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DOJ launches probe into Bolton book for possible classified information disclosures

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched a criminal investigation into whether former White House national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday Bolton calls on GOP leadership to label Trump's behavior 'inexcusable' MORE illegally disclosed classified information in his memoir that was released earlier this year, The Hill has confirmed.

The agency has convened a grand jury and subpoenaed Bolton's publisher, Simon & Schuster, for records related to communications surrounding the tell-all book, "The Room Where It Happened," The New York Times first reported.

The formal probe marks a dramatic escalation over the book, which the White House sought to temporarily block from publication earlier this year, arguing it contained classified information. Bolton’s book also painted the Trump administration in an unflattering light including details of infighting and the president’s foreign policy.

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The DOJ declined to comment when asked to confirm the investigation.

Charles Cooper, Bolton's lawyer, dismissed any claims of wrongdoing.
 
“We are aware of reports that grand jury subpoenas have been issued seeking information concerning the publication of Ambassador Bolton‘s recent book," Cooper said in a statement.
 
"Ambassador Bolton emphatically rejects any claim that he acted improperly, let alone criminally, in connection with the publication of his book, and he will cooperate fully, as he has throughout, with any official inquiry into his conduct."

The investigation was opened after the DOJ received a referral from Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeProfiles in cowardice: Trump's Senate enablers Biden considering King for director of national intelligence: report Haspel not in attendance at latest Trump intelligence briefing: reports MORE.

When the White House filed an emergency restraining order to halt the book from being published, the application included declarations from top U.S. intelligence and national security officials, including Ratcliffe and National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone.

“The type of classified information in these passages is the type of information that foreign adversaries of the United States seek to obtain, at great cost, through covert intelligence,” Ratcliffe wrote in his signed declaration.

"Unauthorized disclosure of these types of classified information could reveal, in some instances, the limits and, in some instances, the capabilities of U.S. intelligence collection and would cause irreparable damage to national security,” Trump’s intelligence chief continued.

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A week prior to the book’s public release, news outlets including The Hill published details about the book that included explosive allegations that President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE asked Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help him get a competitive edge in the upcoming presidential race against former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE, the then-presumptive Democratic nominee, by advocating that Beijing make more purchases of U.S. soybeans and wheat to help his electoral chances with U.S. farmers.

At the time, Bolton’s publisher slammed the lawsuit in a statement, calling it “the latest in a long running series of efforts by the Administration to quash publication of a book it deems unflattering to the President.”

--Updated at 3:57 p.m.