John Bolton

The Justice Department's Investigation of John Bolton Seems Like a Witch Hunt

The Trump administration should discredit the former national security adviser's ideas, not subject him to a retaliatory investigation.


On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the Justice Department has opened an investigation into former National Security Advisor John Bolton to determine whether his 2020 book, The Room Where It Happened, improperly disclosed classified government information.

Many people will rightly find Bolton to be an unsympathetic figure in this dispute: A tireless advocate for the U.S. to escalate and even start wars, Bolton never belonged anywhere near an administration that purports to be charting a less interventionist course on foreign policy matters. But President Trump selected Bolton for the job, and now he must face the consequences for that mistake, which include having to suffer Bolton's tell-all about his time in the White House.

Citing national security concerns and breach of contract, the Trump administration fought like hell to prevent Simon & Schuster from publishing the book, but a judge ultimately ruled that it was too late to prevent the information from getting out. Now the Justice Department appears to be hunting for reasons to subject Bolton to criminal penalties. According to The New York Times:

Mr. Trump has made clear that he wants his former aide prosecuted. He said on Twitter that Mr. Bolton "broke the law" and "should be in jail, money seized, for disseminating, for profit, highly Classified information." He has also called Mr. Bolton "a dope," "incompetent" and the book "a compilation of lies and made up stories, all intended to make me look bad."

Lawyers for the National Security Council and the Justice Department expressed reservations about opening a criminal case, in part because Mr. Trump's public statements made it seem like an overtly political act, according to two officials briefed on the discussions. Others noted that a federal judge this summer said that Mr. Bolton may have broken the law, and that the case had merit.

The attorneys' concerns have obvious merit: It's clear that Trump wants to punish Bolton for badmouthing him, and is looking for a pretext to do so. Any effort to sanction Bolton will come at the expense of a vital principle: the right of citizens to be informed about their governments' misdeeds. As I wrote previously:

The administration should not be able to invoke the dreaded specter of "national security" every time someone is prepared to say something that might cause the government embarrassment. This is reminiscent of the efforts to stop whistleblower Edward Snowden from publishing his own book about the federal government's vast ability to spy on U.S. citizens. Knowing that it was unlikely the very power apparatus his book was criticizing would give him a fair shake, Snowden opted not to submit his manuscript for government review, which led a court to rule that the authorities could seize the book's profits.

That Bolton finds himself in a similar position to former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden is, of course, deeply ironic, noted Reason's Scott Shackford, given that "Bolton accused Snowden of treason for revealing the government's secret surveillance of American citizens and declared in 2013 that Snowden's disclosures were a 'grave threat to national security.'" But Bolton's own penchant for branding whistleblowers as traitors does not mean that he should be denied fair treatment. Instead of pursuing a vindictive witch hunt against the former national security advisor, the Trump administration should discredit his ideas by showing that the U.S. is made safer and more secure by doing the opposite of what Bolton wanted.

NEXT: Whistleblower Nurse Alleges Disturbing Number of Hysterectomies at ICE Detention Facility

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  1. I heard the book outs Valerie Plame.

    1. I always suspected she was a lesbian.

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  2. They should just hold him down and shave off his mustache.

    1. The newly freed ‘stache would become Earth’s greatest threat. Leave it imprisoned on Bolton’s face.

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    2. They should just hold him down and pluck off his mustache.


    3. That stash looks like a giant virus playground to me. When Bolton inevitably drops dead from the Covid will Reason publish unprecedented numbers of column inches featuring tearful eulogies for him like they did for John McCain? I mean Orange Man did say mean things about him.

  3. Meanwhile, Trump told reporters Monday night that the situation was “disgraceful” and “a total witch hunt.”

    No consistency with square quotes around witch hunt?

    1. I think those are just quotes, not scare quotes, i.e. something he actually said.

  4. Where would this sit on the Witch Hunt-Good/Witch Hunt-Bad oscillation wave?

    1. Depends on whether he’s actually a witch.

      1. Burn him, anyway.

        1. Throw him in water. If he doesn’t drown, he’s a witch, and should be burned alive. If he drowns he’s not a witch.

      2. Does he weigh more than a duck?

  5. Well the last four years have been witch hunts, you are bound to find some witches if you hunt long enough, real of not.
    See Salem Mass.
    The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. More than two hundred people were accused. Thirty were found guilty, nineteen of whom were executed by hanging (fourteen women and five men). One other man, Giles Corey, was pressed to death for refusing to plead, and at least five people died in jail.[1]

  6. All I can say is that Bolton should never be allowed near the levers of power. As for breaking an agreement not to revel secrets it would not surprise me he broke it out of spite . He’s a warmonger. Period. He’s also and very stupid man. Never learning from mistakes like the Iraq war. His only answer is more blood and treasure.

    1. he’s not stupid it’s how he makes his living, it’s his rice bowl.

    2. All I can say is that Bolton should never be allowed near the levers of power.

      Amen to that.

  7. I look forward to these articles when the Joe Biden administration wins and criminally goes after every single one of Trumps political appointees as a lesson to every outsider ever.

    1. Why do we need to look forward? (D) prosecutors in NY ran for office on promises to initiate politically motivated prosecutions of Trump and anyone in his family or associated with him.

      Doesn’t seem to be a huge issue for folks that write for Libertarian publications.

