Justice Department ends criminal investigation and trial over John Bolton book
The Justice Department has shut down a criminal investigation into whether a derogatory brief by President Donald J. Trump’s National Security Advisor John R. Bolton unlawfully disclosed classified information and dropped a lawsuit to recover the benefits of the book, according to Mr. Bolton and a court document filed on Wednesday.
The deal ends an effort that began under the Trump administration to silence Mr. Bolton after Mr. Trump ran a campaign pressure investigators to prosecute him. The dropping of the lawsuit against him is a rebuke by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland of the previous administration’s use of government power to clamp down on former Trump officials who have become critics of Mr. Trump.
“We argued from the outset that neither of the two actions was justifiable because they were initiated only as a result of President Trump’s politically motivated order to prevent the publication of the Ambassador’s book. ahead of the 2020 election, “Mr. Bolton’s lawyer Charles J. Cooper said.
In terminating the lawsuit, Cooper said, “the Justice Department has tacitly acknowledged that President Trump and his White House officials have acted illegitimately.”
The Justice Department notified the judge overseeing the case of its decision in a one-sentence case. A spokeswoman for the department declined to comment.
The deal came as Mr. Garland came under scrutiny for pursuing certain Trump-era policies and legal positions that Democrats attacked as being politically motivated. In recent weeks, Mr. Garland has allowed the Justice Department to continue to represent Mr. Trump in a libel suit and has sought to keep secret a document his predecessor William P. Barr relied on to exonerate Mr. Trump’s wrongdoing in the Russia investigation. .
But Bolton’s settlement had some benefits for Mr. Trump and members of his administration. This will prevent former officials from being forced to answer under oath to questions about how they treated Mr. Bolton’s book and how Mr. Trump lobbied them. A federal judge had given Cooper approval to begin filing those officials, but the settlement ends the litigation.
As part of the deal, the Justice Department agreed to dismiss the lawsuit without receiving any money from Mr Bolton and said it would never sue him again for the book “The Room Where It Happened”. Mr Bolton told the ministry that if he wrote another book, he would subject his documents to a process to ensure that classified information is kept secret.
This process was at the heart of the problem with Mr. Bolton’s briefs. Before joining the Trump administration, he had signed non-disclosure agreements as a condition of access to classified information. Under the agreements, officials are generally required to submit all subsequent writings on their work for a pre-publication review to ensure that they do not contain any classified information.
The lawsuit against Mr. Bolton began last year after Mr. Trump publicly and privately lobbied White House aides and Justice Department officials to use their powers to prevent Mr. Bolton from publishing his book, which contained derogatory details about his working time at Mr. Trump’s White House.
News articles in the months leading up to the manuscript’s publication detailed some of its content and sparked a firestorm, including accounts of Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine during his impeachment trial on the case.
Behind closed doors, Mr Trump called Mr Bolton a “traitor” and said his book contained very sensitive classified information. “We will try to block the publication of the book,” Mr. Trump told TV presenters at an informal meeting in February 2020. “After he leaves office, he can do it. But not in the White House.
In the weeks leading up to the book’s release last June, the Justice Department sued Bolton to stop its publication and recover the $ 2 million he had been paid.
Federal District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that Mr. Bolton and his publisher, Simon & Schuster, could go ahead with the book, but the Department of Justice could continue to benefit from it. . Judge Lamberth undermined Mr Bolton in his ruling, saying he was “convinced that the defendant Bolton likely endangered national security by disclosing classified information in violation of his nondisclosure agreement obligations “.
Published within days, the memoir immediately became a bestseller and fueled an increasingly damaging narrative about Mr. Trump during his re-election campaign. Drawing on detailed accounts of Mr. Bolton’s tenure as a national security adviser, the book portrays Mr. Trump as a corrupt leader who puts his personal and financial interests above the country’s national security.
After failing to stop publication of the briefs, the Justice Department launched a criminal investigation into whether Mr Bolton unlawfully disclosed information classified in the book. As part of the investigation, the department took the unusual step of issuing a grand jury subpoena to Simon & Schuster for the briefs disclosure files.
Biden’s Justice Department inherited the case and had spent the past few weeks negotiating the terms of the settlement with Mr Bolton’s legal team, according to a person briefed on the discussions.
During the presidential transition, Biden’s advisers examined a range of difficult issues related to Mr. Trump and the functioning of the Justice Department under Mr. Barr that they were likely to face after taking office.
From a review of publicly available documents relating to Mr Bolton’s case, Biden’s transition advisers concluded that the ministry had acted in a highly political manner. Some advisers said it would set a bad precedent for the executive if senior national security officials were forced to produce documents or testimony, according to a person familiar with the conversations.
It would be better to drop the trial altogether, some advisers have concluded, and have the Biden administration focus on revising the preprint review process, the person said.
Reviews said that the verification of briefs and other documents written by former public servants is slow and may be subject to political interference. Some see it as a chilling effect on former public servants who wish to write about their working time in government, especially those who seek to criticize it.
The White House’s efforts to interfere with Mr. Bolton’s book came to light in September when a career administration official accused Trump’s aides of intervening inappropriately to prevent Mr. Bolton on his time as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser never becomes public.
The official, a specialist in classified material book review named Ellen Knight, said assistants made false claims that Mr Bolton disclosed classified material and suggested they retaliated against her when ‘she had refused to participate.
She also said that an aide to Mr. Trump “asked her to temporarily suspend any response” to a request by Mr. Bolton to review a chapter on the president’s relations with Ukraine in order to prevent his release during the Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial, which centered on allegations that he abused his powers in the conduct of foreign policy with the Kiev government.
The Biden administration also dropped a lawsuit by Trump’s Justice Department against a former friend and aide to Melania Trump who wrote an embarrassing book about Trumps.
Mr. Garland recently acknowledged the difficulties he and the department have faced in ensuring that the agency appears to treat all Americans the same, regardless of who is in power.
There shouldn’t be “one rule for Democrats and one rule for Republicans” or “one rule for friends and one rule for enemies,” Garland said at a recent Senate hearing.
“It is not always easy to apply this rule,” he testified. “Sometimes that means we have to make a decision about the law that we would never have made and with which we strongly disagree politically.”