In his long-awaited answer to the government's civil complaint, former national security adviser John Bolton denied that he broke any laws in publishing his bestselling memoir The Room Where It Happened, and formally demanded a jury trial. But with a Department of Justice motion for Summary Judgment now pending before the court, it's unclear whether a jury will get the case any time soon.
Bolton's answer to the government's complaint comes after federal judge Royce Lamberth on October 1 denied Bolton's bid to have the case against him dismissed and ordered the author to file his answer to the suit by October 15.
As is usual with such filings, Bolton's answer responds to the government's complaint paragraph by paragraph, admitting or denying assertions in the government's complaint. But the filing offers numerous legal defenses, and in sum reiterates Bolton's main argument: that he did not share any properly classified information; that his manuscript was cleared for publication by government officials; and, crucially, that the government effectively invalidated its own nondisclosure agreements through its “bad faith abuse of the pre-publication review process.”
In its suit, the DoJ is seeking to seize Bolton's royalties, alleging that Bolton did in fact share classified information. But most importantly, the DOJ case rests on its claim that Bolton clearly breached his nondisclosure agreements which explicitly required the author to await a written clearance before publishing his book. Lawyers for the DoJ told the court that it does not matter whether the government was acting in bad faith or not, or even whether Bolton actually shared classified information. “Our position is clear,” DoJ lawyers told the court, “the breach occurs regardless of whether there actually was classified information in the manuscript.”
Meanwhile, after a hearing last month, Lamberth is poised to rule any day now on a DoJ motion for summary judgment in the case. If granted, that motion would effectively decide the case for the government, and, pending an appeal, would enable the government to begin the process of seizing Bolton's royalties. Bolton has asked the court to deny, or at least delay ruling on the DoJ's motion for summary judgment and to instead order discovery in the case, arguing that the evidence would show that the government effectively invalidated the nondisclosure agreements by acting in bad faith.
Adding to the intrigue surrounding the case is a bombshell letter filed with the court ahead of last month's hearing by attorneys for Ellen Knight, the National Security Council official who led the prepublication review of Bolton's book. In the19-page letter, Knight bolstered the author's claims of bad faith, confirming that the book was in fact cleared after an intensive review process only to be blocked by political appointees who later unsuccessfully pressured Knight to change her story, and eventually removed her from her post when she resisted.
At last month's hearing, however, Lamberth appeared unmoved by the revelations in Knight's letter, suggesting at one point that Knight’s letter was a “political diatribe” that had little bearing on the questions before the court.