Watch CBS News

Bolton's lawyer says White House believes upcoming book contains classified information

The White House has told former national security adviser John Bolton that his upcoming memoir still contains classified information, according to Bolton's lawyer, although Bolton has already made changes to the book to accommodate concerns about national security.

Bolton's book, "The Room Where It Happened,"is scheduled to be published in two weeks, after delays. His lawyer, Charles Cooper, said that the White House told Bolton it would provide him with a redacted copy of the manuscript by June 19, just a few days before the book is scheduled to be published by Simon & Schuster, a division of ViacomCBS.

John Eisenberg, a deputy White House counsel, told Cooper in a letter, "The current draft manuscript still contains classified material." 

"As we advised your client when he signed the nondisclosure agreements, and as he should be well aware as a former assistant to the president for national security affairs in this administration, the unauthorized disclosure of classified information could be exploited by a foreign power, thereby causing significant harm to the national security of the United States," Eisenberg wrote. 

Cooper is preparing a legal response, but he also wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that appears to outline Bolton's case against the White House. He is accusing the White House of abusing the prepublication review process in an attempt to stop Bolton's book from being published.

At the outset, Cooper reminded Ellen Knight, the NSC senior director charged with the prepublication review, of regulations that do not allow the vetting to declare information classified just "'to prevent embarrassment of a person,'" or to delay information "'that does not require protection in the interest of national security.'" Cooper also sought to keep the prepublication review "to career government officials regularly charged with that responsibility," in this case, Knight. 

Knight "assured me the review's sole purpose would be to prevent the disclosure of classified information," Cooper wrote in the Journal.

However, in February, Cooper said the Washington Post was reporting that Mr. Trump had weighed in on the prepublication review and was threatening to declare all of it classified. The book could be published after he left office, the president reportedly said.

Knight's review of the book went through several rounds, all of them documented by Cooper, and appeared to be finished in late April, when Knight told Bolton "'that's the last edit I really have to provide for you.'" So, although the NSC deemed the prepublication process to be complete, weeks later, the White House has not yet cleared Bolton's book. This, Cooper writes, 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."

"This attempt will not succeed, and Mr. Bolton's book will be published June 23," Cooper wrote.

Bolton was ousted as Mr. Trump's national security adviser in September. 

In February, Bolton's successor, Robert O'Brien, discussed the Trump administration's review of the book with CBS News' "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan. He told her that career professionals were going through Bolton's book manuscript "very carefully" because "what we need to do as the National Security Council is to make sure that state secrets and — and important classified information — that could jeopardize American lives are not released."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.