Trump administration seeks emergency ruling to stop Bolton's book

The Justice Department asked for an emergency hearing on Friday, given that the book's publication date is Tuesday.
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John Bolton, then the national security adviser, outside the West Wing of the White House on Sept. 10, 2019.Tom Brenner / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

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By Pete Williams

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration late Wednesday asked a federal court for an immediate order to delay the release of former national security adviser John Bolton's tell-all book, due out next week, about his 519 days inside the Trump White House.

The Justice Department asked for an emergency hearing on Friday, given that the book's publication date is Tuesday. It asked the court to hold Bolton "to the legal obligations he freely assumed as a condition of receiving access to classified information and prevent harm to national security that will result if his manuscript is published to the world."

The Justice Department had filed a lawsuit Tuesday asking a judge for an order directing Bolton to urge his publisher to delay publication until the required review for classified information is done. It did not, however, seek immediate action at that time.

President Donald Trump speaks alongside John Bolton, then his national security adviser, during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on May 9, 2018.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images file

But Wednesday it sought to amp up the pressure on Bolton, asking a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order.

Bolton's attorney, former Justice Department official Charles Cooper, has not commented on the litigation. But in a letter June 10 to the White House counsel's office, he said Bolton went through four painstaking rounds of review for classified information, which twice delayed planned publication dates.

"It is readily apparent that the White House seeks to block publication of Ambassador Bolton's book for purely political reasons," he wrote. Bolton was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the administration of former President George W. Bush.

After earlier receiving assurances that the review was finished, Bolton and his publisher, Simon & Schuster, went ahead with publication.

But in its filing Wednesday evening, the government said senior intelligence officers shared the view of White House officials that the book includes national security information. In a declaration attached to the filing, William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said "information contained in the passages I have reviewed is precisely what foreign adversaries' intelligence services seek to target and collect."

Tuesday's lawsuit said Bolton, who held security clearances during his government service, was required to submit his book to the White House for a review to determine whether it contained classified information. It said that after four months, the reviewer at the National Security Council "completed her review and was of the judgment that the manuscript did not contain classified information."

But the suit said the NSC's senior director of intelligence began his own review, a process that has not been finished. Accordingly, the Justice Department told the court, Bolton has not honored his obligation. "NSC staff has determined that classified information remains in the manuscript," it said.

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The Justice Department is seeking a court order directing Bolton to tell his publisher that it must delay the book's release date and "retrieve and destroy any copies of the book" that may be in the hands of others. It also said his publisher should be bound by the same order to stop the book's distribution.

Its motion acknowledged that courts take a dim view of "prior restraint" efforts to block book publications, but it said this is a different issue. It noted that in 1980, the Supreme Court affirmed court rulings allowing the government to sue a former CIA agent whose book was published without approval.

The government seized all the profits from the book and prohibited any future unauthorized disclosures.

In a statement, Simon & Schuster called the emergency motion "a frivolous, politically motivated exercise in futility."

"Hundreds of thousands of copies of John Bolton's 'The Room Where It Happened' have already been distributed around the country and the world," it said.