the fish cannot be unfried
June 19, 2020

The federal government's crackdown on former National Security Adviser John Bolton's new book is heavy on retrospect.

For starters, the Department of Justice started its attempt to prevent Bolton's book from getting published just a day before it ended up in the hands of journalists. And, as the DOJ admitted in a Friday filing, parts of Bolton's book weren't even classified until the government got its first look at it, Politico reports.

The DOJ's main argument for suppressing the publication and distribution of The Room Where It Happened is that it contains classified information, and that Bolton didn't submit it for a proper review. But several officials did get a look at it — including one who read the book before parts of it ended up classified, the DOJ said Friday during a hearing with Bolton's legal team and the judge overseeing their case.

Current National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien then tasked National Security Council's Senior Director for Intelligence Michael Elliot with a second review of the book. But Elliot had only been on the job for two months when he started reading it, and didn't receive his classification training until the day after he finished.

Even after all of these government missteps — and after 200,000 copies of the book had been distributed — the DOJ argued Friday that Bolton should still be issued an injunction against its publication so he can "focus" on stemming its further spread. Kathryn Krawczyk

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