On Tuesday, the Trump administration filed a lawsuit against former United States national security adviser John Bolton in an attempt to delay the publication of Bolton’s highly anticipated memoir, “The Room Where It Happened.”
The lawsuit accuses Bolton of not completing the prepublication review process, which started in January of this year.
The review process is required for all government officials who plan to publish details of their time in the White House. The suit also states that Bolton’s book is “rife with classified information.”
“He struck a bargain with the United States as a condition of his employment in one of the most sensitive and important national security positions in the United States Government and now wants to renege on that bargain by unilaterally deciding that the prepublication review process is complete and deciding for himself whether classified information should be made public," the prosecutors wrote in reference to Bolton.
The memoir reportedly contains examples of international misconduct by the Trump administration, as well as confirm reports that President Donald Trump had pressured Ukraine to extract damaging information on Democrats by withholding US$400 million worth of military aid to the country, according to details from the manuscript first published by The New York Times.
The memoir was initially planned to be released on June 23 with publisher Simon & Schuster. Simon & Schuster have also already sent copies to distributors.
According to the lawsuit, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked the judge to seize Bolton’s proceeds from the book and order him to persuade Simon & Schuster to postpone the release and dispose of the copies until the mandatory government review is completed.
In response, Bolton’s attorney Chuck Cooper told CNN that they “are reviewing the Government’s complaint, and will respond in due course."
Cooper wrote in a June 10 Wall Street Journal article that the book was initially set to be published in March but Simon & Schuster were forced twice to push back the publication date by three months to June 23 so that the National Security Council (NSC) could complete its “prepublication review” of the manuscript.
“This is a transparent attempt to use national security as a pretext to censor Mr. Bolton, in violation of his constitutional right to speak on matters of the utmost public import."
Simon & Schuster wrote in a statement that the lawsuit “is 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."
“Ambassador Bolton has worked in full cooperation with the NSC in its prepublication review to address its concerns and Simon & Schuster fully supports his First Amendment right to tell the story of his time in the White House to the American public.”
After resigning in September, Bolton submitted his original draft to the NSC late last year. However, it was quickly rejected for containing a significant amount of classified information.
After several rounds of edits and meetings with Bolton, NSC official Ellen Knight determined that the book had cleared the vetting process in late April.
However, a week later NSC’s senior director for intelligence Michael Ellis conducted another review at the request of the current national security adviser Robert O’Brien.
According to the lawsuit O’Brien was concerned that “the manuscript still appeared to contain classified information, in part because the same Administration that the Author served is still in office and that the manuscript described sensitive information about ongoing foreign policy issues."
Ellis completed his review on June 9, concluding that the manuscript still had classified information and thus was not approved for publishing. However, a source close to Bolton has reported that he plans to move forward with publication as planned on June 23, without the approval of the White House.
“I will consider every conversation with me as president highly classified. So that would mean that if he wrote a book and if the book gets out, he’s broken the law and I would think he would have criminal problems. I hope so," said Trump.
Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, spoke out in criticism of the lawsuit on Tuesday.
“A half-century ago the Supreme Court rejected a similar attempt by the Nixon administration to block the publication of the Pentagon Papers, and since then it has been firmly established that prior restraints on publication are unconstitutional and un-American. As usual, the government’s threats have nothing to do with safeguarding national security, and everything to do with avoiding scandal and embarrassment."
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