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Justice Department drops lawsuit, criminal probe over John Bolton's book on Trump

U.S. National Security Advisor, John Bolton, meets with journalists during a visit to London, August 12, 2019.

Peter Nicholls | Reuters

The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday dropped a lawsuit that sought to seize profits from a best-selling book written by John Bolton about his tenure as national security advisor to former President Donald Trump, a court filing shows.

At the same time, the Justice Department also informed Bolton that it is closing an investigation into whether he committed a crime by possibly disclosing classified information in that book, “The Room Where it Happened,” according to a statement by Bolton’s office.

That book, published last year by Simon & Schuster, was harshly critical of Trump.

“These actions represent a complete vindication for Ambassador Bolton, and a repudiation of former President Trump’s attempt, under the pretext of protecting classified information, first to suppress the book’s publication and when that failed in court, to penalize the Ambassador,” Bolton’s office said.

“Trump openly admitted his desire to block publication of the book before the 2020 election for political reasons,” the statement noted.

“He said, for example, ‘We’re going to try and block the publication of the book. After I leave office, he can do this. But not in the White House.’ “

The statement also pointed out that before the Justice Department agreed to dismiss the lawsuit, the judge in the case, Royce Lamberth, had granted a request by Bolton’s lawyer to obtain evidence that could back up “allegations that President Trump or senior White House officials acted in bad faith by intentionally delaying prepublication review and by attempting to unduly influence classification decisions” about the book.

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A Justice Department spokesman and a spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.

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The Justice Department sued Bolton in 2020, claiming he failed to abide by a requirement that he receive written permission before publishing his book in order to make sure that no classified information was disclosed in it.

The department failed to convince a judge to prevent the book from being released, but was continuing to seek profits from it with the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Bolton’s lawyer Charles Cooper said in a statement, “We are very pleased that the Department of Justice has dismissed with prejudice its civil lawsuit against Ambassador Bolton and has terminated grand jury proceedings.”

“We argued from the outset that neither action was justifiable, because they were initiated only as a result of President Trump’s politically motivated order to prevent publication of the Ambassador’s book before the 2020 election,” Cooper said.

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