The Justice Department has closed its criminal investigation into whether a derogatory memoir by President Donald J. Trump’s national security adviser John R. Bolton illegally disclosed classified information and closed its lawsuit for recovery of the profits from the book, according to Bolton and a court filing .
The deal ends an attempt that began under the Trump administration to silence Mr Bolton and sue him over the book’s profits. The termination of both the investigation and the lawsuit is a clear reprimand from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland over the Trump Justice Department’s tactics on the matter.
“We have argued from the start that none of the measures were justified as they were only initiated because of President Trump’s politically motivated order to prevent the ambassador’s book from being published before the 2020 elections,” said Bolton’s attorney Charles J. Cooper .
In closing the lawsuit, Cooper said, “The Justice Department has tacitly acknowledged that President Trump and his White House officials acted illegally.”
A Justice Department deal should protect Trump administration officials from having to answer questions about their tenure under oath. A federal judge had given Mr. Cooper permission to begin dismissing these officers, but a settlement would end this lawsuit.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
Legal action against Mr Bolton began last year after Mr Trump publicly and privately pressured White House staff and Justice Department officials to use their powers to prevent Mr Bolton from reading his book about his time at the White House by Mr. Trump. “The Room It Happened In.” In June 2020, the Justice Department sued Mr. Bolton for an attempt to stop the publication of the memoirs and recover the profits made from them; a judge ruled that the department could continue to pursue profits but could not stop their publication.
Last September, it was revealed that the Justice Department had opened a criminal investigation into whether Mr Bolton had unlawfully disclosed classified information in the book – an investigation that began after the Trump administration did not stop publication. As part of the investigation, the department issued a grand jury subpoena to the book’s editor, Simon & Schuster, for communications records of the memoir.
Drawing on detailed accounts of Bolton’s tenure as national security advisor, the book portrayed Trump as a corrupt leader who put his personal and financial interests above the country’s national security.
Released in June, it became an instant best-seller and fed an increasingly damaging narrative about Mr Trump during his re-election campaign. The Justice Department continued its lawsuit to seize Mr. Bolton’s profits and the criminal investigation, including the unusual move of Simon & Schuster’s subpoena.
The Biden Justice Department inherited the matter and had spent the past few weeks negotiating the terms of the settlement with Mr Bolton’s legal team, according to one person who was briefed on the matter.
During the transition to president, Biden advisors investigated a number of difficult questions related to Mr. Trump and the way the Justice Department under Attorney General William P. Barr worked that they would likely face after taking office.
From an examination of the publicly available materials on Mr Bolton’s case, the Biden transition advisors concluded that the department had acted in a highly political manner. The ministry, the advisors argued, could allow the book-win lawsuit, but it has the potential to expose unsavory behavior by Trump’s White House and Justice Department. The transition advisors found it inappropriate to simply admit an unsubstantiated case to embarrass the Trump administration, and officials recommended that the department drop it.
The White House’s efforts to meddle in Mr Bolton’s book came to light in September when a career administration official accused Trump advisers of improperly intervening to prevent Mr Bolton’s account of his time as national security advisor published by Mr. Trump.
The officer, a classified book screening specialist named Ellen Knight, said the aides made false claims that Mr. Bolton had leaked classified information and suggested that they retaliate against her if she refused to participate .
She also said an adviser to Mr. Trump “instructed her to withhold any response temporarily” to a request from Mr. Bolton to review a chapter on the president’s dealings with Ukraine to prevent it from being opposed during the first impeachment trial Mr Trump will be released The focus was on allegations that he had abused his powers in conducting foreign policy with the Kiev government.