White House seeks to block publication of Bolton’s book
The White House has sent a letter to former national security adviser John Bolton seeking to block publication of certain aspects of his book.
In a letter obtained by The Hill, a National Security Council official said review of Bolton’s manuscript determined it contained “significant amounts of classified information.”
“Under federal law and the nondisclosure agreements your client signed as a condition for gaining access to classified information, the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information,” Ellen J. Knight, senior director for records, access and information security management, wrote to Bolton’s attorney in a letter dated Jan. 23.
Knight said some of the information included reaches the threshold of being “top secret” based on a preliminary assessment. The National Security Council’s records division is still reviewing the document, she said, and would provide additional guidance to Bolton once it is complete.
“We will do our best to work with you to ensure your client’s ability to tell his story in a manner that protects U.S. national security,” she wrote.
The book has received significant attention since The New York Times reported its manuscript contains the claim that President Trump said he did not want to release nearly $400 million in security aid for Ukraine until the country agreed to help investigate his political rivals. The White House letter is likely to be interpreted by critics of the president as an effort to intimidate Bolton, though it is standard for former officials to submit their manuscripts to the National Security Council before publication to review for classified information.
A spokeswoman for Bolton declined to comment. A representative for Bolton’s attorney, Charles Cooper, said Cooper did not have further comment beyond his statement earlier this week that the manuscript was submitted to the National Security Council in late December for a review for classified information and that it was not leaked from the publisher to The New York Times.
Later Wednesday, Cooper released a letter he sent to Knight on Jan. 24, one day after the White House indicated it would seek to block portions of Bolton’s book. In that letter, Cooper sought to expedite the review process in light of the prospect Bolton would be called to testify in the Senate impeachment trial and would be asked about some of the same material in the manuscript.
“We do not believe that any of that information could reasonably considered classified, but given that Ambassador Bolton could be called to testify as early as next week, it is imperative that we have the results of your review of that chapter as soon as possible,” Cooper wrote.
The House impeached Trump last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate is in the middle of the president’s impeachment trial, where opening arguments concluded on Tuesday.
The book’s claims, reported by The New York Times, directly contradict Trump’s lawyers’ assertions that the president never explicitly tied security aid for Kyiv to investigations.
Democrats have seized on the book allegations to demand Bolton be called as a witness in the Senate trial. Many Republicans are hoping to avoid witnesses altogether and move straight to a vote to convict or acquit the president, and some in the GOP have taken to questioning Bolton’s credibility, painting him as an opportunist looking to boost book sales.
Bolton has previously said he has information relevant to the impeachment proceedings and that he would comply if subpoenaed by the Senate.
Trump has in recent days lashed out with increasing intensity at Bolton, who left his position last September amid clashes with the president on foreign policy in Iran and North Korea.
The president tweeted Wednesday morning that he gave Bolton a job in the White House despite advisers telling him not to, and that he fired Bolton “because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now.”
Trump went on to dismiss Bolton’s book as “nasty & untrue.”
“All Classified National Security,” he tweeted. “Who would do this?”
Updated at 6 p.m.
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