The two are very different, the letter explained, on matters like discussing a phone call between a president and a foreign leader. Mr. Bolton’s book contains numerous accounts of such discussions between Mr. Trump and his counterparts.
While an official record of that call would be presumptively classified in its entirety, if the White House press secretary has disclosed the fact of that call and put aspects of what was discussed into the public domain, the prepublication review standards would not flag a manuscript’s similar discussion of such a call as classified and unpublishable.
“Mr. Ellis failed to analyze whether the information he marked as classified was still, in fact, classified and subject to redaction,” Mr. Wainstein wrote. “In determining the publishability of information in the manuscript, Mr. Ellis apparently focused on whether that same information could be found in classified government records. If he saw information in the manuscript that was also reflected in a classified government record, he appeared to have automatically deemed that information classified.”
The letter called into question a statement made by the judge who in June rejected the Justice Department’s request for an order blocking distribution of the already-printed book. The judge, Royce C. Lamberth of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia, wrote in his ruling that it appeared the book contained large amounts of classified information and suggested that Mr. Bolton was likely to face civil and possibly criminal penalties.
But the letter noted that during his review, Judge Lamberth had looked at “the unchallenged declarations of N.S.C. official Michael Ellis and four presidentially appointed intelligence officials who reviewed passages of the manuscript in isolation and opined that they contained classified information, without any insight into the multilayered analysis and context that led Ms. Knight and her staff to determine that they did not.”
The letter also describes a behind-the-scenes pressure campaign that Mr. Trump’s appointees mounted against Ms. Knight in an effort to get her to say she had been wrong and the book still had classified information, as they prepared to ask for a judicial order blocking it.
On June 13, the letter said, politically appointed White House officials — led by Patrick Philbin, the deputy White House counsel — called her in for a Saturday meeting and challenged her on why she had signed off on large amounts of material that Mr. Ellis claimed was classified. By her account, she was able to explain why he was wrong about everything, frustrating them.