The White House National Security Council told former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton that he couldn’t publish his book manuscript, now sought by Democrats to bolster their case in President Trump’s impeachment trial, unless he deleted top-secret material.
NSC senior director for records Ellen Knight told Mr. Bolton’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, in a letter obtained by The Washington Times that the book manuscript “appears to contain significant amounts of classified information.”
“It also appears that some of this classified information is at the TOP SECRET level,” she wrote on Jan. 23. “The manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information.”
Three days later, parts of the manuscript were leaked to The New York Times.
The book, titled “The Room Where It Happened,” is due out in March. Mr. Bolton submitted the manuscript to the NSC on Dec. 30, as required, for a pre-publication review.
Even before the NSC’s letter was revealed publicly Wednesday, Mr. Trump tweeted that Mr. Bolton had written a “nasty & untrue book” that contained “All Classified National Security.”
Not only does the manuscript contain classified material, it also purportedly supports Democrats’ impeachment argument that Mr. Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine last summer to compel a corruption probe of Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.
As Democrats clamor for Mr. Bolton’s testimony, a top House Democrat disclosed Wednesday that Mr. Bolton privately urged him in the fall to investigate the administration’s removal of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, said he spoke with Mr. Bolton by phone Sept. 23, a few weeks after Mr. Bolton either quit or was fired by Mr. Trump.
“On that call, Ambassador Bolton suggested to me — unprompted — that the committee look into the recall of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch,” Mr. Engel said in a statement. “He strongly implied that something improper had occurred around her removal as our top diplomat in Kyiv.”
Ms. Yovanovitch was removed from her post in April, witnesses testified in the impeachment inquiry, because the president and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani believed she was impeding their efforts to get the Ukrainian government to probe corruption and Mr. Biden.
Mr. Engel said he was raising the matter now because the president said Mr. Bolton never mentioned any problems about the Ukraine situation when he left his job.
“President Trump is wrong that John Bolton didn’t say anything about the Trump-Ukraine Scandal at the time the president fired him,” Mr. Engel said. “He said something to me.”
Mr. Bolton was the third of the president’s four national security advisers to leave the administration in three years. His 17-month tenure has come back to haunt Mr. Trump. The president made a rare admission Wednesday that appointing Mr. Bolton in April 2018 was a mistake.
Mr. Trump tweeted, “For a guy who couldn’t get approved for the Ambassador to the U.N. years ago, couldn’t get approved for anything since, ‘begged’ me for a non Senate approved job, which I gave him despite many saying ‘Don’t do it, sir,’ takes the job, mistakenly says ‘Libyan Model’ on T.V., and many more mistakes of judgement, gets fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we would be in World War Six by now, and goes out and IMMEDIATELY writes a nasty & untrue book. All Classified National Security.”
As Mr. Engel noted, the president also said that Mr. Bolton didn’t mention any concerns about Ukraine policy when he left his job on unhappy terms.
“Why didn’t John Bolton complain about this ‘nonsense’ a long time ago, when he was very publicly terminated. He said, not that it matters, NOTHING!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Mr. Bolton was criticized in 2018 for referring to the “Libyan model” as a template for the denuclearization of North Korea. U.S. action pressuring Libya to denuclearize led to the country’s destabilization and the killing of its leader, Moammar Gadhafi.
A hawk on Iran and North Korea, Mr. Bolton served as U.N. ambassador under a recess appointment during the administration of President George W. Bush. He left the post with Democrats controlling the Senate and his confirmation unlikely.
The White House and its allies noted Wednesday that Mr. Bolton gave an interview in August in which he said Mr. Trump had conducted two friendly phone calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“They were very warm and cordial calls,” Mr. Bolton told Radio Free Europe. “The success of Ukraine maintaining its freedom, its system of representative government, a free market economy free of corruption and dealing with problems of the Donbas [eastern Ukraine] and the Crimea are high priorities here obviously and high priorities for the United States as well.”
Mr. Engel, the House committee chairman, said he didn’t disclose his private conversation with Mr. Bolton about the Ukraine ambassador at the time, but he had “informed my investigative colleagues.” He it’s one of the reasons that Democrats have been pursuing Mr. Bolton’s testimony in the impeachment case.
“Ambassador Bolton has made clear over the last few months that he has more to say on this issue,” Mr. Engel said. “And now that the president has called his credibility into question, it’s important to set the record straight.”
He said “it’s telling that, of all people, John Bolton is now the target of right-wing ire. It underscores just how important it is that the Senate subpoena Ambassador Bolton as a witness.”
The NSC letter indicates that Mr. Bolton’s lawyer spoke by phone to NSC officials about his book manuscript on Jan. 22. Ms. Knight reminded Mr. Cooper that Mr. Bolton had signed a nondisclosure agreement as a condition for gaining access to classified information.
She said the manuscript “remains under review in order for us to do our best to assist your client by identifying the classified information within the manuscript, while at the same time ensuring that publication does not harm the national security of the United States.”
“We will do our best to work with you to ensure your client’s ability to tell his story in a manner that protects U.S. national security,” the letter states. “We will be in touch with you shortly with additional, more detailed guidance regarding next steps that should enable you to revise the manuscript and move forward as expeditiously as possible.”
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