Trump Administration Sues to Try to Delay Publication of Bolton’s Book

The request comes a week before the highly anticipated memoir was set to be published.

John R. Bolton is planning to publish a memoir of his time as President Trump’s national security adviser.
John R. Bolton is planning to publish a memoir of his time as President Trump’s national security adviser.Credit…Logan Cyrus/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Maggie Haberman
Katie Benner

By Maggie Haberman and Katie Benner June 16, 2020

The Trump administration sued the former national security adviser John R. Bolton on Tuesday to try to delay publication of his highly anticipated memoir about his time in the White House, saying the book contained classified information that would compromise national security if it became public.

The book, “The Room Where It Happened,” is set for release on June 23. Administration officials have repeatedly warned Mr. Bolton against publishing it.

Mr. Bolton made clear in a statement this week that his book contained explosive details about his time at the White House. He and Mr. Trump clashed on significant policy issues like Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan, and in his book, Mr. Bolton also confirmed accusations at the heart of the Democratic impeachment case over the president’s dealings with Ukraine, according to details from his manuscript previously reported by The New York Times.

The Justice Department accused him of short-circuiting a government review that he had agreed to participate in for any eventual manuscript before even accepting the post in 2018.

Mr. Bolton is breaking that agreement, “unilaterally deciding that the prepublication review process is complete and deciding for himself whether classified information should be made public,” department lawyers wrote in a breach of contract lawsuit against Mr. Bolton filed in federal court in Washington.

The book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, has already printed and distributed copies, and the lawsuit did not name it as a party, in an apparent nod to the constitutional and practical impediments to trying to stop it. Instead, the Justice Department asked a judge to seize Mr. Bolton’s proceeds from the book deal and to order him to try to persuade Simon & Schuster to pull back the book and dispose of copies until the review is completed.

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Mr. Bolton’s lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He has said that his client acted in good faith and that the Trump administration is abusing a standard review process to prevent Mr. Bolton from revealing information that is merely embarrassing to President Trump, but not a threat to national security.

A spokesman for Simon & Schuster called the lawsuit “nothing more than the latest in a long-running series of efforts by the administration to quash publication of a book it deems unflattering to the president.”

While insider books vex many administrations, it is rare for one to sue to delay them before publication. Several former White House lawyers from Democratic and Republican administrations said they could not recall a similar legal effort to stop a book by a former White House official.

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