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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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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