WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s last-ditch bid to stop former top aide John Bolton’s book from publication goes to court Friday, even though much of the damning contents, painting the president as corrupt and incompetent, is already out.
A federal court in the capital Washington will hear arguments from the government that ex-national security advisor John Bolton’s “The Room Where it Happened” violates secrecy laws because it was not properly vetted.
Bolton’s side will argue for freedom of speech, saying that the manuscript was in fact put through extensive examination by the White House, which simply doesn’t like the contents. It wasn’t clear when the judge might rule.
The book, scheduled to go to bookstores on Tuesday, is Bolton’s portrait of Trump after seeing him up close for 17 months before he was ousted in September. According to Bolton, a lifelong Republican who stands firmly on the right of the party, Trump is not “fit for office.”
He describes Trump “pleading” with Chinese President Xi Jinping during trade negotiations to boost his chances of re-election this November. He claims that Trump, a real estate tycoon who never held office before winning the White House, was so ignorant that he thought Finland was part of Russia.
Bolton also backs up the allegations at the center of Trump’s impeachment last year that he pressured Ukraine to try and dig up dirt to weaken his Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden.
Not only this, but Trump committed other “Ukraine-like transgressions” in his wielding of foreign policy for personal gain, Bolton alleges.
The Justice Department was granted Friday’s emergency hearing after it sued for a temporary injunction to block the book on national security grounds. The legal maneuver comes late, given that the book has already been printed and sent to warehouses around the world, ready to distribute. Advance copies have been given to the media, resulting in publication of copious extracts.
Bolton himself is on the television interview circuit to promote his work. The sensationally blunt appraisal from someone who had that level of access has rocked the White House when the president is already mired in criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and race tensions.
But Bolton finds himself shunned both by Republicans, who see him as a saboteur, and by Democrats, who blame him for not coming forward earlier – particularly when he had a chance to testify in the impeachment.
The backlash from Trump loyalists and the president himself has been savage. The government could still seek to force Bolton to surrender proceeds or even file charges against him.
Trump called him “a sick puppy,” a “boring fool” and a “washed-up guy.”
“Said all good about me, in print, until the day I fired him,” he tweeted Wednesday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo branded Bolton “a traitor.”
“John Bolton is spreading a number of lies, fully-spun half-truths and outright falsehoods,” Pompeo said in a statement.
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