Justice Department subpoenas publisher of John Bolton's tell-all book about Trump, reports say

A copy of “The Room Where It Happened,” by former national security adviser John Bolton is staged by a television crew at the White House on Thursday, June 18, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

The Department of Justice has opened a criminal inquiry related to the publication of former national security advisor John Bolton’s highly critical tell-all book about his time working for President Donald Trump, multiple outlets reported Tuesday.

The Justice Department convened a grand jury and has subpoenaed publisher Simon & Schuster for documents as it investigates whether Bolton, author of “The Room Where it Happened,” mishandled classified information, according to reports from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

The DOJ has also reportedly subpoenaed Javelin, Bolton’s literary agency, for documents.

The subpoenas seek all communications between Bolton and the two companies, the Journal reported. Bolton has not been hit with a subpoena, according to the outlet.

Charles Cooper, an attorney for Bolton, told CNBC in a statement that he had seen the reports of the grand jury subpoenas.

“Ambassador Bolton emphatically rejects any claim that he acted improperly, let alone criminally, in connection with the publication of his book, and he will cooperate fully, as he has throughout, with any official inquiry into his conduct,” Cooper said.

The book was released in June, after a federal judge denied the DOJ’s request to block its publication.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports. Simon & Schuster declined to comment.

The criminal inquiry was made public just seven weeks before Trump will face reelection against Democratic rival Joe Biden. Trump, who has faced allegations of mismanagement and worse from a number of former close advisors, has said that Bolton’s book contains lies “all intended to make me look bad.”

Attorneys for the National Security Council and the Justice Department debated whether opening the investigation would come across as political, according to Times, which cited unnamed officials. But some of the lawyers, according to the Times, pointed to comments from a federal judge in June, who said that the Justice Department’s case seeking to halt the publication of Bolton’s book made some valid points.

U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth wrote in a June ruling against the DOJ that, while he would not stop the presses on Bolton’s tell-all, Bolton had nonetheless “gambled with the national security of the United States” and “exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability.”

Bolton since publishing the memoir has defended himself from criticism from across the political spectrum. Democrats have excoriated Bolton for accusing them in the book of “impeachment malpractice” when he had refused to testify as part of the impeachment proceedings against Trump. The president was impeached in the House on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress but was acquitted in the Senate.

Republicans, meanwhile, have attacked Bolton as a disgruntled ex-employee who was merely trying to profit off his position in power.

“The Room Where it Happened” made a slew of damning allegations about Trump, including that he asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win reelection.

The book was listed among Amazon’s bestsellers even before its release and reportedly sold 780,000 copies in its first week.

Trump on June 23 tweeted that Bolton “is a lowlife who should be in jail, money seized, for disseminating, for profit, highly Classified information.”

Trump in April 2018 had tapped Bolton to succeed H.R. McMaster as national security advisor. The president’s first pick for the role, Michael Flynn, had been fired less than a month into Trump’s presidency.

Bolton had served until September 2019. Trump tweeted at the time that he had fired Bolton, “I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions.” Bolton, however, said he had “offered to resign.”

Earlier this month, Bolton continued to criticize his former boss, telling CNBC that the administration’s “utter lack of strategy” in handling the coronavirus pandemic “made it much worse than it could have been and could foreshadow even more damage.”

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