The NYT has acquired and released a substantial letter from the lawyers representing Ellen Knight, the career official who oversaw the pre-publication review of John Bolton's book (her 146th such review). The letter is addressed to the various lawyers involved in the White House's litigation against Bolton for allegedly revealing classified information.

Knight's letter describes first, that Bolton's manuscript represented an unprecedented challenge to her and her staff, containing in its initial draft an extraordinary amount of classified information. Through months of deeply documented work, including many hours of meetings and phone calls with Bolton and his lawyer which were occasionally pretty heated, they came to agreement by April 28 on every point. That is, Knight rather fiercely did her job, and meticulously documented all of the work.

The disagreement hinges on the difference between conducting a pre-publication review of a private citizen's manuscript .. protected by 1st Amendment .. vs conducting a classification review of a government document seeking to keep it confidential. Bolton's manuscript was emphatically the prior, and the Trump administration's rebuttal and subsequent legal case illegitimately conflates it with the latter.

What Knight's letter then describes is how the White House, at first deceptively and later nakedly, subverted the process to serve political intent. Up to and including descriptions of her meetings with White House lawyers pressuring her to sign onto a declaration she considered false to be used in the Bolton litigation - while refusing to tell her how that declaration would fit into the legal case. Her request to have her supervisor-of-the-time present to provide his opinions of her work and the sections of the Bolton book in question (btw a respected expert in this field) was also refused.

For her trouble, while Knight had quite recently been promoted for her fine work ... she was unexpectedly sent back to the department which had detailed her to the NSC. The norm is that the person in her role is re-appointed to serve through a possible transition of administrations to ensure continuity and expertise. But nope.

This is how authoritarianism works in its relatively early phases, while there are still pre-authoritarian staff in responsible positions. There's a whole empirical academic literature about it.