Former top NSC official alleges politicization in review of Bolton book

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Ellen Knight accuses White House and DOJ officials of a pressure campaign.

Ellen Knight, the career NSC official who was first tasked with reviewing Bolton’s book and determined it did not contain classified information, alleges a pressure campaign from officials in the White House and Justice Department to force her to reverse her position to help their standing in the case.

The development could significantly complicate the Justice Department’s efforts to seize Bolton’s profits or charge him criminally under the Espionage Act.

Knight, according to her lawyer Kenneth Wainstein, says she was sat down for a four-hour session with members of the White House and NSC legal counsel including John Eisenberg and Patrick Philbin who she says “were trying to get her to admit that she and her team had missed something or made a mistake, which mistake could then be used to support their argument to block publication.”

“To their consternation, Ms. Knight was able to explain the clear and objective reasoning behind her team’s decision-making as to each of the challenged passages,” the filing says. “Having failed to secure Ms. Knight’s concession that this could all be chalked up to a difference between opinions, they changed tack and tried to persuade her to sign a declaration that purported to explain her role in the process.”

Over what she outlines as five days and 18 hours worth of meetings with White House and DOJ attorneys, Knight says she “voiced her concerns about the fairness and objectivity of the process being followed” and that she specifically asked “how it could be appropriate that a designedly apolitical process had been commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose.”

“The attorneys had no answer for her challenges, aside from a rote recitation of the government’s legal position that Ambassador Bolton had violated his contractual obligations by failing to wait for written clearance,” the filing says. “However, when Ms. Knight speculated that this litigation was happening “because the most powerful man in the world said that it needed to happen,” several registered their agreement with that diagnosis of the situation.

She also describes retaliation within the White House when she refused to sign a declaration the White House and attorneys from the Justice Department wanted to use in their lawsuit against Bolton.

After being promoted in December 2019 to her career senior director position in the NSC and given assurances she would be hired onto staff, Knight says that after refusal her “interaction with her leadership and NSC Legal all but ceased until June 22, when she received an automated email advising her that her detail would end in 60 days.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.