Earlier this week a letter was penned by a career official who served on the National Security Council. In the letter, Ellen Knight accuses White House aides of intervening in the review process of a book written by Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton. Knight writes that aides’ falsely claimed Bolton’s book contained classified information. The letter has been filed by Knight’s attorney.
Knight, previously served as the senior director for records access and information security management at the NSC. She oversaw the prepublication review process for Bolton’s book. Bolton and the Trump administration are currently in a protracted legal battle over the release of his book.
Knight is no longer involved in any matter related to Bolton’s book and says that she has had no contact with Bolton or the government.
In her letter, she writes that she felt “compelled” to speak out for several reasons.
The government contends that Knight and her staff left “substantial amounts of classified national security information in Bolton’s manuscript,” which “directly challenges the quality of her team’s work, and therefore calls for a response” from Knight.
She shares that she is “very concerned” about the politicization of the prepublication review process because if authors believe their manuscripts are being reviewed “for political considerations, they will lose confidence in the integrity of the process and find ways to publish or release their works without submitting them for review.”
The main reason she has spoken out is that she is concerned the government is “positioning” the legal process surrounding Bolton’s book “in a way that will prevent disclosure of information that might be at odds with the narrative it has propounded since the initiation of this litigation.”
Knight’s attorney states that Knight has followed protocol, reviewed Bolton’s book, and cleared it for release in April. He adds that she had “extraordinary” interactions with the NSC’s legal office, which refused to send Bolton a letter confirming his book had been cleared for release.
“At no time was Ms. Knight ever advised that the delay was due to any further review that was being conducted on the Bolton manuscript.”
Knight says that six weeks after she cleared Bolton’s manuscript, she was called to review a letter that was written by the NSC’s senior lawyer, John Eisenberg, who had drafted to send to Bolton’s lawyer, Charles Cooper. She says that the letter mentioned media reports that said Bolton intended to publish his book “without final written NSC authorization, and pointed out that the review process was still ongoing. The letter then asserted that ‘the current draft manuscript still contains classified material.'”
The last statement “caught Ms. Knight by surprise, as nobody had ever said so much as one word about any remaining classification concerns since her April 28 request that NSC Legal authorize her to clear the manuscript,” the letter from her lawyer said.
Knight says that she told Eisenberg that she was confident the manuscript did not contain classified information and recommended he “amend” the portion of his letter that said Bolton’s book “still contains classified material.” Eisenberg “noted” the recommendation before ending the meeting.
On June 10, just two days after her meeting with Eisenberg, Knight was called to a meeting with the NSC legal office’s deputy adviser and four Justice Department lawyers.
“The attorneys then asked Ms. Knight a series of questions which clearly indicated they were preparing for litigation,” and “they also asked questions suggesting that Ambassador Bolton had acted in bad faith during the prepublication review,” the letter said. Knight responded that she believed Bolton had conducted himself “in good faith overall and that she had never seen any indication during their work together that he was trying to circumvent the process.”
Knight was then asked what Bolton and his lawyer knew about “the reason for the delay in granting the clearance of the manuscript.” Her lawyer stated that she realized the delay was “not due to competing priorities brought about by the COVID crisis,” which was originally what she had been told.
Knight’s lawyer then adds that between her final review on April 28 and the June 10 meeting with DOJ lawyers, “none of these political appointees … ever raised these classification concerns with Ms. Knight and her team or sought to learn about their analysis of the concerning passages.”
Later Knight was presented with Ellis’ review by the DOJ’s lawyers and asked if she or her team had “missed this much-classified information,” Knight “firmly responded that that was not possible” and that Ellis’ review was “fundamentally flawed.”
Knight shares that three days later she was called into another meeting with Patrick Philbin, The White House’s counsel who then “walked her through” Ellis’ review and asked her to “explain how she and her team could have cleared each passage.”
Knight says it was obvious that Philbin was trying to get her to admit that she had made a mistake.
Knight says that over the next few days a “rotating cast” of lawyers from the White House and Justice Department tried to convince her to sign paperwork about her role in the process of reviewing the manuscript and blaming the discrepancies between her review and Ellis’ review to a “difference of opinion.” Knight refused to sign.
In the letter, Knight’s attorney states that the shadow they were trying to cast over his client’s work was only “the most powerful man in the world said it needed to happen.” The letter adds that when Knight voiced that speculation out loud, “several registered their agreement with that diagnosis of the situation.”
Just six days after she refused to sign the paperwork Knight was notified her detail with the White House would end in 60 days.