The federal judge presiding over the U.S. government’s lawsuit alleging that former National Security Advisor John Bolton divulged classified information in his tell-all book did not seem to give much credence to a former national security official’s claim that the administration intentionally manipulated the prepublication review process to suppress the book.
During an extensive hearing on Thursday, Ronald Reagan-appointed U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth was “entirely unimpressed” with the statement from former National Security Council Senior Director Ellen Knight, who was initially charged with overseeing the classification review of The Room Where It Happened, Politico reported.
In an 18-page letter submitted in the case on Tuesday, Knight claimed that after she and her team went through several rounds of reviewing the manuscript with the help of Bolton’s attorneys, they were able to remove all of the classified information. But soon thereafter political appointees in the executive branch took “extraordinary actions” to pressure her into reversing that assessment.
According to the letter, the NSC’s “designedly apolitical process” for prepublication review of former employees’ works was “commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose.” Knight claimed that officials from the White House and the NSC legal department tried to “get her to admit that she and her team had missed something or made a mistake,” which “could then be used to support their argument to block publication.”
As expected, Bolton’s attorneys attempted to use the claims in Knight’s letter to force the government to turn over 1) documents relating to the prepublication review for Bolton’s book; and 2) how the government concluded that it still contained classified information at the time of publication. Per Politico, one of Bolton’s lawyers argued that the government should be compelled to produce the discovery materials because no “reasonable” person could conclude that the review process unsullied.
“I think you’re wrong about reasonable people coming to the conclusion that that’s anything more than a political diatribe,” Judge Lamberth responded, adding that Knight hadn’t seen any of the classified material submitted to the court in June pertaining to what secrets the White House asserted were still in the book.
Though Lamberth previously ruled against the government when it sought to prevent the publication of Bolton’s book, he’s also established that the former National Security Advisor may have federal criminal liability. In denying the government’s request for an injunction against publication in June, Lamberth wrote that “Defendant Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States. He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability.”
Trump said Bolton might face “criminal problems,” and now the DOJ has opened a criminal investigation.
[image via Win McNamee_Getty Images]
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