(RealClearPolitics) In the late summer of 2018, just a few months into John Bolton’s national security adviser tenure, he strongly defended President Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, the pugnacious anti-Trump critic the president has called a “leaker,” “a liar” and ringleader of the debunked Russian collusion investigation.
At the time, Bolton accused Brennan of “politicizing intelligence,” both during the Obama administration and afterward, which he deemed a “very dangerous thing to do.”
“If there is any kind of misconduct, I think there are lots of grounds to have your security clearance revoked for behavior that calls into question your ability to hold the material in confidence,” Bolton told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz. “…For me, the issue is whether he abused information that he attained while he was director of the CIA or he may have attained erroneously or incorrectly after he left.”
Nearly a year and a half later, the shoe is on the other foot.
Bolton left the White House in September 2019 in a public eruption of vitriol on both sides over the terms of his departure. He said he resigned; Trump says he fired the longtime national security hawk over foreign policy differences. More recently, Trump accused Bolton of trying to entangle the U.S. in multiple additional wars instead of ending them as the president had promised voters in 2016 he would do.
Bolton now faces the wrath of not just Trump but his legions of loyalists for volunteering to testify against the president in the impeachment trial, thus bolstering Democrats’ arguments that the president threatened Ukraine’s president with a quid pro quo over U.S. aid to extract a commitment to investigate Joe Biden and his son’s dealings in that country.
Seeing his security clearance revoked is an almost certainty for Bolton once the impeachment trial is over, according to two government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, as well as legal experts – all of whom say Bolton could face additional fallout for his role in the impeachment drama this week.
Several media outlets have reported that the irascible veteran national security official circulated a draft manuscript of the book containing the quid pro quo arguments to close associates before delivering it to the White House Records Management Directorate for pre-publication review, as required, and could face criminal prosecution if proof he did so surfaces.
“If your manuscript includes classified information, then you’re committing a felony by passing it around,” a former White House official told RealClearPolitics.
Bolton has denied leaking the book excerpts, insisting in a statement that “there was absolutely no coordination with the New York Times or anyone else regarding the appearance of information about this book.”
News of the book’s contents rocked the impeachment trial this week with leaks that it contained an alleged August conversation in which Trump told Bolton he wanted to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid from Ukraine until the country’s leaders agreed to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden’s dealings there.
Trump and his loyalists denounced the leaks as a craven attempt at revenge by an ousted administration official while simultaneously trying to boost book sales.
Bolton, Trump tweeted earlier this week, was “fired because frankly, if I listened to him, we’d be in World War Six by now.”
Trump claimed the former top aide “begged” me for a non-Senate approved job and then “IMMEDIATELY [wrote] a nasty & untrue book.”
“All Classified National Security. Who would do this?” Trump concluded.
Until Sunday, the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, refused to confirm its existence, even among reports that Bolton received a $2 million advance for writing it. Leaks to the New York Times about the alleged Ukraine revelations came the same day a pre-order notice for it was posted on Amazon.
Even worse, if Justice Department prosecutors can prove that Bolton circulated the manuscript before the pre-publication review was finalized — albeit a big if — they could decide to both revoke his clearance and sue to confiscate any proceeds from the book, which is already the No. 1 Amazon bestseller for its pre-orders.
Matt Bissonnette, a former member of Navy SEAL Team 6 who wrote an account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, was forced to forfeit $6.8 million in book royalties and speaking fees for failing to clear his disclosures with the Pentagon before publishing.