Sources: Bolton in legal jeopardy over leaks, may lose security clearance

by WorldTribune Staff, February 3, 2020

The Department of Justice may move to revoke the security clearance and file a lawsuit against former national security adviser John Bolton if it can prove he circulated the manuscript of his book before the required pre-publication review was finalized, sources say.

Bolton will almost certainly have his security clearance revoked once the Senate impeachment trial is over, two government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity told RealClearPolitics.

Former national security adviser John Bolton. / Gage Skidmore / CC-BY SA 2.0

The March 17 publication date of Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened”, is in doubt after the White House requested that Bolton remove material it considers classified. The White House rejected an argument from Bolton’s attorney, Charles Cooper, who said on Sunday that it is his and the author’s “firm belief that the manuscript contained no information that could reasonably be considered classified.”

If it finds the manuscript was distributed before the review, the DOJ could sue to confiscate any proceeds from the book, the RealClearPolitics report said. Based on pre-orders, the book is already the No. 1 Amazon bestseller.

Several media outlets have reported that Bolton circulated a draft manuscript of the book containing the Trump-Ukraine quid pro quo arguments to close associates before delivering it to the White House Records Management Directorate for pre-publication review.

“If your manuscript includes classified information, then you’re committing a felony by passing it around,” a former White House official told RealClearPolitics.

Bolton has denied leaking book excerpts to The New York Times “or anyone else.”

The Times reported that Bolton’s book contained a conversation in which President Donald Trump told Bolton he wanted to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid from Ukraine until the country’s leaders agreed to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden’s dealings there.

The president and his supporters denounced the leaks as Bolton’s effort to plug his book which was essentially written as revenge for his being fired by Trump.

Trump tweeted last week that Bolton was “fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we’d be in World War Six by now.”

Trump added that Bolton “begged me for a non-Senate approved job and then IMMEDIATELY [wrote] a nasty & untrue book.”

“All Classified National Security. Who would do this?” Trump concluded.

Until Sunday, the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, refused to confirm its existence, even among reports that Bolton received a $2 million advance for writing it. Leaks to the New York Times about the alleged Ukraine revelations came the same day a pre-order notice for it was posted on Amazon.

“I think the timing of all of this is very, very suspect,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News, pointing out that leaks from the book came one day after the Trump’s team delivered legal arguments before the Senate. “And then suddenly, this manuscript has magically appeared in the hands of The New York Times, making very, very big claims.”

Observers also noted the irony in Bolton likely having his security clearance revoked.

In the late summer of 2018, just a few months into his national security adviser tenure, Bolton strongly defended Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who the president has called a “leaker,” “a liar” and ringleader of the debunked Russian collusion investigation.

At the time, Bolton accused Brennan of “politicizing intelligence,” both during the Obama administration and afterward, which he deemed a “very dangerous thing to do.”

“If there is any kind of misconduct, I think there are lots of grounds to have your security clearance revoked for behavior that calls into question your ability to hold the material in confidence,” Bolton told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz. “…For me, the issue is whether he abused information that he attained while he was director of the CIA or he may have attained erroneously or incorrectly after he left.”

Meanwhile, the RealClearPolitics report noted that “Anyone with ties to Bolton who remains on the National Security Council, along with other aides who testified in the House impeachment trial, such as Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (and his twin brother, who also serves on the NSC), are bracing for removal.”

Current national security adviser Robert O’Brien said he plans to drastically downsize the executive council to its lowest staffing in nearly 20 years, arguing in a Washington Post op-ed that the council had “ballooned” under President Obama (George W. Bush had half as many staff members). Some 60 to 70 aides who are set for removal would go back to their home agencies, O’Brien told NPR, bringing the staffing total to just over 100.

The burgeoning size of the NSC has had plenty of critics in Washington over the last decade. The downsizing effort is also aimed at plugging leaks such as the one that led to the impeachment charges against Trump, a former White House official told RealClearPolitics.

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