A federal judge ruled Saturday that former national security adviser John Bolton can move forward in publishing his tell-all book despite efforts by the Trump administration to block the release because of concerns that classified information could be exposed.
The decision from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth is a victory for Bolton in a court case that involved core First Amendment and national security concerns. But the judge also made clear his concerns that Bolton had "gambled with the national security of the United States" by opting out of a prepublication review process meant to prevent government officials from spilling classified secrets in memoirs they publish.
The ruling clears the path for a broader election-year readership and distribution of a memoir, due out Tuesday, that paints an unflattering portrait of President Trump's foreign policy decision-making during the turbulent year-and-a-half that Bolton spent in the White House.
Nonethless, Lamberth frowned upon the way Bolton went about publishing the book. Bolton took it "upon himself to publish his book without securing final approval from national intelligence authorities" and perhaps caused irreparable harm to national security, Lamberth said.
But with 200,000 copies already distributed to booksellers across the country, attempting to block its release would be futile, the judge wrote.
"A single dedicated individual with a book in hand could publish its contents far and wide from his local coffee shop," Lamberth wrote. "With hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe — many in newsrooms — the damage is done. There is no restoring the status quo."
In a statement, Bolton's lawyers said they welcomed the decision.
"We welcome today's decision by the Court denying the Government's attempt to suppress Ambassador Bolton's book. We respectfully take issue, however, with the Court's preliminary conclusion at this early stage of the case that Ambassador Bolton did not comply fully with his contractual prepublication obligation to the Government, and the case will now proceed to development of the full record on that issue. The full story of these events has yet to be told — but it will be," attorney Charles Cooper said.
Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday that Bolton "broke the law by releasing Classified Information (in massive amounts)."
"He must pay a very big price for this, as others have before him. This should never to happen again!!!" Mr. Trump wrote.
In another tweet, Mr. Trump called it a "big court win" for Bolton.
"Bolton broke the law and has been called out and rebuked for so doing, with a really big price to pay. He likes dropping bombs on people, and killing them. Now he will have bombs dropped on him!" Mr. Trump wrote.
Bolton makes several allegations in his book that Mr. Trump acted improperly or counter to American interests in his foreign policy. Among other stories, the bookthat Mr. Trump pushed Chinese President Xi Jinping in trade negotiations to agree to purchase American agricultural products in order to boost Mr. Trump's political standing with U.S. farmers and help him win reelection.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Wednesday evening, the president called Bolton "a liar" and said "everybody in the White House hated" Bolton. He also denied Bolton's claim that, as the Journal puts it, he "gave his blessing" to Xi to build detention camps for China's Uighur Muslims. The Journal says a Bolton spokeswoman declined to comment.
Bolton refused to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry last year, and was not called to testify at the subsequent impeachment trial. Democrats have accused him of cynically withholding pertinent knowledge of the president's actions to boost his book sales.
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