The Slatest

Trump Is Directly Trying to Block Publication of John Bolton’s Book

Former National Security adviser John Bolton speaks on stage during a public discussion at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina on February 17, 2020.
Former National Security adviser John Bolton speaks on stage during a public discussion at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina on February 17, 2020.
LOGAN CYRUS/Getty Images

President Donald Trump wants the White House to do everything in its power to prevent John Bolton’s highly anticipated book from seeing the light of day. At least until the November election. Sources tell the Washington Post that Trump has been directly involved in the process of reviewing the book by his former national security adviser, insisting that everything he said to Bolton while they were both working at the White House should be considered classified.

The president’s view on the book marks a stark contrast from the official White House line. Although the National Security Council had already told Bolton that the draft of his book seemed to “contain significant amounts of classified information,” officials vowed to assist him in making sure that he was able to revise it and get it published “as expeditiously as possible.”

Trump, however, seems to have a very different idea of what should happen, telling aides that the book cannot contain any of the president’s comments related to national security. By these accounts, the president seems decidedly obsessed and frequently brings up the book with aides. Trump isn’t being subtle about his dislike for his former aide, going as far as to call him a “traitor” during an off-the-record lunch with national television anchors earlier this month. “We’re going to try and block the publication of the book,” Trump reportedly said at the lunch. “After I leave office, he can do this. But not in the White House.” The president seems quite angry at Bolton, claiming that he turned on him and is “just making things up.”

The book is scheduled for release March 17 and all this talk about it is only likely to increase sales. But Bolton and his publisher would be taking a big risk if they went ahead with publication without approval from the National Security Council. Doing so could even open Bolton up to the possibility of a criminal investigation. There is a recent example that shows the risk of moving ahead with publication without the proper clearance. When Matt Bissonnette, a former Navy Seal, wrote a book about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden without Pentagon clearance he ended up reaching a settlement to forfeit $6.8 million in book royalties and speaking fees. Bissonnette later said he regretted not submitting his manuscript for vetting by the Pentagon. “I acknowledge my mistake and have paid a stiff price, both personally and financially, for that error,” he said. “I accept responsibility for failing to submit the book for review and apologize sincerely for my oversight.”