WASHINGTON: In this file photo taken on April 9, 2018, US President Donald Trump shakes hands with National Security Advisor John Bolton during a meeting with senior military leaders at the White House. — AFP

WASHINGTON: A US judge refused Saturday to block the release of a tell-all book in which President Donald Trump’s former national security advisor describes him as corrupt and incompetent. With John Bolton’s book already widely shipped to stores for sale next week, Judge Royce Lamberth wrote that it is too late for a restraining order sought by the Trump administration to halt the process.

The DC district court judge said Bolton appeared to have failed to obtain written White House agreement that his memoir contained nothing classified. “While Bolton’s unilateral conduct raises grave national security concerns, the government has not established that an injunction is an appropriate remedy,” the judge wrote. He said a review of passages that the government contends contain classified material had persuaded him that Bolton “likely jeopardized national security through publication”.

Despite failing in the attempt to have the book halted, Trump quickly took to Twitter to hail a “big court win” against Bolton. “Obviously, with the book already given out and leaked to many people and the media, nothing the highly respected Judge could have done about stopping it...BUT, strong & powerful statements & rulings on MONEY & on BREAKING CLASSIFICATION were made. Bolton broke the law and has been called out and rebuked for so doing, with a really big price to pay.”

Bolton’s attorney, Charles Cooper, welcomed the judge’s ruling but disputed the finding that his client did not fully comply with his vetting obligation. “The case will now proceed to development of the full record on that issue. The full story of these events has yet to be told – but it will be,” Cooper said in a statement. The book, entitled “The Room Where It Happened”, was widely shipped ahead of its Tuesday release date and many of its more damning allegations against Trump have already been reported in the media. 

It is Bolton’s portrait of 17 months up close with Trump, until he was fired in September, although Trump characterizes the work as “fiction”. Bolton, a lifelong Republican who stands firmly on the right of the party, contends that Trump is not “fit for office”. He describes Trump “pleading” with Chinese President Xi Jinping during trade negotiations to boost the US president’s chances of re-election in November by buying more products from US farm states. Bolton also reports that Trump, a real estate tycoon who never held office before winning the White House, thought Finland was part of Russia.

Bolton, moreover, backs up the allegations at the center of Trump’s impeachment last year that he pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt to weaken his expected Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden. Trump also committed other “Ukraine-like transgressions” in his wielding of foreign policy for personal gain, Bolton alleges. In an interview to be broadcast Sunday, Bolton told ABC News Trump had committed what “did feel like obstruction of justice to me” in his dealings with Turkey.  Trump was said to be receptive to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who brought up the criminal charges against one of his country’s largest banks over violating US sanctions on Iran. Trump told Erdogan that “he would take care of things”, explaining that New York prosecutors handling the case were appointed by former president Barack Obama and could be replaced, Bolton writes in his book.

The sensationally blunt appraisal from someone who had such high-level access has rocked the White House, with the president already mired in criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and racial tensions. A White House statement said Bolton had “likely jeopardized national security by disclosing classified information in violation of his nondisclosure agreement”. It added that “the government intends to ... ensure that he receives no profits from his shameful decision to place his desire for money and attention ahead of national security”.

The backlash over the book from Trump loyalists and the president himself has been savage. Trump has called Bolton “a sick puppy”, a “boring fool” and a “washed-up guy”. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo branded Bolton a traitor. “John Bolton is spreading a number of lies, fully-spun half-truths and outright falsehoods,” Pompeo said in a statement. —AFP