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Justice Department drops lawsuit over John Bolton book critical of Trump

The Justice Department "has tacitly acknowledged that President Trump and his White House officials acted illegitimately," Bolton's attorney said.
John Bolton, then the national security adviser, outside the White House in May 2019.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images file

Lawyers for the Justice Department and former Trump national security adviser John Bolton told a federal judge late Wednesday that the government no longer wishes to pursue legal action against Bolton's book critical of the Trump White House, ending an attempt to seize his profits from the book.

The book, "The Room Where It Happened," offered a scathing assessment of President Donald Trump's handling of foreign policy, accusing him of using his power to further his personal agenda instead of the nation's interest.

Wednesday's development was a complete reversal by the Justice Department and a total win for Bolton.

"By ending these proceedings without in any way penalizing Ambassador Bolton or limiting his proceeds from the book, the Department of Justice has tacitly acknowledged that President Trump and his White House officials acted illegitimately," said Bolton's attorney, Charles Cooper of Washington, D.C.

Image: John Bolton book
Copies of the "The Room Where It Happened," a memoir by John Bolton, at a Costco store in Marina del Ray, Calif., on June 23, 2020.Chris Delmas / AFP - Getty Images file

The Justice Department sued Bolton a year ago, accusing him of violating his obligation to get written permission before proceeding with publication, to make certain that no official secrets were disclosed. The lawsuit sought to block the book's release. But when that effort failed, the government kept the suit going, seeking to prevent Bolton from receiving any profits from its sales. That effort was unsuccessful, as well.

The government said that because he had top-level security clearance during his government service, Bolton was required to wait until the White House finished reviewing the book for classified information. Instead, the suit said, he and his publisher pushed ahead and scheduled the book's release before the process was finished.

Bolton responded that he was required to wait only for a White House official's confirmation that the book was free of classified information, which he got in April 2020. The White House then launched another review, by a more senior official, which Bolton's attorney described as "a transparent effort to prevent Ambassador Bolton from revealing embarrassing facts about the president's conduct in office."

A federal judge declined in October to dismiss the case but later allowed Bolton to pursue evidence that might reveal whether White House officials tried to influence the security review process to delay the book's release.

Separately, the Trump Justice Department launched a criminal investigation of Bolton's actions. That has now been closed, as well.