Judge Raises Doubts About Halting Release Of John Bolton’s Book, But Wonders Why He Didn’t Seek Court Relief During Review Process
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A federal judge didn't say when he would decide whether to approve the Trump administration's move to block the publication of former national security advisor John Bolton's new book, but he recognized one reality: the room where it happened is already out there.
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"As we said in Texas, the horse appears to be out of the stable," said District Attorney Royce Lamberth in a video conference on Friday.
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Details of the bombings in the book about President Donald Trump have already been widely reported when journalists received copies and an excerpt appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
The Department of Justice is seeking an injunction and injunction to block the publication of the book, but would like the judge to force Bolton to pass the proceeds of the book on to the government for the time being.
The book is scheduled to be officially published and available for sale on Tuesday.
But even with the distribution of the book, Lamberth raised some serious problems with how Bolton went through a pre-publication review process to ensure that the book did not contain any classified information.
When questioned by Bolton's lawyer Charles Cooper, the judge found that Bolton only gave the publisher the green light, rather than seeking relief in court when there was a dispute over the review process.
"He had an obligation," said Lamberth. "Once he calls this process, he can't just go away. He didn't tell the government that he would go. He just went away and said to the publisher," Go publish. "Didn't that happen?"
"He was under no obligation to report to the government once he had met his contractual obligations," Cooper replied, adding that he had "received confirmation from an authorized official that the information had not been classified."
The Department of Justice claims that Bolton never received a final letter of approval that indicated that he could proceed with the publication of the book. His lawyer, David Morrell, said Bolton "got out" of the trial when he dragged himself out.
The book's editor, Simon & Schuster, plans to publish it. In a court case on Thursday, CEO Jonathan Karp said the volume was already on its way to customers through online bookstores. Bolton also recorded an interview with ABC News for a one-hour special on Sunday and scheduled interviews all next week, most recently interviews with CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell and The View.
Government lawyer David Morrell said that if the DOJ obtained an injunction, it could still prevent wider distribution, including selling e-books and returning copies to their "rightful owner, the United States government" . "We are still interested in limiting the mass distribution of the book," he said.
A number of media organizations have dealt with the case, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and Dow Jones & Co., as well as the Press Freedom Reporter Committee, the ACLU, and the PEN America Foundation, who argue an emergency order to block the Book would be "previous reluctance". They argued that the government was trying to end the 1971 Supreme Court decision that the Nixon administration could not stop the publication of the Pentagon papers.
"The idea that the horse is out of the stable is an understatement here," Cooper said, noting that a CBS news reporter even had a copy of the book in the White House on Thursday when she asked the spokeswoman a question about it.
But Morrell said Bolton agreed to a process that he had never followed.
"What we are seeing here is an order instructing Mr. Bolton to maintain his end of business," said Morrell.
In its lawsuit, the government admitted that the person originally charged with reviewing Bolton's manuscript, Ellen Knight, senior director of records access and information security management at the NSC, concluded in late April that "the draft manuscript did not Contained classified information. Ms. Knight informed NSC Legal about the status of the review. "
When Bolton asked if a letter confirming the release was available, she said the "process was ongoing," the DOJ complained. Then another NSC officer, Michael Ellis, senior director of intelligence, began an additional review at the request of Bolton's successor Robert O’Brien, who was "concerned that the manuscript still appeared to contain classified information," the DOJ claimed.
In a Wall Street Journal released earlier this month, Cooper wrote when they asked Knight when they would receive the letter of approval: "Ms. Knight replied cryptically that her "interaction" with nameless others in the White House about the book was "very delicate" and "some internal process considerations needed to be worked through".
According to an amended lawsuit filed on Friday by the DOJ, Ellis completed its review on June 9, but did not receive a classification training session until June 10. "After completing the training, Mr. Ellis reviewed his work and concluded that the information he provided in the training did not change his decisions," said the DOJ.
Cooper, however, suggested that the Trump administration mistakenly used the national security review process to prevent the book from being published, given the embarrassing details of the memoir about Trump's behavior.
"While the government is trying to contest Ms. Knight's deliberate verdict, her claim is simply an unfortunate pretext to cover up the real determined effort to suppress Ambassador Bolton's speech," Cooper wrote in a lawsuit.
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