The Justice Department has filed a civil complaint against former national security adviser John Bolton to try to stop him from publishing a book about his tenure in the White House, arguing that it contains "classified information" that could compromise national security.
The department claims Bolton is publishing the book "in clear breach of the agreements he signed as a condition of his employment." The book, "The Room Where it Happened," is scheduled to be published on June 23, and the books have already been shipped to warehouses.
Bolton's attorney said earlier this month the White House had not yet cleared the book. However, his lawyer also wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the national security council staffer vetting the book for classified material had indicated to Boltonthat she had given him the "last edit" she really had for him.
But the lawsuit claims Bolton became "dissatisfied at the pace of NSC's review" and "decided to take matters into his own hands" by going ahead with the book publishing before the completion of the pre-publication review process. The federal government wants a judge to order Bolton to take "all actions within his power" to stop the publication and dissemination of the book as currently drafted.
"NSC has determined that the manuscript in its present form contains certain passages — some up to several paragraphs in length — that contain classified national security information. In fact, the NSC has determined that information in the manuscript is classified at the Confidential, Secret and Top Secret levels. Accordingly, the publication and release of The Room Where It Happened would cause irreparable harm, because the disclosure of instances of classified information in the manuscript reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage, or exceptionally grave damage, to the national security of the United States," the lawsuit states.
Bolton's longtime personal aide Sarah Tinsley had no comment on the lawsuit.
Just hours after the lawsuit was filed, Jody Hunt, the head of the DOJ Civil Division, gave notice that he will be leaving his post on July 3, a senior administration official confirmed to CBS News. In the suit, Hunt was identified as the top lawyer on the case.
Hunt served at the DOJ for over 20 years and was formerly Jeff Sessions' chief of staff. His departure was first reported by Law.com.
President Trump addressed his deep displeasure with Bolton and his book in a meeting in the Cabinet Room on Monday.
"If he wrote a book, I can't imagine that he can because that's highly classified information. Even conversations with me. They're highly classified. I told that to the attorney general before. I will consider every conversation with me as president highly classified," Mr. Trump told reporters Monday. "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 that he would have criminal problems."
House Democrats asked Bolton to testify during the impeachment inquiry, but Bolton did not do so voluntarily and House Democrats did not subpoena him. Bolton said he would testify before the Senate if subpoenaed, but the Senate declined to do so.
Paula Reid contributed reporting.
Bolton's book is being published by Simon & Schuster, a division of ViacomCBS.