Five Points to Remember from John Bolton’s Brief

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Bolton also describes an environment within the administration marked by caustic internal strife in which various players throw each other into a fight for the President’s ear – and the President throws them all.

When Bolton took office as national security adviser in 2018, John F. Kelly, then White House chief of staff, disparaged outgoing councilor HR McMaster, saying, “The president did not had a national security adviser in the last year and he needs it. Pompeo, says the book, belittled Nikki R. Haley, then ambassador to the United Nations, calling her “light as a feather”.

The Justice Department went to court to prevent the book from being published, arguing that it had classified information there and that it had not been authorized by a pre-publication review requested from former officials like Mr. Bolton .

In fact, according to his lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, Mr. Bolton participated in a long back and forth on the book and accepted all the revisions mandated by the career official who examined it or proposed alternatives acceptable. It was not until the review was completed that another official, Michael J. Ellis, a political representative, intervened to reconsider it on the instructions of Robert C. O’Brien, successor to Mr. Bolton. as a national security adviser.

If there is still classified information in the book, it is difficult to understand what it could be. There is no reference to secret intelligence programs or to sources and methods of espionage. But Mr. Trump insisted this week that every conversation with him was “highly classified” and therefore could not be disclosed, a claim that goes far beyond tradition.

In his epilogue, Bolton says that in a few cases, “I was prevented from transmitting information that I thought was not properly classified, because it revealed information that can only be described as embarrassing to Trump or as revealing potentially unacceptable behavior. One example is a direct quote from what Mr. Trump said to Mr. Xi about helping him win re-election.

For the most part, however, Mr. Bolton explains in the epilogue that the career official who reviewed the book simply made him take quotes about the things the President said and generally left them out. And so Mr. Bolton offers a guide for readers: “In some cases, just put your own quotes around the relevant passages; you will not be mistaken. ”

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