The Justice Department is suing John Bolton over the former national security adviser’s memoirs, which are scheduled to be published later this month over the White House’s objections.
The lawsuit, a civil action filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that Bolton risks “compromising national security by publishing a book containing classified information—in clear breach of agreements he signed as a condition of his employment.”
Bolton, through his lawyer, has disputed that the manuscript contains classified material.
The lawsuit asks the court to order Bolton to both complete the prepublication review process and stop the publication and dissemination of his book “as currently drafted.”
It also seeks an order “establishing a constructive trust on any profits obtained from the disclosure or dissemination” of the book, effectively tying up any proceeds Bolton would obtain from its release.
The government included a series of exhibits in the complaint, including Bolton’s signed nondisclosure agreement to access classified information, and released an email from the director of the National Security Council’s Records Access and Information Security Management directorate to Bolton’s lawyer Charles Cooper. The email warns that Bolton’s plans to release his manuscript “imminently” violate the terms of his prepublication review agreement.
The suit comes after President Donald Trump hinted earlier this week that the administration would be taking Bolton to court, saying he would “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.”
A spokesperson for Bolton declined to comment. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The nearly 600-page book, titled, “The Room Where It Happened,” details Bolton’s 18-month tenure as the president’s chief foreign policy adviser, a tumultuous period that saw the national security adviser clash repeatedly with his boss over Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and Ukraine.
The NSC’s pre-publication review process is normally fairly straightforward, but Bolton’s case has been complicated by its potentially politically explosive allegations—including details about Trump’s alleged Ukraine-style blackmail threats to other countries that were not documented during Trump’s impeachment trial.
Bolton’s book also alleges that the president told him last August that he wanted to keep withholding military aid from Ukraine until officials there pledged to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden—making Bolton the only firsthand witness to that request, according to a New York Times account of the chapter. The story, published in the New York Times, raised the pressure on the White House and the GOP to clear Bolton’s book and allow him to testify in the impeachment trial. Bolton ultimately refused to testify.