A copy of John Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened, stands in the White House briefing room. On Saturday, a federal judge declined the Trump administration’s request to block the publication of the former national security adviser’s book.
The release of former national security adviser John Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened, remains on track after a federal judge on Saturday rejected the Trump administration’s request to block its release.
Judge Royce Lamberth of the D.C. District Court said that Bolton may still be facing legal jeopardy, and that because of a rush to print, it was likely that his book contained classified information.
But with hundreds of thousands of copies of the book already out for sale, according to its publisher, the judge ruled that the administration’s efforts had come too late. “The damage is done,” he wrote in a 10-page opinion.
“Defendant Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States. He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability,” Lamberth concluded. “But these facts do not control the motion before the Court. The government has failed to establish that an injunction will prevent irreparable harm.”
The Justice Department had sought a temporary restraining order against Bolton and his publisher, Simon & Schuster, citing what it called the presence of classified information in Bolton’s manuscript. But the book already has been widely distributed and reported on, and it is scheduled to be released Tuesday.
“We are grateful that the Court has vindicated the strong First Amendment protections against censorship and prior restraint of publication,” the publisher said in a statement shared Saturday with NPR. “We are very pleased that the public will now have the opportunity to read Ambassador Bolton’s account of his time as National Security Advisor.”
Simon & Schuster previously said the injunction “would accomplish nothing.”
Indeed, a number of the book’s most damaging allegations against Trump are free to find in a variety of media outlets, with the book already widely reviewed — including by NPR.
Bolton, who served in the administration for nearly a year and a half, alleges a wide array of indiscretions and outright violations of law, including promising favors to foreign leaders for help with Trump’s reelection and conducting “obstruction of justice as a way of life” at the White House.
The president and other deputies have denied the claims made in the book and dismissed them as “lies and fake stories.” And despite the judge’s ruling, the president sought to frame the decision on Saturday as a “BIG COURT WIN”.
Trump tweeted that although it was too late for the judge to stop the book’s release, Lamberth’s rebukes of Bolton offered vindication for the administration.
“Bolton broke the law and has been called out and rebuked for so doing, with a really big price to pay,” the president said. “He likes dropping bombs on people, and killing them. Now he will have bombs dropped on him!”
In a statement, Bolton’s legal team said it welcomed the judge’s decision “denying the Government’s attempt to suppress” publication of the book.
“We respectfully take issue, however, with the Court’s preliminary conclusion at this early stage of the case that Ambassador Bolton did not comply fully with his contractual prepublication obligation to the Government, and the case will now proceed to development of the full record on that issue,” according to the statement.
“The full story of these events has yet to be told — but it will be.”
Trump hired the George W. Bush administration veteran as his third national security adviser in 2018. But the two men clashed repeatedly over foreign policy and split in a flurry of acrimony last fall. Trump says he fired Bolton; Bolton says he offered to resign first.