Justice Dept. Escalates Legal Fight With Bolton Over Book

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department asked a federal judge on Wednesday to immediately order President Trump’s former national security adviser John R. Bolton to halt publication of his memoir, which has already been printed and distributed to booksellers around the country, saying that it contained classified information even as details emerged from it.

In a court filing, the Trump administration also urged the judge overseeing the lawsuit, Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, to declare that the potential restraining order it is seeking should bind the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, and bookstores from disseminating the book once they receive notice of it.

The Justice Department’s filing was a sharp escalation of a lawsuit it filed on Tuesday accusing Mr. Bolton of failing to complete the prepublication review process he agreed to undergo as a condition of receiving his security clearance.

It asked the judge to seize his proceeds from the book, “The Room Where It Happened,” and to order him to try to get Simon & Schuster to halt publication, but did not request emergency action.

The new “emergency” filing, however, sought a temporary restraining order to freeze matters in place and then a preliminary injunction. It requested that Judge Lamberth hold a hearing on the matter on Friday.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the First Amendment, which protects press freedoms, means that it is rarely constitutional for the government to try to stop a work from being published under the doctrine of so-called prior restraint, although it has upheld seizing proceeds as a penalty for violating prepublication review agreements.

In a statement, Simon & Schuster dismissed the threat.

“Tonight’s filing by the government is a frivolous, politically motivated exercise in futility,” the publisher said. “Hundreds of thousands of copies of John Bolton’s ‘The Room Where It Happened’ have already been distributed around the country and the world. The injunction as requested by the government would accomplish nothing.”

In a declaration attached to the lawsuit, Michael Ellis, the senior director for intelligence programs at the National Security Council, said he had reviewed the manuscript and determined that it contained top secret classified information related to a broad category that included military plans, foreign governments, intelligence activities or foreign relations.

Mr. Bolton wrote that the House in its impeachment inquiry should have investigated not only Mr. Trump’s dealings with but also several instances where he sought to use trade negotiations and criminal investigations to further his political interests, according to a copy of the book obtained by The New York Times.

Journalists and reviewers who have received copies of the book already have described other extensive passages recounting Mr. Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders and foreign affairs and national security issues that arose when Mr. Bolton was in office.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker contributed reporting.

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