Former NSC official: White House politicized handling of Bolton book

A former career official with the National Security Council conducted an "apolitical" review of John Bolton's book. Then Team Trump got involved.
Image: National Security Adviser John Bolton stands alongside President Donald Trump as he speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office.
National Security Adviser John Bolton stands alongside President Donald Trump as he speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

Before John Bolton's book was released in June, Team Trump's lawyers went to court in the hopes of derailing publication of the former White House official's work. That effort failed and the book became a bestseller.

Three months later, the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into whether Bolton disclosed classified information when he published his memoir.

Yesterday, this mess got quite a bit messier. The New York Times reported this morning:

White House aides improperly intervened to prevent a manuscript by the former national security adviser John R. Bolton from becoming public, a career official said in a court filing on Wednesday, accusing them of making false assertions and trying to coerce her to join their efforts, and suggesting that they retaliated when she refused.

At issue is an account from Ellen Knight, a former career official with the National Security Council, who was initially responsible for reviewing Bolton's book before its release. After she determined that the text did not include classified information, she believes the process that had been "apolitical" was soon after "commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose" to go after Bolton in ways she described as "unprecedented."

Making matters worse, Knight alleges that Trump aides asked to sign anti-Bolton declarations that included false assertions, and when she balked, she was reassigned from the White House.

Knight paints a particularly unflattering portrait of Michael Ellis, a former member of Rep. Devin Nunes' (R-Calif.) team, who was tasked with doing his own analysis of the book, despite having no background or training in pre-publication reviews.

The Times' report added that Knight's account "implied that the Justice Department may have told a court that the book contains classified information -- and opened a criminal investigation into Mr. Bolton -- based on false pretenses."

It appears this controversy is just getting started.