Judge says government’s suit over John Bolton book can proceed

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration can move forward with its lawsuit against former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton over his tell-all book, a judge ruled Thursday in denying a request to dismiss the complaint.

The Justice Department alleges that Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened” contains classified information, and the government sued in June to try to prevent the release. Though the book was published as scheduled, a suit accusing Bolton of breaking contracts with the government by disclosing classified information and by failing to complete a required prepublication review can proceed, U.S District Judge Royce Lamberth said in a 27-page opinion.

The Justice Department, the judge wrote, “plausibly pleads that Bolton breached those obligations.” A lawyer for Bolton did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

The book, which details Bolton’s 17 months as Trump’s national security adviser, contains descriptions of conversations with foreign leaders that could be seen as politically damaging to the president. Those include accounts that Trump tied providing military aid to Ukraine to that country’s willingness to conduct investigations into Democratic rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter, and that Trump asked China’s President Xi Jinping to help his reelection prospects.

Lamberth in June denied the government’s request for an injunction to block the book from being published, given that thousands of copies had already been distributed. But he also scolded Bolton for moving ahead with the book’s publication without waiting for formal, written authorization that the book had been cleared.

Bolton’s lawyers have said he worked for months for a White House career official to ensure that the manuscript was carefully screened and that he received verbal clearance last April that the book no longer contained classified material. But White House officials conducted a second review that they said identified classified information still in the book.

The case took a notable turn when a lawyer for that career official, Ellen Knight, submitted a statement that said that Knight had advised National Security Council lawyers that she intended to clear the book for publication, but she was told to take no action and to tell Bolton that the process was “ongoing.”

Weeks later, she learned that a White House official who she says had no previous classification experience had been instructed to conduct a second review of the manuscript. That official, Michael Ellis, flagged hundreds of passages that he believed were still classified. Knight disagreed with that conclusion and considered the re-review to be “fundamentally flawed,” according to the filing.

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