Prior Restraint

DOJ Abandons Pre-Publication Review Lawsuit Against John Bolton

Bolton Memoir
A federal judge has denied the government’s request for an emergency restraining order blocking the dissemination John R. Bolton’s political memoir (right). Bolton served as President Donald Trump’s national security advisor from 2018 to 2019 (left, photo by Gage Skidmore).

On June 16th, the Department of Justice abandoned its efforts to stop former National Security Adviser John Bolton from publishing his memoir, “The Room Where It Happened.”  

Also see: What are prior restraints?

The Justice Department under the Trump administration filed a lawsuit in United States District Court for the District of Columbia against Bolton on June 16, 2020. They claimed that his memoir contained classified information and asked the court to issue a restraining order barring the book’s publisher, as well as any bookstores that have received the book, from disseminating copies.

The D.C. court agreed that Bolton had “likely published classified materials” and “exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability,” but did not grant the government’s request for a prior restraint on publication.


“In taking it upon himself to publish his book without securing final approval from national intelligence authorities, Bolton may indeed have caused the country irreparable harm. But in the Internet age,  even a handful of copies in circulation could irrevocably destroy confidentiality. A single dedicated individual with a book in hand could publish its contents far and wide from his local coffee shop. With hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe—many in newsrooms—the damage is done. There is no restoring the status quo,” United States District Judge Royce C. Lamberth wrote.

Bolton tried to convince the court to dismiss the case in October 2020, but a federal judge rejected his motion.

In their recent filing, the DoJ agreed to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning they can’t file the case again in the future.