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The Trump Administration Goes To Court To Try Stop John Bolton's Book Publication

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The Trump administration is suing former national security adviser John Bolton. This is an attempt to stop the publication of Bolton's new book, which is titled "The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir." The book is scheduled to come out next week and has already begun shipping. The lawsuit was filed tonight, and NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas joins us with more.

So hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hello there.

CHANG: What exactly is the Trump administration accusing Bolton of in this complaint?

LUCAS: The Justice Department says in its lawsuit that Bolton's book is rife with classified information and that its publication would harm U.S. national security. It says disclosing classified information would violate agreements that Bolton signed when he became national security adviser. The department alleges that Bolton didn't complete what's called a pre-publication review to make sure that the manuscript doesn't contain any sort of classified information. The department says that Bolton basically walked away from that process before it was completed. And so the department wants the court to order Bolton to complete that review, which would mean putting a hold on the book's release, which is, as you noted, currently scheduled for next week. The Justice Department also wants the court to order Bolton to do everything in his power to prevent the book as currently written from being released and to get the publisher, basically, to claw back the copies that are already out the door. And the order is also looking - and the department is also looking for an order that any proceeds from the book go to the government not to Bolton.

CHANG: And has Bolton responded to this lawsuit yet?

LUCAS: There has been no immediate comment from Bolton's lawyer, Charles Cooper. But in the past, Cooper has said that this book does not contain classified information. He said that Bolton submitted the manuscript to the National Security Council in late December to vet. He said Bolton went through it almost line by line with the National Security Council official in charge of that and that Bolton made changes that were requested. Cooper has accused the administration of, basically, using classified information as a pretext to try to censor Bolton, to try to prevent what may be embarrassing information to the administration from reaching the public. The book was originally supposed to come out in March. It was twice delayed because of alleged classification issues, and it's now scheduled, as we said, to be released next week. And copies, as you noted, have already been printed and shipped to distributors.

CHANG: Well, what has President Trump personally said about the book so far?

LUCAS: The president has fumed about Bolton himself for months now, since Bolton left the administration. And Trump has been pretty clear for a while that he doesn't want this book to see the light of day. He did a bit of an extended riff on the topic earlier this week. And in that riff, the president said that he thought Bolton should face what he called criminal liability over this book. Now, as national security adviser, Bolton was privy to high-level discussions. He served as national security adviser for 18 months. He was a firsthand witness to President Trump and his actions, how the president handled relations with, say, North Korea, with Russia, with China and also, of course, with U.S. allies, including Ukraine. Trump's pushing Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, actions for which Trump was ultimately impeached for. So taking all of that into account, it's clear why Trump, perhaps, is nervous about this book being released. But what's unclear is whether the Justice Department's lawsuit here is actually going to succeed in preventing that from happening.

CHANG: We will have to wait and see. That is NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas.

Thank you, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.