Throughout the publication process of John Bolton’s tell-all memoir of his time in the Trump administration, the Department of Justice has attempted to frustrate the former national security adviser’s post–White House project.
First came the lawsuit before the book’s publication trying to block it from coming out, an attempt that failed when a federal judge rejected the effort because copies had already been distributed. Then came the department’s separate request to force Bolton to forfeit his $2 million advance, a possibility that the same federal judge left open in June. Now, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times report that the DOJ has opened a criminal inquiry into the former cabinet member to determine if he unlawfully disclosed classified information in his memoir. Already, the department has reportedly convened a grand jury and issued subpoenas to Bolton’s book agent and publisher for communications records with the author.
In April, the book — which alleges that Trump asked President Xi to interfere in the 2020 election and said that reporters should be “executed” — was approved in a process in which the National Security Council flags any classified information in the manuscript. But when Bolton asked for the final clearance, he received no answer from the NSC’s top official for prepublication review. While Bolton and the publisher Simon & Schuster took that to be a green light, a political appointee who had never conducted a prepublication review read through the manuscript again in May, and found several pieces of classified information in that second process without notifying the author.
As the New York Times notes, there was some dissent within the DOJ over the decision: “Lawyers for the National Security Council and the Justice Department expressed reservations about opening a criminal case, in part because Mr. Trump’s public statements made it seem like an overtly political act, according to two officials briefed on the discussions.” Those public statements include Trump calling Bolton a “washed-up creepster” and a “lowlife who should be in jail.”