Former Chief of Staff to John Bolton: Withdraw Your Book Immediately

John Bolton
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Fred Fleitz, former CIA official and former National Security Council chief of staff, urged his friend and former boss, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, to withdraw his tell-all book from his publisher “immediately.”

Fleitz, who served as Bolton’s chief of staff twice, said it was “crushing” to read weekend press reports that Bolton planned to publish a book on his time in the Trump White House. Those reports included a bombshell New York Times report on Sunday that alleged Bolton’s leaked manuscript draft said Trump told Bolton he wanted to withhold aid from Ukraine until its government agreed to investigate his political rivals.

Fleitz wrote in a Fox News op-ed:

The book reportedly will be published in March 2020. Given the importance of protecting a president’s confidential discussions with his senior advisers, I strongly disagree with Bolton’s decision to release the book before the November presidential election and call on him to withdraw it from the publisher immediately.

Fleitz argued that Bolton was an “exceptional national security expert and a man of great integrity,” and he was sorry when the relationship between him and Trump broke down.

However, he said, “Presidents must be able to candidly consult with their advisers without worrying they will leak these discussions to the press or obtain high-dollar book contracts to publish them.” He added:

A book by a former national security adviser ahead of a president’s reelection bid may set a dangerous precedent since it could discourage future presidents from seeking advice from expert advisers on sensitive national security matters.

This is why executive privilege exists: to allow the president and other senior officials to keep certain communications and internal deliberations private if disclosing them would disrupt the functions or decision-making processes of the executive branch.

Fleitz said he takes Bolton and his staff’s word that they did not leak the manuscript draft to the Times. However, he added that they were still responsible for the leak, since they handed the book to the National Security Council for review in December 30 given how likely it was to leak from there.

“It also is inexplicable how such a sensitive manuscript could be sent to the NSC in the middle of the impeachment process. Under such circumstances, a leak of the manuscript was all but certain,” Fleitz wrote.

Fleitz said if a manuscript of this sensitivity was to be published at all, it should happen after the election — not the spring of 2020. He wrote:

I don’t understand the need for a former National Security Adviser to publish a tell-all book critical of a president he served, especially during a presidential reelection campaign that will determine the fate of the country. There will be a time for Bolton to speak out without appearing to try to tip a presidential election.

Fleitz cited the case of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who stepped down in June 2011 but withheld from publishing a book damaging to then-Vice President Joe Biden until after his second term, in January 2014.

“Gates established a principled precedent on how senior advisers to presidents should write about their experiences. Given Ambassador Bolton’s long and distinguished record of government service, I believe it is vital that he follow this precedent,” Fleitz wrote.

 

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