might try to publish without submitting manuscripts for review, which “could result in unchecked disclosures of sensitive information and the potential for serious damage to our national security,” he wrote.

Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said Knight’s court filing confirms that Bolton did not receive the required written, prepublication approval before publishing.

“Mr. Bolton chose to publish a manuscript that four senior national security officials have stated, under penalty of perjury, contains classified information,” she said in a statement.

Knight was detailed from the National Archives and Records Administration to the National Security Council from August 2018 to August 2020. During that time, she and her staff handled more than 135 prepublication review requests, perusing more than 10,000 pages of manuscripts.

Knight and her colleague spent hundreds of hours over four months reviewing and researching information found in Bolton’s more than 500-page manuscript. Knight met with Bolton for a total of 14 hours and spoke on the phone with him 10 times, including two calls that lasted several hours, the filing said.

After completing her review in late April, she gave the manuscript to her superior, who confirmed that all sensitive or classified information she had determined was in the original manuscript had been removed.

Knight said that when she advised NSC

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Ex-NSC official who reviewed Bolton book claims political intervention by WH

Washington — A former National Security Council (NSC) official who led the prepublication review of former national security adviser John Bolton’s book for classified information detailed in a new court filing “unprecedented” involvement by political appointees in the White House who “commandeered” what is supposed to be an apolitical process.

A lawyer for Ellen Knight, the former Senior Director for Records Access and Information Security Management at the National Security Council (NSC), made the revelations in a new filing with the federal district court in the District of Columbia, which is considering a legal battle filed by the Trump administration against Bolton over publication of his book, “The Room Where It Happened.” The book was published by Simon & Schuster, a division of ViacomCBS.

In a letter to Bolton’s legal team and the Justice Department, attorney Kenneth Wainstein said Knight raised concerns about the actions of White House and Justice Department lawyers after her review of Bolton’s manuscript had been completed but while the Trump administration considered litigation to block publication, contending it still contained classified information. Bolton’s attorney filed the letter in court on Wednesday.

Knight, Wainstein wrote, warned that a “designedly apolitical process had been commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose.” She also speculated to Justice Department and White House lawyers that litigation against Bolton was occurring “because the most powerful man in the world said that it needed to happen,'” an assertion some did not dispute, according to Wainstein.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec defended the White House and Justice Department in a statement.

“Ms. Knight’s letter confirms that Mr. Bolton did not receive the appropriate and required written, pre-publication approval, and it is undisputed that the process was not completed at the time Mr. Bolton’s book was released,” she said. “The publication of a memoir by a former National Security Adviser, right after his departure, is an unprecedented action, and it is not surprising that National Security Council staff would pay close attention to ensure that the book does not contain the release of classified information.” 

In the letter, Knight’s attorney detailed the chain of events that began December 30, when prepublication review of Bolton’s manuscript began, through the end of her detail with the NSC, which ended August 20. 

According to Knight, Bolton’s manuscript initially contained “voluminous amounts of classified information and that it would take a significant effort to put it into publishable shape.”

Former White House Nat'l Security Adviser John Bolton Speaks At Duke University Forum
Former national security adviser John Bolton speaks at Duke University on February 17, 2020, in Durham, North Carolina.

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After working closely and speaking extensively with Bolton and his lawyer, Charles Cooper, the prepublication review process concluded on April 27, when it was determined that “all classification concerns had been addressed and that publication of the manuscript, as heavily revised, would disclose no information that would cause harm to our national security.”

Knight told Bolton she had no more suggested changes, but said the process was still ongoing. In late April, Wainstein said Knight contacted lawyers

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