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President Donald Trump said that his former national security adviser, John Bolton, faces “criminal liability” if he publishes a tell-all book on his work in the White House without unspecified changes.
Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday that it’s “totally inappropriate” for Bolton to publish a book and that he had told Attorney General William Barr that Bolton’s conversations with the president were “highly classified.”
“I would think he would have criminal problems. I hope so,” Trump said. “Maybe he’s not been telling the truth. He’s been known not to tell the truth.”
Barr, who participated in the White House event where Trump made the remarks, said Bolton didn’t complete a clearance process for the book. “We don’t believe Bolton went through the process, hasn’t completed the process,” he said.
Trump chimed back in: “That’s called criminal liability.”
The Trump administration is expected to seek an injunction in federal court to block the publication of Bolton’s memoir, a person familiar with the matter said, but Trump didn’t directly confirm the legal action. He said the administration is trying to persuade Bolton to make unspecified changes to the book.
“They’re in court or they will soon be in court,” he said.
Bolton’s memoir is set to be published on June 23. The White House National Security Council has conducted a months-long pre-publication review of the book for classified material, which has delayed the memoir’s release.
To get an injunction, the government would have to convince a judge that the book’s publication would endanger national security.
“It’s an incredibly high burden,” Mark Zaid, a lawyer in Washington who has helped authors navigate the pre-publication review process, said in an interview. “I doubt highly that they would be successful blocking the entire book. But could they block a chapter, a page, a paragraph? Maybe.”
Even if it doesn’t secure an injunction, the government would still have the option to sue Bolton for breach of contract. But a failed effort to prevent the book’s publication could also backfire by generating free publicity for its author.
“All they’re going to do is raise greater attention to it,” Zaid said.
The book, titled “The Room Where It Happened,” is expected to paint an unflattering picture of Trump’s leadership. Bolton writes that the president’s foreign policy decisions were driven by political calculations, according to the publisher Simon & Schuster Inc.
The president’s former top security aide plans to argue that the House Democrats’ impeachment probe could have covered a wide range of Trump’s foreign policy, and not just his effort to pressure Ukraine for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.
Bolton’s team and the White House have frequently butted heads over whether information in the book is classified.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published last week, Bolton attorney Charles Cooper wrote that White House lawyer John Eisenberg penned a June 8 letter asserting the memoir contained classified information and publishing it would “violate his nondisclosure agreements.”
“This last-minute allegation came after an intensive four-month review, after weeks of silence from the White House, and — as Mr. Eisenberg admits in his letter — after press reports alerted the White House that Mr. Bolton’s book would be published on June 23,” Cooper wrote.
The press release from Simon & Schuster said Bolton “worked in cooperation with the National Security Council to incorporate changes to the text that addressed NSC concerns” and that the version to be published “reflects those changes.”
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In This Story: Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann, is an American publishing company founded in New York City in 1924 by Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster. As of 2016, Simon & Schuster was the third largest publisher in the United States, publishing 2,000 titles annually under 35 different imprints.
The business was sold to Bertelsmann by ViacomCBS in November 2020.