A federal judge has scheduled a hearing on the Trump administration’s request for a temporary restraining order against the publication of a book by former national security adviser John Bolton.
Judge Royce Lamberth scheduled the hearing for the early afternoon of June 19, less than a week before Bolton’s book is scheduled to hit store shelves on June 23.
The government filed an emergency motion (pdf) on June 17 seeking to delay the release of the book because it contains classified information. The 500-page volume contains government secrets classified at the highest level, including information that Bolton personally classified during his 17 months at the White House, according to the government’s complaint.
The book had already been printed, bound, and sent to stores as of early June. Copies have already been distributed to media outlets, according to reports.
Bolton signed a book deal with Simon & Schuster reportedly worth $2 million in early November 2019, two months after President Donald Trump fired him. Bolton and the National Security Council were going through a monthslong classification review process until June 7, when the White House learned through media reports that Bolton was going to make the book available to the public on June 23, with or without White House approval.
The White House filed a lawsuit (pdf) on June 16 alleging that the book contains “significant quantities of classified information” and asking the judge to order Bolton to abide by his government contract and complete the classification review.
The subsequent motion for a restraining order includes declarations affirming that the book contains classified information from some of the top U.S. intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, Director of the National Security Agency Paul Nakasone, Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center William Evanina, and National Security Council’s Senior Director for Intelligence Programs Michael Ellis.
The book, titled “The Room Where It Happened,” includes allegations about Trump that Bolton based on his time at the White House. Trump, the White House, and several top administration officials have vehemently refuted the claims.
“Bolton’s book, which is getting terrible reviews, is a compilation of lies and made up stories, all intended to make me look bad,” Trump wrote on Twitter on June 18. “Many of the ridiculous statements he attributes to me were never made, pure fiction. Just trying to get even for firing him like the sick puppy he is!”
Bolton didn’t issue a public statement in response to the lawsuit or Trump’s criticism, instead pointing his followers on Twitter to a pair of statements from liberal nonprofits.
“50 years ago, SCOTUS rejected the Nixon administration’s attempt to block the publication of the Pentagon Papers, establishing that government censorship is unconstitutional,” the American Civil Liberties Union wrote on Twitter. “Any Trump administration efforts to stop John Bolton’s book from being published are doomed to fail.”
According to media reports, the book paints Trump as “reckless,” “corrupt,” and “poorly informed.” Trump responded to the reports about the book’s contents, calling Bolton “a disgruntled boring fool who only wanted to go to war.”
The book reportedly claims that Bolton was a first-hand witness to a conversation about Ukraine that served as the core allegation of the impeachment proceedings against the president. The Senate found Trump not guilty of all the impeachment charges brought by the House. Bolton declined to testify during the impeachment.
In addition to seeking a restraining order against the book’s release, the government’s motion calls on the court to set up a trust that would account for all of the profits generated from the book. Bolton signed a contract as part of his employment agreeing to “assign to the United States Government all royalties, remunerations, and emoluments that have resulted, will result or may result from any disclosure, publication, or revelation of classified information not consistent with the terms,” according to the court documents.
The government further argues that Bolton is knowingly disclosing classified information to enrich himself.
“A National Security Advisor to a sitting President possesses national security information like few others. Were such a person to offer such information for sale to foreign governments, all would readily acknowledge the wrongdoing involved,” the government motion states.