National security adviser Robert O’Brien doubted that anyone at the NSC is responsible for details in John Bolton’s book leaking out during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday morning.
When CBS’ Margaret Brennan asked about the White House’s effort to block parts of his predecessor Bolton’s book and the NSC’s insistence that the book contains significant amounts of classified material — which Bolton’s lawyers have denied — O’Brien didn’t directly address whether he has reviewed the book personally.
“So here’s the thing, the book is — I want to be very careful about talking about this because it could end up in judicial proceedings or litigation,” O’Brien said.
Brennan then pressed O’Brien on whether this means that the White House is prepared to block the release of Bolton’s book.
“Well here’s the thing: when Ambassador Bolton came in or when I came in and you’re read into sensitive, compartmented, classified programs and you see classified documents and you’re involved in meetings where state secrets are discussed, you sign a document, a nondisclosure agreement saying that you won’t disclose that material,” O’Brien said. “If you want to write a book afterwards or you want to give a speech or publish an article, you have to put that through the review process. And there are career professionals who go through the manuscript and, very carefully, and determine whether there’s classified material.”
O’Brien added that said career professionals “have been in touch with Ambassador Bolton’s lawyer and they’ll continue to be in touch,” before he clarified that they’ve been in touch since the NSC’s letter this week but that the NSC needs to “make sure that state secrets and important classified information that could jeopardize American lives are not released.”
When Brennan asked if anyone in the NSC leaked details of Bolton’s book — which include the claim that President Trump directed Bolton to help Rudy Giuliani pressure the Ukrainian government into digging up false allegations against his political rivals — O’Brien said that he’s “very confident” that no one at the NSC leaked it and that he has asked members of the NSC about it.
Asked if anyone on the NSC can verify what Bolton has alleged in his book, and whether Bolton “memorialized these conversations he says he witnessed between the President and others telling him to get involved with Giuliani,” O’Brien responded that he thinks the kind of notes Bolton possibly took is “something that’s going to be investigated.”
O’Brien then pointed to denials by Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Bolton’s allegations that Trump directed him to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“And so, look, it’s always disappointing when someone who has access to the most confidential, close information, a close relationship with the President, decides to leave the White House and do a tell all-book,” O’Brien said. “Look, if someone has political differences, that’s fine. We’ve got to be careful about the classified information.”
Watch O’Brien’s remarks below:
O'Brien says he's "very confident" that leaks of Bolton's book did not come from NSC pic.twitter.com/S0BY1lnK3a
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) February 2, 2020