John Bolton’s lawyer this week disputed the National Security Council’s (NSC) assertion that his client’s unpublished book manuscript about President Donald Trump’s administration and his dealings with Ukraine included classified information.
In a letter addressed to an NSC official, dated January 24, Charles Cooper, the former national security adviser’s attorney, challenged the NSC’s assessment by noting that Bolton may be called to testify soon.
“We do not believe that any of the information could reasonably be considered classified. But given that Ambassador Bolton could be called to testify as early as next week, it is imperative that we have the results of your review of that chapter as soon as possible,” Cooper wrote, before asking the official to detail what portions of the manuscript was deemed classified information.
Cooper’s letter came one day after he received a letter from Ellen Knight, the NSC’s Senior Director for Records, Access and Information Security Management. In it, Knight told the lawyer that “based on our preliminary review, the manuscript appears to contain significant amounts of classified information.”
“It also appears that some of this classified information is at the TOP SECRET level, which is defined by Executive Order 13526 as information that ‘reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security’ of the United States if disclosed without authorization,” Knight added.
In response, Cooper said he has not received a response “to my urgent request for the NSC’s immediate guidance as to any concerns it may have with respect to the chapter of the manuscript dealing with Ambassador Bolton’s involvement in matters relating to Ukraine.”
Cooper and Knight’s exchange comes after Bolton’s recently leaked manuscript detailed a conversation that the former national security adviser claims to have had with Trump in August, during which Trump allegedly told him that he wanted to keep withholding $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine until the country’s officials agreed to help investigate his Democratic rivals. Bolton’s account of the incident directly contradicts assertions of zero quid pro quo made by Trump’s legal impeachment defense team.
Critics of the president believe the revelation further highlights the importance of witnesses in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. It comes as Republicans and Democrats gear up to decide this week whether they will allow sworn testimony from Bolton and others. Bolton has already indicated to lawmakers that he will testify if called, despite Trump’s order banning his former and current aides from cooperating in the probe, which he has repeatedly dismissed as a “hoax” and “witch hunt.”