Former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton denied breaking any laws with the release of his tell-all memoir about the Trump administration amid reports that the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the book’s publication.
Bolton’s lawyer Charles Cooper said he’s aware of news reports that a grand jury has issued subpoenas seeking information about the book’s release. “Ambassador Bolton emphatically rejects any claim that he acted improperly, let alone criminally, in connection with the publication of his book,” Cooper said in a statement. “He will cooperate fully, as he has throughout, with any official inquiry into his conduct.”
The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the Justice Department has opened an investigation and that a grand jury has issued a subpoena to the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, seeking communications records related to the book. Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi declined to comment on the reports.
A criminal investigation would mark a dramatic escalation in a legal battle that began in June, when the Justice Department failed in a last-ditch attempt to block the book’s release on national security grounds. The government has argued that Bolton endangered national security by publishing the book without completing a review process to scrub classified information from the manuscript.
A hawkish former diplomat who served as Trump’s top national security aide from April 2018 until September 2019, Bolton is highly critical of his ex-boss in “The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir.” He depicts Trump as ignorant and uncurious about U.S. foreign policy except where he sees the potential for personal political gain.
The legal dispute over the book started in June, when the government sought a court order blocking publication, claiming that Bolton had pulled out of a pre-publication review process that he agreed to undergo when he got his security clearance. At the time, though, excerpts from the book had already appeared in newspapers, and some 200,000 copies had been shipped to booksellers.
Bolton argued that he fulfilled his obligations under two non-disclosure agreements by clearing the book with a senior career government official. And while he has acknowledged that the U.S. never gave him final written authorization to publish, he claimed the government was simply dragging its feet to prevent the book from going out.
In the end, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington refused to halt the book’s release. But he slammed Bolton’s conduct, saying he had “gambled with the national security of the United States.”
“He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability,” Lamberth wrote.
In addition to the criminal investigation, Bolton also faces a civil suit by the government seeking to seize his book proceeds.
— With assistance by Bob Van Voris, and Chris Strohm
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