(CNN)White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Sunday attacked John Bolton’s credibility over the former national security adviser’s claim in his new book that President Donald Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping for help winning reelection, and said his former colleague could face jail time over his disclosures.
A federal judge on Saturday blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to prevent the publication of Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened,” but left open the possibility that Bolton could face criminal charges or be forced to hand over profits related to the book. The Justice Department had asked a judge to stop publication of the book arguing Bolton did not complete required pre-publication of the manuscript to make sure classified information was not contained in it.
The former national security adviser has said he has complied with all of the revisions requested by the White House.
“First of all, John Bolton has put highly classified information sprinkled throughout a very large book. And he — I predict this. He will not only not get the profits from that book, but he risks a jail sentence,” Navarro told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He has done something that is very, very serious in terms of American national security. And he’s got to pay a price for that.”
When asked by Tapper about claims in Bolton’s book that Trump pressed Xi to step up China’s purchase of American agricultural goods in order to improve his standing with voters during the 2020 election, Navarro would not give a clear answer.
“I was in those rooms too, and whatever Bolton is saying about China is just silly,” Navarro said. Pressed to give a yes or no answer as to whether Trump made that request of Xi, Navarro said, “I never heard that. I was in the room. (Robert) Lighthizer never heard it. He was in the room.”
Bolton attorney Charles Cooper welcomed the court’s ruling in a statement Saturday, but added that “we respectfully take issue, however, with the Court’s preliminary conclusion at this early stage of the case that Ambassador Bolton did not comply fully with his contractual prepublication obligation to the Government, and the case will now proceed to development of the full record on that issue.”
Cooper also said in the statement, “The full story of these events has yet to be told — but it will be.”
Judge Royce Lamberth of the DC District Court wrote in a 10-page decision Saturday morning that the Justice Department’s arguments weren’t enough to stop the book’s release. He cited how the book, which is scheduled to be released Tuesday, had already been widely distributed, and could easily be distributed further on the internet, even if the court said it could not be.
The judge’s ruling Saturday quickly dispels a long-shot attempt by the Trump administration to stymy the book’s release — an attempt roundly condemned as antithetical to the First Amendment. But Lamberth’s decision also keeps alive major risks for Bolton, such as the administration’s effort to claw back proceeds from the book, including from any movie and TV rights, and other consequences for disclosing classified information.
Lamberth also noted Bolton could still be exposed to criminal liability.
Trump praised Lamberth on Saturday ahead of his departure for his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, saying the judge was “indignant at what Bolton did.”
“We had a very good decision in the John Bolton book case, and the judge was very powerful in his statements on classified information and very powerful also in the fact that the country will get the money, any money he makes,” Trump said.
“I think the judge was very smart and very indignant at what Bolton did. I think it was a great ruling. Obviously, the book was already out and leaked and everything else, but he leaked classified information, so he’s got a big problem,” The President added.
Several news outlets including CNN have obtained copies of the book and published articles describing and quoting Bolton’s writing.
By the time the Justice Department sued, Bolton’s publisher Simon & Schuster had already distributed 200,000 copies of the book in the US and thousands more have been distributed in the UK, Canada, Australia and India, Bolton told the court.