WASHINGTON (CN) — The White House sued former national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday to block the release of his book “The Room Where It Happened,” alleging it contains top-secret information.
With the manuscript set to release on June 23, the Justice Department is seeking an injunction to block Bolton’s book from hitting the shelves. The White House claims the firsthand account from the former top-level adviser contains passages — some several paragraphs long — of classified information.
“Accordingly, the publication and release of ‘The Room Where It Happened’ would cause irreparable harm, because the disclosure of instances of classified information in the manuscript reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage, or exceptionally grave damage, to the national security of the United States,” the 27-page complaint states.
The hotly debated manuscript, a 500-page draft book worth an estimated $2 million, took center stage at President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, when Democrats failed to secure the votes to subpoena Bolton to testify on what he witnessed inside the Oval Office.
The complaint filed in federal court in Washington follows warning from Trump on Monday that Bolton would face “criminal problems” for publishing allegedly classified information, with the president claiming “any conversation with me is classified.”
The administration is accusing Bolton of violating his non-disclosure agreement, claiming he broke rank during the prepublication review by the White House National Security Council.
“The content of ‘The Room Where it Happened’ is covered by defendant’s NDAs, and the book as submitted for pre-publication review contained classified information that has not been publicly acknowledged or previously released,” the complaint states.
Urging a federal judge to take immediate action, the Justice Department is requesting an order for Bolton to instruct his publisher, Simon & Schuster, to “take any and all available steps to retrieve and dispose of any copies.”
The breach-of-contract lawsuit, signed off on by Joseph Hunt, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, also seeks an accounting of all profits from the book, currently available for pre-order.
“Defendant has been, and will continue in the future to be, unjustly enriched in the amount of profits, advances, royalties, and other advantages resulting from the publicity given to the unauthorized disclosure of the draft of his book,” the complaint states.
The Justice Department also calls out Bolton for distributing his manuscript to his attorney, publisher, numerous friends and members of the news media before the White House signed off on sharing the information.
Bolton’s attorney Charles Cooper did not respond to a request for comment on the complaint filed Tuesday afternoon.
Cooper has claimed that Ellen Knight, the National Security Council’s senior director for prepublication review, told his client on April 27 that she had passed along “the last edit I really have to provide for you,” then stopped communicating with Bolton by May 7.
On June 8, John Eisenberg, White House deputy counsel for national security — identified in the complaint as “legal advisor to the NSC” — wrote to Bolton that he could not publish or disseminate the manuscript because the current draft contained classified information.
“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 in the Wall Street Journal last week.
The complaint outlines further communication between Eisenberg and Bolton, the last falling on June 11, when the NSC official wrote to the ousted adviser warning that the book’s “unauthorized disclosure” in under two weeks could “reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security.”