WASHINGTON – A federal judge cleared the way for publication of a book critical of Donald Trump written by former White House national security adviser John Bolton, ruling that with numerous copies already distributed, it would be futile to stop it.
“With hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe – many in newsrooms – the damage is done,” wrote Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia. “There is no restoring the status quo.”
But the judge also sharply rebuked Bolton for not following the government’s prepublication clearance protocols regarding potentially classified material and suggested he could lose his $2 million advance for the book, titled, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir”.
“Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States,” the judge wrote. “He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability. But these facts do not control the motion before the court. The government has failed to establish that an injunction will prevent irreparable harm.”
President Donald Trump quickly weighed in on Twitter, calling the ruling a “big court win” against Bolton who, he said, will have a “really big price to pay.”
“He likes dropping bombs on people, and killing them,” the president wrote. “Now he will have bombs dropped on him!”
‘Driven by re-election’: John Bolton book accuses Trump of seeking foreign help for political gain
Bolton attorney Charles Cooper, meanwhile, said his client broke no rules:
“We welcome today’s decision by the Court denying the Government’s attempt to suppress Ambassador Bolton’s 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. The full story of these events has yet to be told – but it will be.”
Trump’s Justice Department had goneto court this week to block publication, saying Bolton’s manuscript contained classified information. In its lawsuit, the administration accused Bolton of breach of contract by seeking to publish the book before the review process was complete.
Bolton and his supporters described the lawsuit as an effort to suppress the book and punish the author over the many criticisms of Trump.
In his ruling, Lamberth criticized Bolton for not waiting until the completion of the review process.
“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,” the judge wrote.
Legal and political analysts mocked Trump’s optimistic assessment of the ruling and said he is simply seeking revenge against his former national security adviser.
“Trump is Nixon without the charm or finesse,” said John J. Pitney Jr., professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College in California. “His goal is to make an example of a critic.”
Bradley P. Moss, a national security lawyer, said it’s a win for Bolton and the first amendment, and a loss for Trump.
“The book is still coming out,” Moss said, and Trump “has helped make it must read material.”
The book is set to be released Tuesday. In it, the former national security adviser accused Trump of making foreign policy decisions based solely on what would benefit him politically.
Bolton also wrote that Trump had suggested a willingness to interfere with criminal investigations of foreign companies in order to appeal to foreign leaders, including those in China and Turkey. He wrote that Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to buy more American agriculture products because it would help him with U.S. farmers who are key to his re-election.
In promoting the White House memoir, the publisher Simon & Schuster said Bolton describes a president “for whom getting reelected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation.”
Bolton wrote that he was that he was “hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations.”
Contributing: The Associated Press