President Donald Trump on Wednesday attacked former National Security Advisor John Bolton, claiming the allegations in his forthcoming book are “untrue” but also “classified” to protect national security. The problem, as several legal experts pointed out, is that Trump’s diatribe cannot be accurate: information cannot simultaneously be false and classified. They said the president also appeared to admit to endangering U.S. national security.
“[Bolton] couldn’t get approved for the Ambassador to the U.N. years ago, couldn’t get approved for anything since, ‘begged’ me for a non-Senate approved job, which I gave him despite many saying ‘Don’t do it, sir,’ takes the job, mistakenly says ‘Libyan Model’ on TV, and many more mistakes of judgement, gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, adding, “All Classified National Security.”
….many more mistakes of judgement, gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book. All Classified National Security. Who would do this?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2020
An unpublished manuscript of Bolton’s book reportedly provides first-hand confirmation that the hold on aid to Ukraine was ordered directly by the president and that the release of that aid was contingent upon investigations of the Bidens.
“Should someone tell [President Trump] that things can’t be classified if they’re untrue,” professor Stephen Vladeck of the University of Texas School of Law wrote, also providing a link to the relevant provisions of Executive Order 13526 governing classified national security information.
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) January 29, 2020
Under EO 13526, information may only be classified if its unauthorized disclosure “could reasonably be expected to cause identifiable or describable damage to the national security.”
The order also states that information cannot be classified in order to “conceal violations of law” or “delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of national security.”
National security lawyer Bradley P. Moss told Law&Crime that there are “no circumstances in which false information can be classified.”
“Nor is there any indication that the actual NSC reviewers are going to try and classify false information,” he said. “This is pure political nonsense from the president.”
Professor Anthony Michael Kreis of Chicago-Kent College of Law took his analysis one step further, noting that Trump’s claims about hiring Bolton, if true, also carry significant implications.
“The president is either lying or confessing he made a hire that endangered our national security,” he wrote. Kreis also said the president’s tweet could be viewed as “antagonizing a witness in a way that’ll cause Bolton to hold back or sugar coat” his testimony.
Let’s dive into this:
(1) The president is either lying or confessing he made a hire that endangered our national security.
(2) The president is antagonizing a witness in a way that’ll cause Bolton to hold back or sugar coat.
Very stable genius. https://t.co/xsNqVcLzAY
— Anthony Michael Kreis (@AnthonyMKreis) January 29, 2020
Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani echoed his client’s position Wednesday on CBS This Morning, stating that Bolton should not be allowed to testify “if the president feels that it is executive privilege material.” Giuliani said he “can’t imagine that the president of the United States said that to [Bolton]” about Ukraine aid.
Editor’s note: this story was updated post-publication with additional comment from Moss.
[image via LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images]