Posts tagged with "Attorney General William Barr"

Federal judge ponders review of Mueller report redactions

April 19, 2019

The federal judge who reviews documents for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dissemination is asking to scrutinize the redacted version of the Mueller Report, in order to ensure that all deletions have been made for legal purposes—and not with the intent of withholding information from the Congress or the American public.

As reported by The Daily Beast, Federal District Judge Reggie Walton expressed interest in reviewing the Mueller report redactions in order to expedite Freedom of Information Act requests for the highly anticipated report.

“Obviously there is a real concern as to whether there is full transparency,” Walton said at a Tuesday court hearing regarding a request from BuzzFeed to have the Justice Department release the report quickly under FOIA. “The attorney general has created an environment that has caused a significant part of the American public to be concerned.”

If Walton is successful, the review would be a win for those suing for the report’s release because it would bring in a judge to look at the reasoning over redactions. It is unclear whether the version of the report made public Thursday will be identical to what the department releases under FOIA.

“That’s something we’ll have to work through and something I’ll have to think about,” Walton said.

Indeed, according to Politico, Justice Department attorney Courtney Enlow declined to say whether the version of the report made public Thursday will be identical to what the department releases under FOIA. Nor could she say whether she’d be prepared to commit to that during another hearing set for May 2 on the BuzzFeed case and a related suit.

“I can’t give you a timeline,” Enlow said.

However, the judge said Tuesday that he plans to “fast track” the issue of the report and what information in it must be disclosed, then deal with other records from Mueller’s probe.

Walton said he hopes any disputes will be limited because the Justice Department makes the bulk of the document public.

“I would hope that the government is as transparent as it can be,” the judge said.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

House Democrats move to stop Barr from ‘running out the clock’

April 3, 2019

House Democratic leaders are desperately trying to stop Republicans from “running out the clock.”

As it stands now, the GOP is focused on delaying the release of the full Mueller report until the American electorate can be cajoled by the president and his party’s leaders into accepting that Attorney General William Barr’s four-page analysis of the findings is a fait accompli.

On April 2, Politico reported, Democrats called for Barr to appear immediately for a hearing to explain his decision last month to release the top-line summary without unveiling the full report.

Barr’s four-page memo asserted that the special counsel did not find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow to sway the 2016 presidential election in his 400-page report—but it also said that Mueller did not exonerate the president on obstruction of justice. However, Barr added that he would not charge the president with obstruction of justice. Trump has touted the letter as a complete vindication.

The chairmen of six House committees, including Judiciary’s Jerry Nadler, said in their letter sent Monday to Barr that he should testify “as soon as possible — not in a month, as you have offered, but now” to discuss his rationale.

In their letter and an accompanying nine-page memo to Barr, the Democrats also quibbled with the potential edits and modifications that could limit their ability to see the full Mueller report.

But Barr said before he releases the Mueller report, he would remove four categories of sensitive information: materials gathered during the grand jury process, which are protected by law; classified information dealing with intelligence sources and methods; information tied to ongoing investigations; and anything harmful to “reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

Democrats pushed back, urging Barr to ask a federal district court judge to give DOJ permission to release materials otherwise protected under grand jury secrecy rules. And they argued that Barr has no authority to hold back information that could harm someone’s “reputational interests,” including materials related to Trump family members who work in the White House.

The Democrats also called on Barr to make a “detailed log of each redaction and the reasons supporting it” in case there are fights later with lawmakers.

Separately, Politico noted, the letter previewed another major moment ahead, calling on Barr “to refrain from interfering with Special Counsel Mueller testifying before the Judiciary Committee — and before any other relevant committees —after the report has been released regarding his investigation and findings.” No date has been scheduled for a Mueller hearing in the House, although Democrats have long signaled plans to call the special counsel in for testimony if they don’t get a complete look at his findings.

Originally, Nadler had set an April 2 deadline for Barr to hand over Mueller’s report and its underlying evidence. His Democratic-led panel plans on Wednesday to vote on authorizing the use of a subpoena to compel its release “in unredacted form.”

