White House intervened to halt release of Bolton book with flawed classification review, federal official says

The Trump administration unsuccessfully sued in June to block the release of Bolton’s White House memoir, “The Room Where It Happened,” after a review completed by Knight concluded in April it no longer contained classified information. At that point, however, an untrained Trump appointee undertook a new review and wrongly challenged hundreds of passages leading to the government litigation, Knight asserted.

Objecting that “a designedly apolitical process had been commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose,” Knight said several government attorneys agreed in a later debriefing when she speculated that the reason the Justice Department was suing Bolton was “because the most powerful man in the world said that it needed to happen,” Wainstein wrote.

Wednesday’s court filing is the latest revelation triggered by Bolton’s disclosures over his 17-month tenure as President Trump’s top national security official, in which he painted a withering portrait of Trump as an “erratic” and “stunningly uninformed” leader who repeatedly sought foreign leaders’ assistance for his personal benefit.

It comes after a June 20 ruling in which U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District of Columbia denied the Trump administration’s request to halt publication, but said that government might be able to seize Bolton’s profits if the book’s release came without written White House authorization that it contained no classified material.

Bolton “exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability” in further litigation, the judge warned.

All sides are due back in court Thursday for further arguments. It is not clear what impact Knight’s disclosures may have. Lamberth said Bolton should have sued the government instead of“unilaterally” opting out of the review process if he was dissatisfied with it.

Separately, a federal grand jury has issued subpoenas to Bolton’s publisher as part of a Justice Department investigation into whether he criminally mishandled classified information in the book.

In a statement last week, Bolton’s lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, said, “Ambassador Bolton emphatically rejects any claim that he acted improperly, let alone criminally, in connection with the publication of his book, and he will cooperate fully, as he has throughout, with any official inquiry into his conduct.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said, “Mr. Bolton chose to publish a manuscript that four senior National Security officials have stated, under penalty of perjury, contains classified information,” and that “Ms. Knight’s letter confirms that Mr. Bolton did not receive the appropriate and required written, pre-publication approval.” Kupec added, “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.”

Deputy Assistant Attorney General David M. Morrell in June acknowledged in court that he knew of no precedent in which high-level officials intervened in classification reviews, but said, however irregular, the process was entirely

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