In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the Justice Department insists that it wants to stop former national security adviser John Bolton from damaging national security by revealing secret information in his forthcoming book. In fact, the primary danger is to President Donald Trump, who, if early leaks are any indication, has much to fear from an unvarnished account of his behavior. The suit is absurd, and the Justice Department should be ashamed to be associated with a clear attempt to harass a man trying to detail Trump’s malfeasance.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that, based on Bolton’s account, Trump pleaded with Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win the 2020 U.S. election, telling Xi during a summit dinner last year that increased agricultural purchases by Beijing from U.S. farmers would aid Trump’s electoral prospects. Bolton’s manuscript laments that he was unable to relate Trump’s precise words because the administration demanded them struck during a pre-publication review.
Indeed, Bolton worked painstakingly with the National Security Council’s chief classification official to scrub the book, a process that consumed four months. While this review proceeded, Trump insisted that the book must not be published before the November election, and, nonsensically, that all of his conversations with Bolton were classified. Unsurprisingly, after Bolton’s manuscript was scrubbed, another Trump official swooped in to insist that further review was necessary.
The lawsuit could simply be a feeble attempt to mollify Trump, who only likes freedom of speech when the message praises him, and who routinely pressures the Justice Department to help his friends and punish his enemies. But even a long-shot bid to silence a Trump critic may intimidate other disillusioned former officials from revealing disturbing things they saw during their time in the administration, lest the Justice Department sic taxpayer-funded lawyers on them, too.