By Jon Dougherty
(TNS) The Justice Department is pushing back big time against a federal judge who last week demanded to see an unredacted version of the ‘Russia’ report filed by Robert Mueller’s band of Hillary donor prosecutors, claiming Attorney General William Barr essentially lied about its conclusions.
As USA Features News reported last week, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, current senior judge of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia and former presiding judge of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, ordered the Justice Department to provide him with a full copy of the Mueller report for his review because he says Barr provided “misleading” answers in public to questions about the report’s findings.
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Namely, that investigators found no “Russian collusion” — and frankly, they could never have found any evidence of that because it was a deep state-manufactured narrative.
In any event:
In a memo, Walton, appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, said he does not trust Barr’s comments regarding the contents of the report or his interpretations of what the special counsel concluded following its investigation into whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct the Russia probe.
He claimed there are “inconsistencies” between Barr’s public statements and what is provided in a redacted version of the special counsel’s report. Those alleged inconsistencies “cause the Court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump,” he wrote.
His ruling came in response to a lawsuit against the Justice Department filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and reporter Jason Leopold. — USA Features News
On Friday, the Justice Department shoved back hard, noting that Barr had nothing at all to do with the redactions and thus, the judge has questioned the department’s work with “no basis.”
The Epoch Times adds:
DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said March 6 that the redactions in the public Mueller Report were made by DOJ attorneys in consultation with senior members of Mueller’s team, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and members of the Intelligence Community.
The report was then reviewed again by career attorneys, including lawyers with expertise in FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) cases, in response to a FOIA lawsuit by BuzzFeed, its investigative journalist Jason Leopold and Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a privacy non-profit.
Barr played no role in the process, Kupec said.
We can’t really blame this bizarre order on an “Obama judge,” since Walton was successfully nominated by George W. Bush. Still, something seems afoul here:
Barr told Congress in a March 22, 2019, letter (pdf) that he would inform Congress about the principal conclusions of the Mueller report as soon as the weekend of March 23-24. He sent Congress a letter (pdf) with a summary of Mueller’s principal conclusions on March 24, 2019.
The redacted Mueller report was released to the public on April 18, 2019. Barr held a press conference about the release and sent a letter (pdf) to Congress early the day before the release. — The Epoch Times
But Walton says there are inconsistencies between Barr’s public statements, including his March 24 summary of Mueller’s principal conclusions, his remarks during the press conference and his April 18 letter.
“The inconsistencies between Attorney General Barr’s statements, made at a time when the public did not have access to the redacted version of the Mueller Report to assess the veracity of his statement, and portions of the redacted version of the Mueller Report that conflict with those statements cause the Court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller Report to the contrary,” Walton wrote.
Kupac says that’s not accurate.
“In the course of deciding that it would review the unredacted report, the court made a series of assertions about public statements the Attorney General made nearly a year ago. The court’s assertions were contrary to the facts,” she notes.
This is interesting, however, because if the order is left to stand, then DoJ will have to provide Walton with an unredacted version of the Mueller report. He’s likely still cleared to view it since he used to run the FISA court, but there ought to be a broader concern about just what the Judicial Branch has the authority to require the Executive Branch to do in terms of producing evidence that, by law, can’t be released to private parties anyway.
An updated April 2019 analysis by the Congressional Research Service claims that federal courts lack “inherent authority” under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure “to authorize disclosure of grand jury materials,” and the Mueller report is rife with grand jury testimony. We would have to think that Walton knows this, since he’s been a federal judge for many years now and, again, has experience on the most secretive bench in the country.
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So maybe his order will get tossed on appeal. Either way, it doesn’t feel like the Trump Justice Department is simply going to hand over a complete, clean copy of what would turn out to be one of the most politicized documents in recent history. And just in time for the 2020 election.
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