20 June 2020

US judge rules explosive Bolton book can be published despite Trump’s bid to block over fears of’ national security’

A federal judge has ruled that former national security adviser John Bolton can go ahead in publishing his tell-all book despite efforts by the Trump administration to block the release because of concerns that classified information could be exposed.

The decision from US District Judge Royce Lamberth is a victory for Bolton in a court case that involved core First Amendment and national security concerns. 

But the judge also made clear his concerns that Bolton had ‘gambled with the national security of the United States’ by taking it upon himself to publish his memoir without formal clearance from a White House that says it was still reviewing it for classified information.

“Defendant Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States. He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability," Lamberth wrote. 

“But these facts do not control the motion before the Court. The government has failed to establish that an injunction will prevent irreparable harm.”

From a practical perspective, the ruling clears the path for a broader election-year readership and distribution of a memoir, due out Tuesday, that paints an unflattering portrait of President Donald Trump's foreign policy decision-making during the turbulent year-and-a-half that Bolton spent in the White House.

Soon after the ruling was released, Trump tweeted that Bolton “broke the law by releasing Classified Information (in massive amounts). He must pay a very big price for this, as others have before him. This should never to happen again!!!”

Bolton’s lawyer, Chuck Cooper, applauded Lamberth for denying the government's attempt to ‘suppress’ Bolton's book. Publisher Simon & Schuster said the decision ‘vindicated the strong First Amendment protections against censorship and prior restraint of publication’.

Lamberth did suggest that Bolton may have left himself open to potential criminal prosecution by publishing classified information and that the government may be successful in trying to prevent Bolton from keeping proceeds from the book.

Bolton's team insisted that he had spent months addressing White House concerns about classified information and that Bolton had been assured in late April by the official he was working with that the manuscript no longer contained any such material. 

‘The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir’ depicts a president whose foreign policy objectives were inexorably linked to his own political gain.

Bolton says Trump ‘pleaded’ with China’s Xi Jinping during a 2019 summit to help Trump's re-election prospects. Bolton writes that Trump linked the supply of military assistance to Ukraine to that country’s willingness to conduct politically charged investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter — allegations that were at the heart of an impeachment trial that ended with Trump's acquittal by the Senate in February.

Trump called the book a ‘compilation of lies and made up stories’ intended to make him look bad. He tweeted that Bolton was just trying to get even for being fired ‘like the sick puppy he is’!

Other administration officials who figure prominently in the book, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, denied comments or actions that were attributed to them and joined the president in condemning the book.

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