Criminal inquiry into former Trump adviser John Bolton’s book

Justice Department examining if memoir disclosed classified information

John Bolton, former national security adviser to US president Donald Trump. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times.

John Bolton, former national security adviser to US president Donald Trump. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times.


The US Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into whether president Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton unlawfully disclosed classified information in a memoir this summer.

An inquiry began after the department failed to stop the book’s publication, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The department has convened a grand jury, which issued a subpoena for communications records from Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Mr Bolton’s memoir, The Room Where It Happened. The Javelin Agency, which represents Mr Bolton, also received a subpoena, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry is a significant escalation of the turmoil over the publication of the book, which gave a highly unflattering account of Mr Bolton’s 17 months in the White House and prompted Mr Trump to attack him and call for his prosecution.

The disclosures about the criminal investigation into Mr Bolton’s memoir come amid a flurry of other new books by onetime Trump advisers, former law enforcement officials, journalists and others that are critical of the president and reveal harsh new details about his 2016 campaign and his first term ahead of him seeking reelection.

Emphatically rejects

Mr Bolton denied that he published classified information. “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,” his lawyer Charles J. Cooper said in a statement.

Mr Bolton’s account of his time working for Mr Trump and his efforts to get the book published set off storm. He confirmed elements of the Ukraine scheme that prompted the president’s impeachment, wrote that the president was willing to intervene in criminal investigations to curry favor with foreign dictators and said he sought China’s help in winning reelection.

Mr Cooper has accused the administration of slow-walking the review process to keep Mr Bolton from revealing embarrassing information about Mr Trump. However, administration officials have said they uncovered legitimate instances of unauthorised disclosures of classified information.

Mr Trump has made clear that he wants his former aide prosecuted. He has said on Twitter that Mr Bolton “broke the law” and “should be in jail, money seized, for disseminating, for profit, highly classified information”. He has also called Mr Bolton “a dope,” “incompetent” and the book “a compilation of lies and made up stories, all intended to make me look bad”.


Lawyers for the National Security Council and the department expressed reservations about opening a criminal case, in part because Mr Trump’s public statements made it seem like an overtly political act, according to two officials briefed on the discussions. But others noted that the federal judge in the lawsuit this summer said Mr Bolton may have broken the law, and that the case had merit.

The president hired Mr Bolton, a combative, hard-line adviser, in 2018 to tackle mounting challenges from Iran, North Korea and other adversaries. As has been the case with Mr Trump and other aides, their relationship eventually soured as Mr Bolton tried to keep the president from making what he viewed as unsound deals with American enemies and Mr Trump chafed at the approach.

Mr Bolton, the ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, left the White House a year ago and signed a deal last fall with Simon & Schuster to write a memoir of his time there. - New York Times