Research contact: @politico

House Democrats say they will subpoena the full, unredacted Mueller report

April 2, 2019

House Democrats say they intend to vote this week to subpoena Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s complete, 300-page report, as well as underlying evidence, and other materials—rejecting as insufficient Attorney General William Barr’s promise to provide a redacted version of the report “by mid-April,”  Mother Jones reported on April 1.

According to a story by posted in late March by Business Insider, Barr is taking the peculiar and unheard-of step of giving precedence to the sitting president to review and redact a document summarizing an investigation into his own administration’s culpability in Russian interference into the U.S. elections and obstruction of justice.

The president is expected to invoke executive privilege on parts of the report. Barr also has said that the report will be scrubbed to exclude grand jury testimony; information that could compromise intelligence “sources and methods”; material that could affect ongoing Justice Department investigations; and information that might “infringe on the personal privacy” or reputation of “peripheral third parties,” Mother Jones noted.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York.) announced on Monday that the panel will meet Wednesday morning to consider a resolution that would authorize the subpoenas. Democrats say they need to review the entire report as part of their own investigation into Trump’s Russian ties and alleged obstruction of justice.

Nadler and other Democrats set an April 2 deadline for Barr to turn over the whole report—without redactions—and to start handing over underlying evidence. It is extremely doubtful that they would meet that target date,

According to Mother Jones, Nadler, who has not said when he may issue subpoenas the committee okays on Wednesday, also said he will also seek authorization to subpoena documents from a number of ex-White House aides: former senior adviser Steven Bannon; former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks; former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus; former White House Counsel Don McGahn; and Ann Donaldson, McGahn’s former deputy. Nadler said those people “may have received documents from the White House relevant to the Special Counsel investigation, or their outside counsel may have, waiving applicable privileges under the law.” 

Research contact: dfriedman@motherjones.com

‘There’s nothing routine about this’: Barr moves to send Mueller’s report to Trump

March 29, 2019

More than three in four Americans (77%), including majorities of both Republicans and Democrats, think that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full report should be released to the public, based on findings of a survey conducted by CBS News and released on March 28.

However, after summarizing the 300-plus-page report in fewer than 1,000 words and coming to his own conclusion on obstruction of justice charges, Attorney General William Barr now has said he intends to hand the document over to the president—instead of to Congress and the American public.

Indeed, according to a story by Business Insider, Barr is taking the peculiar and unheard of step of giving precedence to the sitting president to review and redact a document summarizing an investigation into his own administration’s culpability in Russian interference into the U.S. elections and obstruction of justice.

Typically, the news outlet notes, when the government obtains information that can be protected under presidential privilege claims, it sets up a separate filter team to separate out that information before prosecutors see it. Justice Department veterans said they were surprised Barr chose to forego that option and send the report directly to the White House.

Over a dozen current and former White House officials have given testimony and turned over documents to Mueller, and legal scholars say President Donald Trump’s team could theoretically assert executive privilege over all that information.

The dilemma could put Barr in a difficult position, one former federal prosecutor pointed out to the news outlet: “Say Barr sends this report to the White House and tells them to pull out anything they think is privileged. What if the White House sent back one-third of the report and redacted the rest? What does Barr do with that? Does he just accept it and only release the parts that weren’t redacted, or if he feels like the White House is wrong or abusing their power, does he challenge them?”

“There’s nothing routine about this,” Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who worked at the Justice Department when Barr was acting attorney general in the 1990s, told Business Insider. “There’s nowhere to look for a precedent to what Barr’s planning on doing here, because there’s never been a report issued under the special counsel statute Mueller’s operating under.”

“I’m not sure why Barr felt this was the appropriate way to go about handling potentially privileged information,” Cotter said, adding, “You shouldn’t be able to use it in a way that gives you an unfair advantage,” Cotter said.

Research contact: @businessinsider