US Federal judge appears skeptical of blocking Bolton book release


JUNE 19, 2020

A federal judge appeared skeptical on Friday about the Trump administration’s effort to block former national security adviser John Bolton from releasing his new tell-all book next week. 

Judge Royce C. Lamberth said there seems to be little he could do to stop the book titled “The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir” from being made widely available at this point, with stores across the country set to put it on sale Tuesday.

“The horse, as we used to say in Texas, seems to be out of the barn,” Lamberth said.

“It certainly looks difficult to me about what I can do about those books all over the country.”

But the judge, who was appointed to the federal district court in D.C. by former President Reagan, also suggested that Bolton may have violated his nondisclosure agreements with the government by moving forward with the book’s publication before receiving written approval from the National Security Council (NSC).

The Trump administration is asking a federal judge to halt the book’s publication before its planned release. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is accusing Bolton of violating nondisclosure agreements he signed when he joined the White House that prohibit him from disclosing any classified or sensitive information.

Bolton’s lawyers argue that the White House is trying to delay the book’s publication until after the election, given the potentially embarrassing information it’s purported to contain.

Late last year, Bolton submitted a draft of his book to the NSC for a standard prepublication review to determine if it contained any classified information. After months of editing the manuscript to comply with NSC’s recommendations, Bolton was told in late April that the book no longer contained classified material and that he should await a letter informing him that the review had officially been completed, according to court documents.

That letter never came, and Bolton was informed that the NSC was conducting a second review of the book by a more senior official, Michael Ellis, the White House’s senior director of intelligence.

Ellis said he identified more passages in the book containing classified information, further delaying the prepublication approval.

On June 16, Ellis sent Bolton a draft of his book with major redactions, removing passages detailing internal White House conversations and “portraying President Trump in an unflattering light,” Bolton’s lawyers told the court. The DOJ sued Bolton that day.

The DOJ’s effort to obtain a preliminary injunction faces significant legal challenges, particularly First Amendment limitations on the government’s ability to halt the publication of information. Complicating the administration’s argument is the fact that advanced copies of the book have been obtained by numerous media outlets and its contents have been widely reported.

Earlier this week, a reporter brandished a copy of the book while asking questions of the White House press secretary during a press conference.

According to press reports, the book is highly critical of Trump’s handling of foreign policy, particularly his appreciation of China and its president, Xi Jinping.

Still, if Bolton is able to move forward with the book’s planned release, the DOJ is asking the court to seize any profits from its publication, citing a Supreme Court precedent from 1980 forfeiting the royalties a former CIA officer made on a book about his time in Vietnam that circumvented prepublication review.

Courtesy/Source: The Hill