John Bolton’s tell-all has already caused major headaches for Donald Trump and it’s still more than a month before publication—or is it? Claiming that the former national security adviser’s forthcoming memoir includes classified, even top secret, information, the administration is attempting to block all or parts of it from being published. “The manuscript appears to contain significant amounts of classified information,” a National Security Council official wrote in a letter to Bolton’s lawyer dated January 23, three days before the New York Times revealed explosive claims from the book. “The manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information.”
It’s not clear what, specifically, the White House objected to, or if information already reported by the Times and other outlets is among the material the it demands be removed. But the White House’s effort to interfere with publication of The Room Where It Happened comes as Trump escalates his attacks on Bolton and as leaked details disrupt what’s been expected to be a speedy Senate trial. On Wednesday, Trump claimed that Bolton “begged” him for America’s top national security job and that he offered it against his and his aides’ better judgment. And now, the president added, Bolton has written a “nasty & untrue book” revealing “Classified National Security.”
Bolton, who left the administration last fall, reportedly claimed in an unpublished manuscript that Trump directly linked Congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine’s president announcing investigations into Joe Biden and a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election. The Trump administration has sought to portray Bolton as a bitter ex-employee, but the revelations have led Mitt Romney and some other Republicans to consider introducing witnesses, like the former national security adviser, to the president’s impeachment trial.
While even Bolton’s testimony may not be enough to convict Trump, and the trial will likely be over by the time his book is due to hit shelves in March, a firsthand account alleging presidential wrongdoing or ineptitude from a staunch conservative could damage Trump’s standing with some as he runs for reelection. Trump may suggest Bolton never raised concerns until now— something House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engelstrongly disputes—but he’s unlikely to win a credibility contest against his former adviser outside of loyal precincts like Fox News. If The White House fails to prevent Bolton from publishing his book, it could backfire on Trump, building even more anticipation for its release than the Times’ blockbuster already has. As Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty noted, the advertising copy writes itself: “THE BOOK THE WHITE HOUSE DOESN'T WANT YOU TO READ!”
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