The Washington Post - USA (2020-09-16)

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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 , 2020. THE WASHINGTON POST EZ RE A


BY SPENCER S. HSU,
DEVLIN BARRETT
AND TOM HAMBURGER

A Justice Department investi-
gation into whether former
Trump national security adviser
John Bolton criminally mishan-
dled classified information in a
White House memoir published
this June has reached a federal
grand jury, according to two peo-
ple familiar with the matter.
A grand jury issued subpoenas
for records, including from Si-
mon & Schuster, the publisher of
Bolton’s book, “The Room Where
It Happened,” the people said.
The book recounts Bolton’s 17
months as President Trump’s top
national security official and
paints a withering portrait of
Trump as an “erratic” and “stun-
ningly uninformed” leader. The
Trump administration unsuc-
cessfully sought to block the
book’s release in June, saying it
contained classified information
that wasn’t properly reviewed be-
fore publication.
Bolton, a veteran diplomat and
security expert, has denied the
book contains classified informa-
tion, cited his cooperation with a
lengthy pre-publication review


and added that he brought dec-
ades of experience working with
secret material to the task.
In a statement, Bolton’s lawyer,
Charles J. Cooper, said his team
was aware of reports that subpoe-
nas had been issued.
“Ambassador Bolton emphati-
cally rejects any claim that he
acted improperly, let alone crimi-
nally, in connection with the pub-
lication of his book, and he will
cooperate fully, as he has through-
out, with any official inquiry into
his conduct,” Cooper said.
A spokesman for Simon &
Schuster declined to comment.
The grand jury case was
opened after a federal judge re-
jected the Justice Department’s
emergency request to block the
book’s June 23 publication, said
the people, who spoke on the
condition of anonymity to freely
discuss the matter. The New York
Times first reported on the grand
jury subpoenas.
The Justice Department had
requested a restraining order on
the book, arguing Bolton
breached a contract with the gov-
ernment by not completing a re-
quired national security review
for classified information.
In a June 20 ruling, U.S. Dis-

trict Judge Royce C. Lamberth of
the District of Columbia denied
the Trump administration’s re-
quest, citing the publisher’s dec-
laration that more than 200,
copies had already shipped.
However, in an opinion in the
government lawsuit seeking fi-
nancial damages, the judge said
Bolton “exposed his country to
harm and himself to civil (and
potentially criminal) liability” in
further litigation.
A Justice Department spokes-
woman declined to comment.
Another person familiar with
the case said department officials
pursued the case as soon as de-
tails of the book began appearing
in public, but the effort gained
added momentum with Lam-
berth’s written ruling.
Opening a grand jury case and
issuing subpoenas is one of many
early steps in an investigation,
and leak investigations in partic-
ular can be lengthy. Most submis-
sions to the Justice Department
for leak cases are not forwarded
to prosecutors for investigation,
and most of such investigations
do not result in charges, said one
person familiar with the matter.
In Bolton’s case, assessing his
intentions, the government’s han-

dling of the classification review
and the dispute’s political aspects
adds further complexity.
In pre-publication litigation,
the government disclosed that
national security adviser Robert
C. O’Brien, whom Trump appoint-
ed to succeed Bolton, ordered an
additional review of Bolton’s book
after a career National Security
Council staffer said he had com-
pleted required edits.
Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone,
director of the National Security
Agency, also declared in a court
affidavit that a limited portion of
the draft manuscript “implicates”
information classified at the high-
est level. He said the “compromise
of this information could result in
the permanent loss of a valuable
[signal intelligence] source and
cause irreparable damage to the
U.S. [signal intelligence] system.”
Bolton has alleged that a career
White House official, Ellen
Knight, effectively cleared his
manuscript in April before Trump
political appointees tried to stall
it through the presidential elec-
tion in November. Cooper argued
that Trump appointees politi-
cized the clearance process in a
manner that, if allowed to stand,
would keep future officials from

