A National Security Council (NSC) staffer ousted during the Trump administration apparently for an incomplete understanding of what constituted “classified information” has been rehired by the Biden administration.
Ellen Knight, a government classification expert, is now working at the NSC as senior director for records, access, and information security management, NSC spokeswoman Emily Horne recently told The New York Times.
“Ellen Knight is a dedicated career public servant,” Horne said in a statement, according to the paper. “We’re thankful to have her return to the National Security Council as the senior director for records, access, and information security management, and benefit from her extensive experience in classified information management.”
However, President Trump did not have the same opinion during Knight’s stint at the NSC under his administration.
Under Trump, Knight worked at the NSC on a two-year detail assignment from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). She was involved with the prepublication review process for former national security adviser John Bolton’s book, “The Room Where it Happened,” which she claims led to retaliatory measures by the Trump administration.
Knight, in a September 2020 letter, claimed that lawyers at the NSC played “an outsized role in the review process” after she informed them that she received Bolton’s manuscript. She says NSC political appointees intervened in the process by delaying the issuance of a letter that deemed the book cleared. They also allegedly challenged her evaluation of the book.
Additionally, she claimed that White House lawyers pressured her to reverse her conclusion that Bolton’s book did not include any classified information and was safe to be published, according to the Times.
In the letter, the ex-staffer’s lawyer suggested that she may have been retaliated against for her stance on the review and refusal to block the publication of the book.
Knight knew that she was serving at the NSC on finite assignment, but the letter said she was given assurances that she would stay at NSC in a direct-hire position once her detail finished.
In 2020, however, she was told that “there was not a path forward for her” at the NSC and ultimately returned to NARA.
The letter was filed in Washington, D.C., federal court as part of the saga involving Bolton’s book. The Trump administration sought to block the publication of the book, claiming that it had classified information and could compromise national security if shown to the public.
The attempt was unsuccessful, and the book was published, but a lawsuit soon followed. The Justice Department ultimately dropped the suit and ended a criminal investigation into whether the book included classified information, according to the Times.