Judge Royce Lamberth, a federal district court judge in Washington, D.C., has denied the Trump administration’s request to block publication of John Bolton’s book. Judge Lamberth, a conservative appointed by Ronald Reagan, found that publication risks U.S. national security by disclosing classified information. However, he concluded that, as he said at oral argument, “the horse is already out of the barn.”
Lamberth explained that the book’s details are now publicly available thanks to media reports, and that the whole thing could be be distributed via the internet even if he ruled that it can’t be published. Thus, he decided that “for reasons that hardly need to be stated, the Court will not order a nationwide seizure and destruction of a political memoir.”
Lamberth had harsh words for Bolton, however. He wrote:
[Bolton] opted out of the [national security] review process before its conclusion. Unilateral fast-tracking carried the benefit of publicity and sales, and the cost of substantial risk exposure.
This was Bolton’s bet: If he is right and the book does not contain classified information, he keeps the upside mentioned above; but if he is wrong, he stands to lose his profits from the book deal, exposes himself to criminal liability, and imperils national security. Bolton was wrong.
Bolton was also dishonorable, in my view. Unlike some of Bolton’s conservative critics, I don’t have a problem with him writing a kiss-and-tell memoir, provided the account is truthful and he fully complies with the procedural requirements that exist to protect our national security.
But Judge Lamberth, a respected jurist, has concluded that Bolton did not fully comply.
Bolton’s dishonorable behavior should color our view of the veracity of his account — an account that, if press reports of it are accurate — was already subject to question in my view.
NOTE: I have revised this post slightly from the original.