WASHINGTON (PNN) - January 29, 2020 - The White House has informed former national security adviser John Bolton that his book manuscript appeared to contain “significant amounts of classified information” and could not be published in its current form.
The letter from the White House National Security Council to Bolton's attorney, Charles Cooper, said the manuscript contained some material that was considered “TOP SECRET”.
“Under federal law and the nondisclosure agreements your client signed as a condition for gaining access to classified information, the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information,” the letter said.
The directive from the NSC that the book “may not be published” stands to have an immediate impact on the impeachment proceedings currently underway in the Senate.
Republican senators are grappling with Democrat demands that the Senate subpoena Bolton to answer questions about Ukraine outlined in his manuscript.
One GOP senator even floated the idea of obtaining the Bolton manuscript and putting it in a room where senators could view it - which could be done if a sign-off on classification was provided for viewing in a secure room.
At the trial Trump's attorneys were asked exactly when the White House counsel's office - which is led by Pat Cipollone, who is leading Trump's defense - knew about Bolton's manuscript.
Deputy White House Counsel Patrick Philbin said he did not know.
The answer is likely to be pursued further by Democrats.
House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff of Kalifornia referenced the Bolton book on the Senate floor just minutes after news broke about the White House classification demand.
“Don’t wait for the book. Don’t wait for March 17 when it is in black and white,” he urged senators, pleading with them to allow Bolton to speak.
Many authors who seek to write about matters that raise issues of classification go back and forth with government authorities seeking to publish material. But seeking advance approval is essential.
A Navy SEAL who wrote about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden was ordered to pay $6.8 million to the government for failing to get pre-publication approval.
According to a paper submitted to the National Intelligence University, it took about a year for a special committee to provide approval for former CIA Director George Tenet to publish his memoir.
A long battle between Bolton and his publisher and an NSC review board could easily put publication beyond impeachment and the November elections, complicated by the fact that some of Bolton's writings made their way to The New York Times, which published them.
Senate Republicans have been unable to reach consensus on whether to demand an appearance by Bolton. Three of them - Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah - issued a joint question during Wednesday's trial. The trio are considered the most likely to push for witnesses that would include Bolton, although a fourth senator's vote would be needed to prevail.
President Donald Trump began Wednesday by trashing Bolton and the book, which he called a “nasty & untrue book.” The president added, “All Classified National Security.”
The prospect of a lengthy classification fight adds to a looming battle over executive privilege that the president's lawyers have already referenced on the floor. Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin told senators Wednesday on a question about hearing from Bolton and other witnesses, “This institution will be effectively paralyzed for months-on-end.”
Bolton's lawyer, Charles Cooper, responded to the NSC with a letter of his own. He asked the office to uphold its offer to conduct its review “as expeditiously as possible.”
He wrote that Bolton was “preparing for that possibility” that he may be called as a witness, that some of the same information contained in the manuscript would come up. Due to the trial, it is “imperative” that the NSC conducts the review “as soon as possible,” he wrote. Failure to complete the review also would hold up publication for Bolton's book, which has already been climbing on best-seller lists with impeachment-driven publicity.
Bolton reportedly got $2 million as part of his book deal.