Garland’s Bolton Reprieve - WSJ

By The Editorial Board Close The Editorial Board June...


Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., June 15.



Photo:

win mcnamee/pool/Shutterstock

Attorney General

Merrick Garland

has dismayed progressives by rightly maintaining some of the Trump Justice Department’s positions in sensitive litigation, including a defamation suit against the former President and an effort to release a memo related to the

Mueller

investigation.

This week, however, Mr. Garland’s Justice Department reversed its predecessor on a high-profile case, stopping the politicized pursuit of former national security adviser

John Bolton

over his 2020 book, “The Room Where It Happened.” There are no heroes in this saga, but Justice is acting in the public interest.

Mr. Bolton’s book, published less than a year after he left the White House, described his tenure and portrayed President

Trump

as dangerous and erratic. The Justice Department claimed the book contained classified information and sought civil penalties from Mr. Bolton while initiating a criminal probe.

In June 2020, federal Judge

Royce Lamberth

refused to stop publication of the book, but condemned Mr. Bolton’s conduct and said the book likely contained classified information. Then in September,

Ellen Knight,

the head of pre-publication clearance for the National Security Council, gave her side of the story.

Through her lawyer, Ms. Knight explained that she worked extensively with Mr. Bolton to filter classified information from the manuscript without constraining his First Amendment right to comment on public affairs. When this process was over, the White House initiated an elaborate series of bureaucratic maneuvers to delay publication, likely because of pressure from Mr. Trump. It pressured Ms. Knight and had a political appointee review the manuscript under an erroneous standard.

This January, after reviewing Ms. Knight’s account, Judge Lamberth authorized further inquiry into whether the government acted in “bad faith” in reviewing the book, as Mr. Bolton contended and the Biden Justice Department now seems to suspect.

Mr. Bolton’s dogged insistence on broadcasting his experiences ahead of the 2020 election for personal gain wasn’t his finest hour. Yet honor in politics won’t be restored by abusing the publication review process and narrowing the First Amendment, and Mr. Garland’s Justice Department is right to correct the error.

Main Street: Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s ludicrous tirade targets former Attorney General William Barr and highlights the great liberal frustration that the special counsel couldn’t bring down President Trump. Images: Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the June 19, 2021, print edition.

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