Senior U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth denied former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s motion to dismiss the government’s lawsuit on Thursday. The Ronald Reagan-appointed judge reasoned that the government persuasively argued that Bolton may have breached “nondisclosure obligations” by publishing the tell-all book The Room Where It Happened.
Lamberth, who previously rubbished concerns that the White House politicized the prepublication review process, said that the nondisclosure agreements Bolton signed imposed obligations not to skirt the prepublication review process and not to disclose classified information. The judge ruled that the Department of Justice “plausibly pleads” that Bolton breached those obligations:
As a condition of becoming National Security Advisor to President Trump, John Bolton signed three nondisclosure agreements with the United States. Those agreements guard classified information, including classified information about intelligence sources and methods known as sensitive compartmented information (SCI). The United States alleges that Bolton breached both his fiduciary obligations to the government and his contractual duties by (a) publishing his memoir before completing prepublication review and (b) by disclosing classified information. To succeed on those claims, the government must show that Bolton was either obligated to complete prepublication review or to not disclose classified information. Because the agreements imposed both obligations and because the government plausibly pleads that Bolton breached those obligations, the Court will deny Bolton’s pending motion  to dismiss.
Judge Lamberth said he would follow precedent (Snepp v. United States) when “declining to reach” the issue of whether Bolton breached his fiduciary duty. Instead, the judge focused squarely on whether the DOJ sufficiently pleaded that Bolton breached his contractual obligations, noting that at this stage of the litigation that the court “must accept as true all well-pleaded facts in a complaint when resolving a motion to dismiss.”
The judge kept it pretty simple: “In sum, the government sufficiently alleges that Bolton breached his nondisclosure obligations.” What about Bolton’s “four arguments to the contrary”?
“None are convincing,” the judge said.
Lamberth declined to dismiss the case and declined to dismiss the government’s attempt to seize Bolton’s book royalties. National security lawyer Mark Zaid, who has long said that Bolton is in “real legal jeopardy,” reiterated on Thursday that Bolton is “in a world of legal trouble & likely to have constructive trust imposed on him (i.e., taking all royalties).”
2/Court has placed everyone on notice who face future prepub situations that SCI agreements will be construed broadly & w/great deference to USGOVT to protect national security.
Meaning, if you had SCI access, you best submit your writing for prepub review.
— Mark S. Zaid (@MarkSZaidEsq) October 1, 2020
The civil case will move forward amid DOJ’s criminal probe of Bolton.
Read the memorandum opinion below:
[Image via Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images]
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