From here:

But Lamberth's decision also keeps alive major risks for Bolton, such as the administration's effort to claw back proceeds from the book, including from any movie and TV rights, and other consequences for disclosing classified information.

My first question is about usage of claw back in this context. Clawing back involves recovering and getting back money the government somehow disbursed.

But since the administration has never funded/spent money on this book in the first place how does clawing back money from proceeds make any sense?

I would also like to understand why the administration may claw back book proceeds due to movie and TV rights. Does it have to do with copyright taxation? Does it imply the book includes quotes from TV and movies?


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    IMO it means that as Bolton is free to publish, the proceeds that he makes from the book might be the target of further actions, as well as other issues being open. If he could not publish, that would not be a live issue, and the other matters are about law, not English anyway. Money from publishing rights is about Bolton being paid for the use of his copyright. But the other point made is that if Bolton has disclosed classified information, that could be grounds for court or federal action, and seizure of the profits. Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 18:38
  • Thanks @WeatherVane. That pretty much answers my second question. What still confuses me is all examples of claw back I found refer to government or a company attempting to recover money it has spent or given to someone. But back to my example, what have the administration formerly spent money in to be now attempting to claw it back? Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 18:48
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    The government has paid out a substantial sum in legal fees. Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 18:53
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    I think it's just bad journalism. Claw back may have ring to it but it's clearly not correct. They want a slice of his potential earnings but there is no question of recovery of funds paid out.. Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 21:36
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    I think "claw at" would make more sense; it appears they want to grab something. Commented Jun 20, 2020 at 21:49

2 Answers 2


It will probably be argued by the "administration" that Hilton's book was made possible only by his government position, and that much of the information in it somehow "belongs" to the government. In that sense they would argue that they are "clawing back" what is theirs. Bolton and his lawyers would very likely disagree.

"Movie and TV rights" would refer to the possibility of turning the book into a movie or TV series, not to any quotes it might use.


I'm not familiar with the specific laws involved here but it may be that the government has a right to claim profits that were illegally gained. For example, many states have laws that prevent felons from profiting from the sale of their "story". These laws are contentious since they involve a conflict between the First Amendment and the rights of the victims. Findlaw has a good article discussing the history and issues involved.

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