speaking out when they leave gov-
ernment.
Among other disclosures, the
Bolton memoir states that Trump
asked Chinese President Xi Jin-
ping to help him win reelection,
asserts Trump attempted to use
military aid to pressure Ukraine
on political investigations, and
says Trump expressed willingness
to halt or obstruct criminal inves-
tigations as personal favors to
authoritarian foreign leaders.
Bolton in promotional inter-
views called Trump incompetent
and “unfit for office.”
Trump has responded on Twit-
ter saying he hoped Bolton would
be investigated. Trump said Bol-
ton “broke the law” and should be
in jail and have money seized “for
disseminating, for profit, highly
Classified information.” He also
has called Bolton a “Wacko” and
his memoir “a compilation of lies
and made up stories, all intended
to make me look bad.”
In a June court hearing, Deputy
Assistant Attorney General David
M. Morrell acknowledged to the
judge that he knew of no prec-
edent in which high-level officials
intervened in classification re-
views.
O’Brien tapped another new

appointee, Michael Ellis — a for-
mer aide to Rep. Devin Nunes
(R-Calif.) — to conduct the addi-
tional review. Ellis, the National
Security Council’s senior director
for intelligence, was not officially
trained on his classification au-
thority until the day after he com-
pleted the Bolton manuscript re-
view, the government acknowl-
edged.
However irregular the re-re-
view, Morrell said, it was “entirely
appropriate” given “an extraordi-
nary set of facts” — a former
national security adviser detail-
ing ongoing policy matters dur-
ing the same administration in
which he served.
Lamberth said it appeared that
Bolton failed to complete a pre-
publication review and obtain
written authorization that the
book contained no classified in-
formation.
In a Sept. 8 interview with The
Washington Post, Attorney Gen-
eral William P. Barr echoed that
criticism and voiced disapproval
of Bolton writing about adminis-
tration officials while they are
still in office.
spencer.hsu@washpost.com
devlin.barrett@washpost.com
tom.hamburger@washpost.com

Bolton book inquiry into handling of classified material reaches grand jury


BY YASMEEN ABUTALEB
AND JOSH DAWSEY

The U.S. health department’s
top communications official apol-
ogized to staff members on Tues-
day for incendiary remarks he
made earlier this week urging
President Trump’s supporters to
prepare for an armed insurrection
and accusing government scien-
tists of “sedition,” according to two
people familiar with the meeting.
Michael Caputo, assistant sec-
retary for public affairs at the De-
partment of Health and Human
Services, which is playing a lead


role in the response to the corona-
virus pandemic, promoted those
and other conspiracy theories in a
Facebook Live event he did on
Sunday.
At his meeting with staff mem-
bers Tuesday, Caputo apologized
for his remarks and the embar-
rassment they brought upon the
agency, according to the people,
who spoke on the condition of
anonymity to discuss the proceed-
ings. He also indicated his depar-
ture might be imminent, saying he
was considering a medical leave.
He added that his family had been
receiving threats and that his
physical health was in question.
Neither Caputo nor HHS re-
sponded immediately to a request
for comment about the staff meet-
ing, which was first reported by
Politico.
Several current and former offi-
cials said the recent controversies

engulfing Caputo threatened a
crucial public relations campaign
to win public trust in a coronavi-
rus vaccine that has already been
highly politicized.
White House officials were in
discussion with HHS Secretary
Alex Azar about Caputo’s future,
said a senior administration offi-
cial, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity to reveal private dis-
cussions.
Caputo, a Trump loyalist, has
sought to exert control over the
messages coming from scientists
and top health officials since the
White House installed him at the
agency in April. Democrats called
for his resignation on Monday —
and Senate Minority Leader
Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) called
for Azar’s resignation on Tuesday
— after The Washington Post and
others reported how Caputo and a
top aide, Paul Alexander, attempt-

ed to interfere in the weekly scien-
tific missives produced b y the Cen-
ters for Disease Control and Pre-
vention, known as the Morbidity
and Mortality Weekly Reports.
McMaster University in Ontar-
io, Canada, where Alexander is
listed as a part-time assistant pro-
fessor, also sought to distance it-
self from him on Monday.
“While Paul Alexander graduat-
ed with a PhD in health research
methodologies from McMaster in
2015, he is not currently teaching
and he is not paid by the university
for his contract role as a part-time
assistant professor,” said Susan
Emigh, a McMaster spokeswom-
an. “As a consultant, he is not
speaking on behalf of McMaster
University or the Department of
Health Research Methods, Evi-
dence, and Impact.”
yasmeen.abutaleb@washpost.com
josh.dawsey@washpost.com

HHS o∞cial apologizes for accusing scientists of ‘ sedition’


MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES
Michael Caputo, the health department’s assistant secretary for
public affairs, reportedly indicated his departure may be imminent.

Top spokesman had
promoted conspiracy
theories in v ideo

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