WASHINGTON – Following through on a threat to take legal action to block another potentially critical tell-all book, the Trump administration Tuesday filed a lawsuit to stop former national security adviser John Bolton from publishing his long expected memoir.
The move came a day after Trump dismissed Bolton’s forthcoming book as “highly inappropriate” and said it would be a “criminal problem” if published.
The Justice Department filed the lawsuit in a federal court in Washington.
“I will consider every conversation with me as president highly classified,” Trump said on Monday. “So that would mean that if he wrote a book and if the book gets out, he’s broken the law and I would think he would have criminal problems. I hope so.”
Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” will reportedly lay out examples of international misconduct that go beyond Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine that served as the basis for the president’s impeachment last year. It’s scheduled to go on sale next week.
“The United States seeks an order requiring Defendant to abide by his contractual and fiduciary duties to complete the pre-publication review process and not disclose classified information without written authorization, thereby protecting the national security of the United States,” according to the filing.
Bolton attorney Chuck Cooper has accused the administration of abusing the pre-publication review process to delay the book’s publication.
“This is a transparent attempt to use national security as a pretext to censor Mr. Bolton, in violation of his constitutional right to speak on matters of the utmost public import,” Cooper wrote recently in a Wall Street Journal piece.
Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer, said it would be difficult, but not impossible, for Trump to get a court to block the book. If he does, Moss speculated, the information is bound to come out sooner or later. Advance copies went out weeks ago to reviewers.
“So it’s unlikely but not impossible he can stop the book from getting out at this point, at least via the publisher,” Moss said.
Critics have described the lawsuit as “doomed to fail.”
“A half-century ago the Supreme Court rejected a similar attempt by the Nixon administration to block the publication of the Pentagon Papers, and since then it has been firmly established that prior restraints on publication are unconstitutional and un-American,” said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “As usual, the government’s threats have nothing to do with safeguarding national security, and everything to do with avoiding scandal and embarrassment.”
Contributing: Savannah Behrmann