- The Trump administration sued former national security adviser John Bolton to prevent him from publishing his new book.
- The administration accused Bolton of breaching his contract and compromising national security by publishing the book, which the president said contains classified information.
- The book, “In the Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” is set to be released on June 23, and Bolton has already taped an interview with ABC News to promote it.
- Bolton’s memoir reveals new details about what happened in the White House during Trump’s efforts to strongarm Ukraine into delivering political dirt against former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s 2020 rival.
- The former national security adviser was seen as a potential star witness in Trump’s impeachment proceedings.
- Democrats have since criticized him for including details of Trump’s actions in his book after refusing to testify in the House’s impeachment hearings last year.
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The Trump administration filed a lawsuit against former national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday to prevent him from publishing his new book, according to court records.
The administration is accusing Bolton of breaching his contract and compromising national security by publishing the book, which the president and his administration say contains classified information.
The book, “In the Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” is set to be released on June 23, and Bolton has already taped an interview with ABC News to promote it.
It offers multiple inside looks at events that took place during Bolton’s rocky tenure as Trump’s third national security adviser. In particular, it reveals new details about what happened in the White House during Trump’s efforts to strongarm Ukraine into delivering political dirt against former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s 2020 rival.
Bolton accuses the House of Representatives of committing “impeachment malpractice” because he alleges that the president had engaged in significantly more impeachable conduct than just what he was ultimately accused of. The former national security adviser has attracted significant criticism from Democrats for including these details in his book after refusing to testify in the House’s impeachment hearings against Trump last year.
He later agreed to testify before the Republican-controlled Senate if subpoenaed, but the upper chamber voted against calling new witnesses in the president’s trial.
On Monday, Trump warned of “legal consequences” against Bolton if he releases his book and claimed, falsely, that all conversations with the president are classified.
“I will consider every conversation with me as president highly classified,” he said. “So that would mean that if he wrote a book and if the book gets out, he’s broken the law. That’s called criminal liability. That’s a big thing.”
The Trump administration’s lawsuit against Bolton accuses him of breaking his contract by backing out of the National Security Council’s ongoing vetting process to determine whether Bolton’s book contains classified information that needs to be redacted or edited down.
The NSC “quickly identified significant quantities of classified information that it asked Defendant to remove,” the complaint said. “An iterative process between NSC Staff and Defendant then began, as required by the binding agreements he signed, with changes to the book and other information being securely passed between Defendant and NSC staff. Soon, though, Defendant apparently became dissatisfied at the pace of NSC’s review.”
It alleges that instead of waiting for the process to conclude, Bolton “decided to take matters into his own hands.”
On June 7, “without Defendant giving any prior notice to the NSC, press reports revealed that Defendant and his publisher had resolved to release the book on June 23, without completing the pre-publication review process,” the lawsuit said.
Legal experts say that despite the president’s threats, the administration’s legal efforts against Bolton will likely be unsuccessful.
“This attempt by the Trump administration to block the publication of John Bolton’s memoir is doomed to fail,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed.
The Supreme Court rejected the Nixon administration’s attempt to block the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, “and since then it has been firmly established that prior restraints on publication are unconstitutional and un-American,” the statement continued. In this case, the ACLU said, the Trump administration’s threats “have nothing to do with safeguarding national security, and everything to do with avoiding scandal and embarrassment.”
Months after Trump was acquitted, Bolton continues to be the biggest thorn in his side
Bolton was widely viewed as a potential star witness in Trump’s impeachment hearings and subsequent Senate trial last year and early this year, thanks to his perch atop the White House’s national security apparatus and his place within Trump’s inner circle.
He attended a July 10 meeting last year between senior US and Ukrainian officials. According to testimony from the House impeachment inquiry, Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, hijacked the meeting when he told the Ukrainians that Trump wanted a “deliverable” — specifically, politically motivated investigations — in exchange for a White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Bolton cut the meeting short at that point and informed Fiona Hill, who at the time was the National Security Council’s senior director in charge of Russian and Eurasian affairs, to “tell the lawyers” what had happened.
Hill said in her testimony that Bolton ordered her to tell John Eisenberg, the NSC’s chief counsel, that he was not part of “whatever drug deal” Sondland and Mulvaney were “cooking up” in Ukraine. Hill also testified that Bolton was staunchly opposed to Trump making his infamous July 25 phone call to Zelensky, during which he pressed the Ukrainian president to pursue the politically motivated investigations he wanted.
Hill and other witnesses said Bolton was against the phone call because he feared Trump would use it to air his personal grievances to Zelensky, which is exactly what ended up happening.
Bolton also described Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer who spearheaded what witnesses have said was the “irregular channel” of foreign policy in Ukraine, as a “hand grenade.” And he was opposed to the smear campaign Giuliani and Trump carried out against Marie Yovanovitch, the US’s ambassador to Ukraine.
Bolton was not only a high-profile figure in Trump’s inner circle, but a meticulous note-taker. He is said to have created detailed documents of significant meetings and interactions — known as contemporaneous memos — and such notes are considered admissible evidence in a court of law.
Bolton’s lawyer, Chuck Cooper, indicated in a letter to Congress that the former national security adviser knew more than what had already been revealed during Trump’s impeachment.
He “was personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far,” Cooper wrote.
Calls for Bolton to testify intensified after The New York Times reported in January that the former national security adviser wrote in his forthcoming book that the president personally told him he would not release Ukraine’s military aid until the country publicly committed to pursuing the investigations Trump wanted.
Bolton’s reported claim about his conversation with Trump, which he said took place last August, shattered the key defense the president’s lawyers put forward in his impeachment trial: There are no firsthand witnesses who can testify that Trump himself confirmed a quid pro quo with Ukraine.
The Times said in another report that Bolton also said Trump asked him during a meeting in May 2019 to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and ensure he met with Giuliani when he planned to travel to Ukraine that month.
Giuliani told The Times last year that he was going to go to Ukraine to push the government to pursue the investigations targeting Biden and the Democratic Party.
Around the time of the May meeting that Bolton outlines in his upcoming book, Giuliani also sent a letter to Zelensky asking to meet with him on May 13 or 14. He didn’t indicate what he specifically wanted from the meeting, but Giuliani emphasized in the letter that he was requesting the meeting in his capacity as Trump’s personal lawyer.