Skip to main content

‘Grotesque and Egregious Abuse of the Process’: White House Allegedly ‘Commandeered’ NSC Official’s Classification Review of Bolton’s Book


The former career National Security Council (NSC) official who oversaw the initial prepublication review of John Bolton’s tell-all book, The Room Where It Happened, accused the Trump administration of abusing the process to prevent the book’s publication for political purposes. Attorneys said the bombshell claims are likely to severely damage the government’s civil and potential criminal case against the former National Security Advisor.

In a lengthy letter from her attorney, former NSC Records Access and Information Security Management Directorate (RAISMD) Senior Director Ellen Knight stated that after she and her team reviewed the manuscript and determined it did not contain classified information, political appointees in the executive branch took “extraordinary actions” to pressure her into reversing her assessment.

According to the letter, the NSC’s “designedly apolitical process” for prepublication review of former employees’ works was “commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose.” Knight claimed that officials from the White House and the NSC legal department tried to “get her to admit that she and her team had missed something or made a mistake,” which “could then be used to support their argument to block publication.”

The officials then spent five days trying to persuade her to sign a declaration about her role in the prepublication review process, suggesting her team’s work was “subpar” and ultimately concluding that the manuscript was in fact “unpublishable.” When Knight voiced her concerns about the process being abused and questioned the motives of the administration attorneys in suing Bolton, she received no substantive responses.

“[Knight] asked [the attorneys] to explain why they were so insistent on pursuing litigation rather than resolving the potential national security issues through engagement with Ambassador Bolton and her team,” the letter stated. “The attorneys had no answer for her challenges, aside from a rote recitation of the government’s legal position that Ambassador Bolton had violated his contractual obligations by failing to wait for written clearance. However, when Ms. Knight speculated that this litigation was happening ‘because the most powerful man in the world said that it needed to happen,’ several registered their agreement with that diagnosis of the situation.”

Washington D.C.-based national security attorney Bradley P. Moss said Knight’s explosive claims likely derailed the administration’s prosecution of Bolton.

“Dear god, read this declaration from the original reviewer of Bolton’s book. Grotesque and egregious abuse of the process by political staff at NSC and the White House. Unprecedented,” he wrote. “This just killed any potential criminal prosecution. I have no words.”

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, a CNN legal analyst, was less surprised. He said the alleged abuse of power was to be expected from the Trump administration.

“It turns out the White House intervened in the process for reviewing publications for classified material in an attempt to stop publication of John Bolton’s book,” he wrote. “At this point, I’d be more surprised if the Trump Administration *didn’t* abuse its power or politicize the process.”

Read the full letter from Knight’s lawyer below:

Ellen Knight Letter by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.