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The International Publishers Association (IPA) has criticised the White House for its attempts to prevent publication of Ambassador John Bolton’s about the Trump presidency, The Room Where it Happened, due to be published by Simon & Schuster on 23 June.  The IPA has voiced its full support for the publisher. 

Kristenn Einarsson, Chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee said: ”Both the author, Ambassador Bolton, and the publisher, Simon and Schuster are playing their vital roles in a democracy that respects the freedom to publish and enables an informed dialogue about issues of national importance. Such books deserve to be published. 

IPA Secretary General, José Borghino added: “The United States of America is a bastion of free speech, a fact exemplified by the strong stance Simon & Schuster has taken against this pressure from President Trump. However, seeing the highest office in the USA attempt to silence an author and a publisher sends a frighteningly negative signal around the world. It reminds us that freedom of expression must never be taken for granted and must be defended whenever it is attacked.

Adam Rothberg, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications at Simon & Schuster said: “We are grateful for the support of our colleagues around the world. The ability to publish, unfettered by outside influence or interference, is the most dearly held freedom for every publisher, and we are pleased to work in concert with the International Publishers Association to protect and fight for that freedom.” 

In its 27-page deposition, the US attorney’s office claims that its prepublication review of Bolton’s book is not yet complete, and that the manuscript remains “rife with classified information” and in violation of non-disclosure agreements.

Bolton and his attorneys, however, have expressed concern that the Trump Administration is using the review process to “suppress” the book by tying it up in procedural delay.  Simon & Schuster said: “The lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice to block John Bolton from publishing his book, The Room Where It Happened, is nothing more than the latest in a long-running series of efforts by the Administration to quash publication of a book it deems unflattering to the President.

“Ambassador Bolton has worked in full cooperation with the National Security Council in its prepublication review to address its concerns and Simon & Schuster fully supports his First Amendment right to tell the story of his time in the White House to the American public.”

It is not the first time that Trump’s legal team has clashed with publishers over books about his presidency – and not the first time the IPA has spoken out in support of the publishers involved.   In January 2018, his lawyers sent a ‘cease and desist’ letter to Henry Holt/Macmillan to try and prevent publication of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury which prompted this response from the IPA:  “Although it is clear that the US Constitution protects Wolff and his publisher, it is of grave concern when a US President seeks to interfere in the publication of a book, as he has in this case. It demonstrates the importance of a strong legal framework that enshrines freedom of expression as fundamental to democracy.”

In August of that same year Trump’s legal team tried to stop publication of Unhinged by Omarosa Manigault Newman, which, like the Bolton book, was also published by Simon & Schuster.

Wolff’s book went on to be a bestseller, leading some in the industry to label these shots across the bows by the president’s lawyers as ‘cease and reprint’ letters.