      And then we have the prosecution of Flynn. That was pretty egregious. Not much coverage here, but they continue to screw him, even after the justice department admitted that they screwed him and attempted to drop all charges.

      Which doesn’t even mention the other folks who got steamrolled in the name of “get Trump”. Nor does it mention the folks who clearly used their office to harm others for partisan political reasons.

      We’ve had nearly 4 years of stuff that puts investigating Bolton to shame… and a pitiful amount of coverage of that conduct ’round these parts.

  8. Trump fights back, that’s why we like him. Yeah, he’s thin-skinned and petty and vindictive and shallow and egotistical and insecure and…wait, what were we talking about?

    1. Hillary?

      1. You win the Internets today, Fats.

      2. You win the Internets today, Fats.

        This is not a Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!

  9. I have a hard time working up much sympathy for any statist whose primary goal in life is controlling my life.

    Pretty much by definition, every single politician wants their own slimy hands on the levers of power. There is nothing noble about politics. So when some politician gets mistreated by other politicians, I figures it’s live by politics, die by politics.

    Like someone said about con men, their marks identify themselves by wanting to take advantage of somebody else. It’s hard to work up much sympathy for some guy who loses a pile of money because he didn’t notice the packet of diamonds being swapped for a packet of glass beads.

    Fuck Bolton, fuck every politician, and good riddance.

  10. I’m no more in favor of witch hunts than the next guy, but there’s some measure of poetic justice, here, if the guy who tried to sell his boss out to the inquisition ends up being the subject of a witch hunt.

  11. What the freak? The guy had a job with a security clearance. That job legally required him to keep secrets, and legally required him to submit anything he wrote about his time in the government to preclearance.

    Halfway through the preclearance, he said, “Screw this” and published his book.

    In what world doesn’t this mean he gets prosecuted, and probably goes to jail? It’s not even your average law, that applies to you without your consent: The guy voluntarily submitted to this law, and then broke it.

    This is almost the Platonic opposite of a witch hunt.

      1. “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

        I keep saying to the people who insist on quoting that, that the alternative to such majestic equality, is that the rich get to steal bread if they feel like it, and the poor don’t. Both of them being forbidden to steal is NOT an outrage, it’s the only sort of equality we can aspire to.

        No, not in this world, because the Trump administration seems to be finally developing a taste for majestic equality. And I say about time.

    1. As noted above a judge found that he may have illegally published classified information but because the book had already been published the issue was essentially moot. It was basically an invitation to the DOJ to pursue criminal charges. I don’t give a shit one way or the other but after the last four years you’d think Robby have noticed a few more compelling examples of a witch hunt.

  12. Bolton. Sessions. Etc. etc. Does Trump have any clue when he makes personnel decisions? I guess it says something that at least he culls his failures, unlike other presidents who keep the incompetent weasels like Reno or Holder in the fold.

    1. He’s been fed bad information from RINO weasels for years. I guess they wanted to undermine him. Or they are just fucking retards. These are the same geniuses that got us into a nonsense war in Iraq and even one of those compassionate conservatives said we needed to end the free market to save it. Or something. I forget all their lies. But still better than any left winger democrat progtard faggot loving idiot.

  13. “But Bolton’s own penchant for branding whistleblowers as traitors does not mean that he should be denied fair treatment.”

    Why don’t you try demonstrating unfair treatment, rather than just assuming it because Trump?

    1. You realize you’re reading Reason, right?

      1. It was a rhetorical question.

  14. Karma for Bolton. Trump’s time is coming.

    1. Are the walls closing in again?

  15. The Justice Department’s Investigation of John Bolton Seems Like a Witch Hunt
    OK. Now do Micheal Flynn.

  16. It’s obvious scumbag Trump is having his scumbag consigliere Barr retaliate against Bolton for purely political reasons.

    Is it top secret that Trump is the dumbest, most incompetent president in US history?

    1. Bless your heart.

    2. That mean ol’ Trump. Picking on those poor Neocon warriors.

  17. Not going to be much of an investigation; read the damn book.
    If secret shit is in there, arrest him.
    Should take one evening, depending on the literary skills of Bolton, and the agent.

    1. Doesn’t even take that long, he gave them the manuscript months ago.

      The hard part of this isn’t looking to see if he outright stated that the US has a hydrogen bomb buried under the Kremlin. (Or whatever.)

      It’s looking to see if he’s said something that, together with stuff the Ruskies already know, would let them figure out that the US has a hydrogen bomb buried under the Kremlin. THAT is what takes the time.

  18. Reason’s been quiet as mice about the three major peace deals and Trump taking troops out of Germany, etc… but an investigation into America’s chief warmonger?

  19. “The Justice Department’s Investigation of John Bolton Seems Like a Witch Hunt”

    But the Kavanaugh persecution was entirely justified.

  20. There used to be a joke about a man who stood outside the White House shouting “The President is a moron” and was arrested for revealing a state secret.

    John Bolton has now become that joke.

  21. I expect that Trump will lose in November, when that happens expect an avalanche of books. Everyone of the sycophants and brown-nosers will be be writing books on how bad Trump was in office. Trump does not support loyalty. Yes, he will pardon people who might implicate him, but when your gone he disowns you. I do believe that will come back to haunt him.

  22. Is there probable cause that Bolton committed a crime?

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