U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth rejected on Saturday the Justice Department’s emergency request to block the release of former national security adviser John Bolton’s tell-all book.
The ruling will allow the book, titled “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” to be released on Tuesday as scheduled.
Lamberth’s order sidestepped the First Amendment issues at stake in the DOJ’s request. Instead, he focused on the fact that what the government was asking for was unworkable.
The judge said that the DOJ had not proved that the order it was seeking “would prevent irreparable injury.”
“With hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe — many in newsrooms — the damage is done. There is no restoring the status quo,” Lamberth said.
Bolton alleges that the government sought to slow-walk its prepublication review of his book for political reasons. He’s agued that the informal okay he got from a career classification expert was enough for him to release the book. After that expert had finished her review, a political appointee intervened and said there was still more classified information that needed removal.
In his order Saturday, Lamberth previewed extreme skepticism of Bolton’s defense of his behavior.
Noting that Bolton bailed on the review process after four months, Lamberth said, “Many Americans are unable to renew their passports within four months, but Bolton complains that reviewing hundreds of pages of a National Security Advisor’s tell-all deserves a swifter timetable.”
While technically a loss for the Justice Department, Royce had scathing words for Bolton’s conduct and said that the government had convinced him there was still classified information in the book, which put Bolton in violation of his NDAs.
However, on the issue of blocking publication, the judge ultimately concluded that whatever action he tried to take to block publication of the already widely distributed book would be “toothless.” He said that the emergency injunction the DOJ was requesting was an “untimely solution.”
“While Bolton’s unilateral conduct raises grave national security concerns, the government has not established that an injunction is an appropriate remedy,” Lamberth said.
The judge signaled that Bolton is likely to lose in the underlying lawsuit brought by the government, which is seeking to recoup Bolton’s book earnings because he allegedly violated his NDA.
Lamberth also asserted that, having viewed non-public government declarations describing the classified material in Bolton’s book, he is “persuaded that Defendant Bolton likely jeopardized national security by disclosing classified information in violation of his nondisclosure agreement obligations.”
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