President Donald Trump has suggested that former national security adviser John Bolton should be jailed over the publication of his book, which the White House claims contains classified information from his time working in the administration.
Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened,” which recounts his 17-month stint at the White House, hit shelves on Tuesday after the Trump administration failed to block its immediate release. The legal battle is still ongoing amid the administration’s efforts to seek relief for Bolton’s alleged violations of his contractual obligations by not completing the pre-publication review of his book.
To mark the release of the book, Trump issued a social media statement on Tuesday to express his displeasure over Bolton’s actions, suggesting his former top aide should be punished for allegedly publishing classified information. “Washed up Creepster John Bolton is a lowlife who should be in jail, money seized, for disseminating, for profit, highly Classified information,” the president wrote in a Twitter post on Tuesday morning.
His statement echoes comments he made during an interview with Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, which aired also on Tuesday.
“I fired him. And I didn’t think it was a big deal. And I wasn’t around him very much,” the president said. “But what he did do is he took classified information, and he published it during a presidency.”
“I believe that he’s a criminal, and I believe, frankly, he should go to jail for that,” Trump added.
On June 20, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth denied the Trump administration’s attempt to stop the book from being immediately released, saying that the government had failed to show that blocking the book at such a late stage would prevent the government from irreparable harm given that the book had already been disseminated widely.
The book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, told the court that over 200,000 copies of the book have been shipped domestically and thousands of copies of the book have been delivered to booksellers around the globe. Meanwhile, copies of the book have also been distributed to media outlets.
“With hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe—many in newsrooms—the damage is done. There is no restoring the status quo,” Lamberth wrote in his order (pdf).
The judge, however, expressed his concerns over Bolton’s actions, saying that he “gambled with the national security of the United States” by abandoning a prepublication review process for his book.
“He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability,” he wrote.
Lamberth said that after he had reviewed the classified information submitted by the government, he was persuaded that Bolton will likely jeopardize “national security by disclosing classified information in violation of his nondisclosure agreement obligations,” when he rushed the publication of his book.
He said Bolton now “stands to lose his profits from the book deal, exposes himself to criminal liability, and imperils national security.”
Bolton’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, disputed the judge’s preliminary characterization, telling The Epoch Times in a statement on June 20 that the full story of the events would be revealed upon the development of the case.
“We respectfully take issue, however, with the Court’s preliminary conclusion at this early stage of the case that Ambassador Bolton did not comply fully with his contractual prepublication obligation to the Government, and the case will now proceed to development of the full record on that issue. The full story of these events has yet to be told—but it will be,” Cooper said.
Bolton has disputed claims that his book contains classified information in a court filing on June 18. His lawyers claim that Ellen Knight, the National Security Council’s senior director for Records, Access, and Information Security Management, who reviewed the nearly 500-page manuscript, told Bolton on April 27 that she had no more edits to provide for him, suggesting that there was no more classified information in the book. They added that Knight indicated that Bolton would receive “the pro-forma customary letter confirming that he was authorized to publish it.”
“Indeed, the Government concedes in its complaint that at the conclusion of her exhaustive prepublication review, Ms. Knight ‘was of the judgment that the manuscript draft did not contain classified information,'” the lawyers wrote (pdf). “At that moment, Ambassador Bolton fulfilled any obligation he had under the express terms of his non-disclosure agreement with the Government.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Monday that the administration is concerned if Bolton goes unprosecuted, as it could have serious consequences to national security.
“Look, the information in John Bolton’s book was classified information, as confirmed by the most senior national security and intelligence officials,” McEnany said. “And, look, you have NSA Director Nakasone saying that this could cause permanent loss of a valuable source—intelligence source—and damage to the U.S. intelligence system; DNI Ratcliffe saying virtually the same. You have another government official saying the ‘unauthorized disclosure of this information could reasonably be expected to enable foreign threat actors.’
“This is the seriousness with which we look at this book and the NSC looks at this book as they scan it for classified information. There is real damage that can be done. And for what? For self-promotion and publicity of a failed NSA director.”