WASHINGTON – White House aides improperly intervened to prevent a manuscript by President Donald Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton from becoming public, a career official said in a letter filed in court Wednesday, accusing them of making false assertions that he had revealed classified material and suggesting that they retaliated when she refused to go along.
The disclosures by the official who oversaw the book's prepublication review, Ellen Knight, were the latest in a series of accounts by current and former executive branch officials as the election nears accusing the president and his aides of putting his personal and political goals ahead of the public interest and an evenhanded application of the rule of law.
In an extraordinary 18-page document, a lawyer for Knight portrays the Trump administration as handling its response to the book in bad faith. Her account implied that the Justice Department may have told a court that the book contains classified information — and opened a criminal investigation into Bolton — based on false pretenses.
She also said an aide to Trump also "instructed her to temporarily withhold any response" to a request from Bolton to review a chapter on Trump's dealings with Ukraine so it could be released during the impeachment trial, wrote Knight's lawyer, Kenneth L. Wainstein.
He said that his client had determined in April that Bolton's book, "The Room Where It Happened," no longer contained any classified information, but the "apolitical process" was then "commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose" to go after Bolton. The actions she was asked to take were "unprecedented in her experience," the letter said.
Knight said that political appointees repeatedly asked her to sign a declaration to use against Bolton that made false assertions. She said that after her refusal, she was reassigned from the White House despite earlier expectations that she would transition to a permanent position there.
The Justice Department defended the White House's decision to deem the materials in Bolton's book classified, citing sworn statements by national security officials.