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Justice Department ends criminal investigation and trial over John Bolton book

The Justice Department has closed its criminal investigation into whether a derogatory brief by President Donald J. Trump’s National Security Advisor John R. Bolton unlawfully disclosed classified information and dropped his lawsuit to recover the book’s profits, according to two people briefed on the matter. and a court record.

The deal ends an effort that began under the Trump administration to silence Mr. Bolton and sue him for the benefits of the book. Ending both the investigation and the trial is a clear rebuke from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland of Trump’s Justice Department tactics on the matter.

A settlement by the Justice Department is likely to protect Trump administration officials from being forced to answer questions about their tenure under oath. A federal judge had given Mr. Bolton’s attorney, Charles J. Cooper, approval to begin filing these officials, but a settlement would end the litigation.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice declined to comment.

The lawsuit against Mr. Bolton began last year after Mr. Trump publicly and privately lobbied White House advisers and Justice Department officials to use their powers to prevent Mr. Bolton from publishing his book on his working time at Mr. Trump’s White House, “The Room Where It Happened. In June 2020, the Justice Department sued Mr. Bolton to end the publication of the briefs and recover the profits it made; a judge ruled that the department could continue to seek the profits but could not stop its publication.

It was revealed last September that the Justice Department had launched a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Bolton unlawfully disclosed classified information in the book – an investigation which began after the Trump administration was unsuccessful to stop its publication. As part of the investigation, the department issued a grand jury subpoena to the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, for communication files on the memoir.

Drawing on detailed accounts of Mr. Bolton’s tenure as a national security adviser, the book portrays Mr. Trump as a corrupt leader who puts his personal and financial interests above the country’s national security.

Released in June, it immediately became a bestseller and fueled an increasingly damaging narrative about Mr. Trump during his re-election campaign. The Justice Department continued its legal action to seize Mr Bolton’s profits and the criminal investigation, including taking the unusual step of subpoenaing Simon & Schuster.

Biden’s Justice Department inherited the case and had spent the past few weeks negotiating the terms of the settlement with Mr Bolton’s legal team, according to a person briefed on the case.

During the presidential transition, Biden’s advisers examined a range of difficult issues related to Mr. Trump and the functioning of the Justice Department under the leadership of Attorney General William P. Barr that they were likely to face afterwards. their entry into office.

From a review of publicly available documents relating to Mr Bolton’s case, Biden’s transition advisers concluded that the ministry had acted in a highly political manner. The department, advisers argued, could allow the book’s profits lawsuit, but had the potential to expose unsavory behavior by the Trump White House and the Justice Department. Transition advisers felt it would be inappropriate to allow a baseless case to continue simply to embarrass the Trump administration, and officials recommended that the ministry drop it.

The White House’s efforts to interfere with Mr. Bolton’s book came to light in September when a career administration official accused Trump’s aides of intervening inappropriately to prevent Mr. Bolton on his time as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser never becomes public.

The official, a classified material book reviewer named Ellen Knight, said assistants made false claims that Mr Bolton disclosed classified material and suggested they retaliated against her when ‘she had refused to participate.

She also said that an aide to Mr. Trump “asked her to temporarily suspend any response” to a request by Mr. Bolton to review a chapter on the president’s relations with Ukraine in order to prevent his release during the Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial, which centered on allegations that he abused his powers in the conduct of foreign policy with the Kiev government.

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