National Security

Bolton’s lawyer disputes NSC assessment that manuscript contains classified information

John Bolton’s lawyer released an email Wednesday that said he and the former national security adviser do not think material in an unpublished manuscript written by Bolton about the Trump administration includes classified information, disputing the National Security Council’s (NSC) assessment.

Charles Cooper, a lawyer for the former national security adviser, also asked the NSC to promptly provide specifics about what they assessed to be classified information.

“We do not believe that any of the information could reasonably be 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 to an NSC official in a letter dated Jan. 24. 

Cooper said his decision to release this letter comes Ellen Knight — the NSC’s senior director for records, access and information security management — told Cooper last week that the NSC records division had determined in its review that Bolton’s manuscript 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agreements your client signed as a condition for gaining access to classified information, the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information,” Knight wrote to Bolton’s attorney on Jan. 23, claiming some of the information detailed in the book was considered “top secret.” 

The Hill and other outlets obtained the letter on Wednesday.

Knight also said that their review of the document is still ongoing, noting that they will share further guidance to Bolton once it is completed.

Cooper, in a statement accompanying the letter, argued that he has yet to hear back from the NSC on specifics, despite asking them to provide a speedy response in case his client is called to testify in the Senate trial.

“[I]t is important to note that I have received no response whatever to my urgent request for the NSC’s immediate guidance as to any concerns it may have with respect to the chapter of the manuscript dealing with Ambassador Bolton’s involvement in matters relating to Ukraine,” Cooper said.

The back-and-forth over the details in Bolton’s book comes after The New York Times reported earlier this week that Bolton will dish damaging details about his former boss, including claiming that President Trump sought to withhold $391 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine as leverage for politically motivated investigations, including one into former Vice President Joe Biden.

The Times report further fueled an already fierce debate on Capitol Hill on whether witnesses like Bolton should be called to testify as the upper chamber weighs whether to convict and remove Trump from office. 

Bolton also acted as the spark plug to the witness debate when he publicly announced earlier this month that he would testify if the GOP-controlled Senate subpoenaed him for testimony.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been against the idea of calling witnesses, arguing that the House should’ve pursued his testimony during its impeachment inquiry last year. 

Democrats have shot back that the White House engaged in unprecedented obstruction of their inquiry, blocking witnesses from testifying. They also say Bolton made it clear he would take them to court if they subpoenaed him for testimony, roping them into a court battle that could last months — time they don’t have.

While it is unclear whether Democrats will have the four needed Republican votes to receive witness testimony, the matter is likely to be taken up by the Senate on Friday. 

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden John Bolton Mitch McConnell
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