Wednesday, January 29, 2020


CNN's Jake Tapper reports:
The White House has issued a formal threat to former national security adviser John Bolton to keep him from publishing his book, "The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir," sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.
The letter, dated last Thursday, claims that the book "appears to contain significant amounts of classified information," some of it "at the TOP SECRET level."

Here's what strikes me as odd: If the White House and vetters at the National Security Council still believed as of January 23 that the book needed significant redactions, why did Bolton's publisher, Simon & Schuster, announce a March 17 onsale date a few days later? Given the time it takes to print a book and distribute it nationwide, you'd think the publisher would want to be reasonably certain that the book was in near-final form heading into early February before locking down a publication date. If redactions are necessary, they'll take time to implement. Deleting text might require deleting and renumbering endnotes related to the relevant text. An index might need to be thoroughly overhauled. (At major book publishers, indexing is still done by humans, not computers, because human indexers are better at indexing concepts as well as proper names.)

The letter above is signed by someone who appears to be a career professional rather than a political appointee, but I suspect she's under pressure to carry out the White House's agenda right now. The book went to the White House on December 30; in an accompanying letter, Bolton's lawyer said that "the editorial and publication schedule for the manuscript is highly time sensitive" and asked for completion of the review within thirty working days. We're well past that now.

It may be that, as Bolton's lawyers said in the December 30 letter, Bolton "carefully sought to avoid discussion of sensitive classified information ... or other classified information," in which case he and his publisher may proceed without an NSC sign-off, daring the White House to block publication. If the White House does so, that will create a real Streisand effect -- by engaging in prior restraint, or attempting to, the Trump team will generate massive interest in what it's trying to suppress.

Or the Trump team might be blowing smoke, the way it did when a lawyer for Trump threatened a lawsuit if Michael Wolff's publisher went ahead with the publication of Fire and Fury in January 2018. The publisher blew Trump off. The book was a huge hit. No lawsuit was ever filed.

We'll see.

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