Bolton book can be released, but conduct 'raises grave national security concerns'

Bolton can publish book, judge rules

A federal judge ruled Saturday that former national security adviser John Bolton may move forward in publishing his memoir "The Room Where It Happened," while at the same time arguing Bolton's conduct in releasing the book "raises grave national security concerns."

"For reasons that hardly need to be stated, the Court will not order a nationwide seizure and destruction of a political memoir.," D.C. district judge Royce Lamberth said in his ruling Friday. "In taking it upon himself to publish his book without securing final approval from national intelligence authorities, Bolton may indeed have caused the country irreparable harm. But in the Internet age, even a handful of copies in circulation could irrevocably destroy confidentiality."

The ruling is only a temporary victory for Bolton, in that the civil case brought by the government against him over his alleged breach of his non-disclosure agreement remains ongoing. In his ruling, Lamberth strongly indicates Bolton's hopes of keeping profits from the book are not only endangered, but he could potentially face criminal prosecution for disclosure of classified information.

"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," Lamberth says.

Lamberth, who was given a private review Friday of information identified by the government in Bolton's book that it has argued remains classified, said in his ruling that the review left him "persuaded that Defendant Bolton likely jeopardized national security by disclosing classified information in violation of his nondisclosure agreement obligations."

"We welcome today’s decision by the Court denying the Government’s attempt to suppress Ambassador Bolton’s book," Bolton's attorney Chuck Cooper said in a statement to ABC News. "We respectfully take issue, however, with the Court’s preliminary conclusion at this early stage of the case that Ambassador Bolton did not comply fully with his contractual prepublication obligation to the Government, and the case will now proceed to development of the full record on that issue."

Cooper added, "The full story of these events has yet to be told—but it will be."

President Trump took to Twitter to offer his own reaction to the ruling, describing it as a "BIG WIN" even though the judge denied the Justice Department's motion to halt the book's release.

Instead, Trump zeroed in on Lamberth's comments that Bolton's book may have unlawfully disclosed classified information.

Lamberth was considering an extraordinary request from the DOJ that would have carried sweeping constitutional implications -- the department sought an injunction that would bar Bolton's publisher, along with thousands of distributors and bookstores around the country already in possession of Bolton's memoir, from selling it to customers next Tuesday.

The Justice Department, citing sworn statements from a cadre of the nation's top intelligence officials, argued the book still contains multiple paragraphs-worth of classified information and could cause "grave" damage to U.S. national security if released.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a written statement Saturday that the U.S. government "intends to hold Bolton to the further requirements of his agreements and to ensure that he receives no profits from his shameful decision to place his desire for money and attention ahead of his obligations to protect national security."

She quoted the judge’s comments that raised national security concerns, saying: "Bolton bet wrong, and the downside of his losing bet is that he 'stands to lose his profits from the book deal, exposes himself to criminal liability, and imperils national security.'"

ABC News' Ben Gittleson contributed to this report