Judge Refuses to Dismiss DOJ Lawsuit Over Bolton Book

A copy of “The Room Where It Happened,” by former national security adviser John Bolton, is photographed at the White House on June 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Amid a charged legal battle over former national security adviser John Bolton’s tell-all book, a federal judge on Thursday ruled the government made enough of a case to allow the lawsuit to proceed. 

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth concluded in a 27-page opinion that the Justice Department “sufficiently alleges that Bolton breached his nondisclosure obligations.”

The judge allowed the release of “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir” in June, denying the Justice Department’s motion for preliminary injunction after the Trump administration sued to block the book. 

But Lamberth, a Reagan appointee, rejected Bolton’s motion to dismiss the case on Thursday. 

He found the government alleged sufficient facts that Bolton violated his three nondisclosure agreements by publishing the memoir before completing the White House’s prepublication review and by disclosing classified information. 

“Accordingly, to prevail on his motion to dismiss, Bolton must show either that he did not have those obligations or, even if he had them, that he did not breach them,” Lamberth wrote, ultimately concluding Bolton failed to clear that legal threshold. 

In passing down the decision, the judge noted that his consideration of the motion to dismiss allowed him to only weigh the allegations in the government’s complaint, not Bolton’s contradictory arguments. 

The former White House adviser’s memoir paints Trump as “stunningly uninformed,” claiming he is paranoid about conspiracies, veers off course during intelligence briefings and pleaded with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2019 to help him win reelection. 

“I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations,” Bolton wrote in the 577-page book. 

With the explosive memoir already widely available, the government is seeking all royalties Bolton takes in from its publication in a final ruling from the Washington federal court. 

The ex-Trump adviser had argued last month that the court granting such relief would violate his right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

But the judge hit back on Thursday, writing the defendant’s argument makes clear that Bolton “misapprehends” the nature of a constructive trust where the funds would be deposited, and protections on disseminating classified information.

“Though the result might feel like a punishment to Bolton, a constructive trust is an equitable remedy. And equity does not punish,” Lamberth wrote. 

If the government in the end proves its case, the First Amendment will provide Bolton no protection, the judge added, for improperly disclosing classified information.

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