‘The Damage Is Done’: Judge Slams John Bolton, but Refuses to Block Book
“With hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe—many in newsrooms—the damage is done. There is no restoring the status quo,” U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said in Saturday’s order.
By Mike Scarcella and Nate Robson
A Washington federal judge on Saturday admonished John Bolton for moving ahead with his memoir without final authorization from the Trump administration, but the court refused to issue any order to restrain further distribution of the book, which has been sent to bookstores and media outlets around the country and world.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth denied the U.S. Justice Department’s request for a temporary restraining order. Only Bolton, and not his publisher, Simon & Schuster, was named as a defendant. The government argued that any restraining order would require Bolton to take steps to stop the further distribution of his book “The Room Where It Happened.”
“With hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe—many in newsrooms—the damage is done. There is no restoring the status quo,” Lamberth said in Saturday’s order. He called a restraining order at this point an “untimely solution.”
Still, Lamberth, who heard arguments for two hours Friday, said in his order that the Justice Department is likely to prevail ultimately in the litigation on the claim that Bolton breached agreements that required him to have written authorization before publishing his behind-the-scenes account of his time as national security adviser.
Bolton’s book has been widely portrayed as an unflattering snapshot of Trump and his decision-making. Bolton asserts that Trump, among other things, sought help from China for the upcoming elections, according to media reports.
Bolton’s lawyer, Chuck Cooper of Washington’s Cooper & Kirk, has disputed the book contains any classified information. Bolton spent months working with a career official to revise the manuscript. It was only after being told the book did not contain classified information that his publisher moved forward. A Trump national security official, Michael Ellis, subsequently said the book still contained information that was not permitted to be released.
Bolton’s nondisclosure agreements, the judge said, “barred publication of classified materials. Bolton likely published classified materials. The government is likely to succeed on the merits.”
“Unilateral fast-tracking carried the benefit of publicity and sales, and the cost of substantial risk exposure,” Lamberth wrote. “This was Bolton’s bet: If he is right and the book does not contain classified information, he keeps the upside mentioned above; but if he is wrong, he stands to lose his profits from the book deal, exposes himself to criminal liability, and imperils national security. Bolton was wrong.”