Bolton lawyer tells judge his client 'utterly powerless' to stop tell-all book's circulation

Bolton lawyer says 'Horse is out of the barn'

Updated: June 19, 2020 - 1:59pm

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A lawyer for former national security adviser John Bolton on Friday argued before a district judge that his client is "utterly powerless" to stop the widespread circulation of his tell-all book, urging the court to dismiss the Trump administration's attempt to halt publication of the book.

The administration has sued to block the release of the book, arguing it contains classified information that necessitates the use of prior restraint, a high bar for governments to clear under First Amendment jurisprudence. 

In addition to arguing that the book's material is suitable for publication, attorney Charles Cooper told Judge Royce Lamberth of the D.C. District Court that "the horse is out of the barn" on the matter of the book's becoming part of the public record. Numerous journalists and media outlets around the country have already received advance copies of the account. 

"This isn't really a judicial proceeding," Cooper told Lamberth. "It doesn't actually have as its purpose convincing you to order John Bolton to do something that he is utterly powerless to do, and that you are utterly powerless to force him to do," namely pull the book from general circulation.

Justice Department lawyer David Morrell urged Lamberth to direct Bolton to halt publication "and further dissemination" of the book prior to further review. Morrell said Bolton committed a "flagrant breach" of proper protocol in seeking to publish the alleged classified material. 

Bolton's attorneys in an earlier filing had urged Lamberth to toss the suit, claiming that the memoir – which reveals alleged incidents witnessed by Bolton during his tenure at the White House from April 2018 to September 2019 – is protected speech under the First Amendment.

"It is difficult to conceive of speech that is closer to the core of the First Amendment than speech concerning presidential actions in office, including actions at the heart of the president’s impeachment," the filing states. 

Responding to the government's claims of classified information in the manuscript, the filing said that Bolton "diligently and conscientiously attempted to avoid including anything in the book that would reveal classified information."

Bolton "submitted the manuscript to the National Security Council ... for prepublication security review," it argued.

Yet Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe argued in his own filing this week that numerous passages in the book, “if made public, will damage national security.”

“The type of classified information in these passages is the type of information that foreign adversaries of the United States seek to obtain, at great cost, through covert intelligence collection," Ratcliffe wrote. 

National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone, meanwhile, also argued against the book's publications, stating in an affidavit that he had "identified classified information in [a] portion” of Bolton’s manuscript.

“… I have determined that the unauthorized disclosure of the classified information in the draft manuscript reasonably could be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States,” he wrote. 

Trump on Thursday referred to Bolton as a "wacko" and a "disgruntled boring fool" and claimed his book is "made up of lies & fake stories."

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