A federal judge in Washington expressed skepticism that former National Security Advisor John Bolton complied with his government contract when he published a tell-all memoir, “The Room Where It Happened,” without written authorization.
At a hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth emphasized that the government official who approved an initial draft of Bolton’s book, Ellen Knight, told Bolton she could not grant final authorization to publish.
“How do you call her an authorized figure when she told him she did not have the authority to make that determination?” Lamberth said. “She repeatedly told him she was not giving him clearance.”
Bolton’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, argued that neither of the two nondisclosure agreements that his client signed required him to receive written approval to publish his White House memoir, or even to submit the manuscript for government review in the first place.
The contracts require former government officials to receive final written approval for a manuscript only if they believe the draft might contain classified information, and Bolton was confident his memoir did not, Cooper said.
The legal battle over Bolton’s book began in June when the Justice Department sought a court order blocking its publication on national security grounds. Lamberth refused to grant one, partly because detailed excerpts had already appeared in major newspapers. The book was published that month.
The Justice Department is now seeking to seize all Bolton’s profits from the best-selling memoir, arguing that he violated his non-disclosure agreements and revealed government secrets. The hearing on Thursday focused on whether the government’s lawsuit should be dismissed, and whether Bolton’s lawyers should be allowed to question officials involved in the manuscript review process.
On Wednesday, Cooper submitted to the court a letter by a lawyer for Knight that said Bolton’s memoir did not contain classified information and that White House officials had refused to grant final authorization “for a seemingly political purpose.”
During the hearing, Bolton’s lawyers quoted at length from the letter, but Lamberth countered that Knight’s allegations were separate from the core contract dispute.
“I’m very much of the notion that I just let you engage in that whole political diatribe, but it has no place in what we we’re arguing today,” the judge said.
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