Posts tagged with "Justice Department"

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

Dems deride Barr’s obstruction of justice conclusion; demand full Mueller report

March 26, 2019

When President Donald Trump’s personally selected and nominated attorney general, William Barr, quickly decided this past weekend that there had been no obstruction of justice during the Russia investigation, Democrats had their doubts.

After all, before his nomination, Barr had deeply damaged his credibility by sending an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department and the White House on June 8 of last year, arguing that Special Counsel Robert Muellershould not be permitted to demand that the President submit to interrogation about alleged obstruction.”

Barr noted at that time, “I know you will agree that, if a DOJ investigation is going to take down a democratically elected President, it is imperative to the health of our system and to our national cohesion that any claim of wrongdoing is solidly based on evidence of a real crime—not a debatable one. It is time to travel well-worn paths; not to veer into novel, unsettled or contested areas of the law; and not to indulge the fancies by overly zealous prosecutors.”

Did Robert Mueller get that message before he decided to demur? And who can blame Democrats for wondering whether—when Barr said the special counsel had not reached a conclusion on obstruction of justice—he was merely grabbing the opportunity that he had hoped to take advantage of all along?

Indeed, Democrats accused Barr of putting his own finding on Mueller’s report, noting that Mueller himself did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice, even if he did not explicitly state that Trump had committed obstruction, The Hill reported. 

“A sanitized summary from Trump’s handpicked bodyguard is not acceptable,” said Representative Bill Pascrell (D-New Jersey). “Barr has his finger on the scale to protect Trump. The full report should be released immediately.”

From day one, Trump obstructed this investigation and refused to cooperate. Several of his top aides have been convicted in court. If Trump’s AG won’t hold him accountable for his crimes, it’s up to Congress to investigate,” Pascrell continued, adding that “the ball is now squarely in our court.”

Democrats seeking the party’s nomination to run against Trump in 2020—including Senators Cory Booker (New Jersey)Kirsten Gillibrand (New York)Kamala Harris (California), and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts)—also called for the full report to be released, The Hill said.

“The American public deserves the full report and findings from the Mueller investigation immediately—not just the in-house summary from a Trump Administration official,” Booker tweeted.

In her call for the full report, Warren cited a House measure earlier this month in which lawmakers unanimously voted for the special counsel’s entire report to be made public.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-New York) said his panel would be calling on Barr to testify, the news outlet reported.

“In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision-making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before House Judiciary in the near future,” he said.

Trump and the White House seized on Barr’s letter summarizing Mueller’s report as a vindication. “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!” Trump tweeted on March 24 at 4:42 p.m.

Research contact: @the hill

Judiciary Committee delays confirmation vote on Barr amid doubts by Dems

January 30, 2019

A scheduled Senate Judiciary Committee vote on the nomination of William Barr to be U.S. attorney general has been delayed by a week, to February 5, as Democrats on the panel continue to worry that he will cut the Russia inquiry short—or fail to release Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s full report to the Congress and the American people.

According to coverage by U.S. News & World Report, such delays—known as holdovers—are not uncommon. However, this one comes during a “pronounced partisan divide” over seating Barr, coming just one day after Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker told the media that the Mueller “investigation is, I think, close to being completed.”

Barr came under intense scrutiny from Democrats late last year, the news outlet said, when he sent an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department expressing doubts about the legitimacy of any inquiry into whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice.

During the hearing, Barr has avowed, “…it is in the best interest of everyone—the president, Congress, and the American people—that this matter be resolved by allowing the special counsel to complete his work.”

However, to date, he has not promised to make the full report available when it is completed. Instead, Barr has pledged, “to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law”—a statement that brings little comfort to the opposition party.

Research contact: @alneuhauser

Ornstein: Nunes should be expelled from House

July 25, 2018

Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative public policy think tank American Enterprise Institute, has called for U.S. Representative Devin Nunes (R-California) to be expelled from the House of Representatives, saying that the Intelligence Committee chairman—who was supposed to recuse himself from the Russia investigation due to his involvement as an Executive Committee member on the Trump transition team—has “brought dishonor” to the chamber.

Appearing on MSNBC on July 23, The Hill reports, Ornstein said Nunes’s repeated attacks on the U.S. intelligence community and his willingness to coordinate with the White House “against the interests of Congress” demonstrated that the California Republican had provided “aid and comfort to our enemies.”

“I think what we’ve seen with Nunes going back to way before the attacks on the FISA report, on the intelligence community; undermining key security of the United States; to when he was working with the White House against the interests of Congress, shutting out the minority as the chairman of the intelligence community—this is giving aid and comfort to our enemies,” Ornstein said.

“He has, I think, brought dishonor upon the House and endangered the country,” Ornstein added. “And I don’t say it lightly.”

Ornstein’s comments on MSNBC came days after the Justice Department released redacted documents related to surveillance warrants on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser with links to Russia.

Nunes previously had pushed the release of a memo authored by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee that alleged missteps and abuses by FBI officials in obtaining the Page warrants, The Hill said.

Nunes is among President Trump‘s most ardent congressional allies in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The intel chairman has repeatedly raised concerns about potential surveillance abuses against members of Trump’s campaign.

According to findings of a July 24 Quinnipiac University Poll, american votes believe (51%-35%)”that the Russian government has compromising information about President Donald Trump. Only Republicans do not believe that Russia has compromising information on the POTUS (70%-18%). Similarly, 54% of U.S,. voters think that the Helsinki summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin was a failure for the United States (52%-27%), but not the Republicans (73%-8%).

Research contact: peter.brown@quinnipiac.edu

AG’s marijuana ‘Prohibition’ exposes GOP to 2018 backlash

January 8, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has stated that he intends to “return to the rule of law,” starting a new era of 1920s-type Prohibition in the United States—this time, for marijuana rather than alcoholic beverages.

While the ban would not be mandatory—Sessions would allow federal prosecutors in areas where marijuana already is legal to decide how aggressively to enforce it—the intention is clear.

Sessions, a former Alabama senator, plainly said at an April 2016 hearing: “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

That may be what he believes, but U.S. citizens and their legislators are not happy about it. Indeed, pot legalization has been very popular nationwide: 64% percent of Americans favor it, based on results of an October 2017 Gallup poll.

“Sessions’s move just adds another weight to the ankles of vulnerable House Republicans in places like California and Colorado,” Brian Fallon, a former spokesperson for the Senate Democratic leadership and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, told Bloomberg this week. “Given the support for decriminalization across political parties, and especially among young voters, this was an issue that progressives already should have been considering for state ballot measures. That is even truer now.”

Gardner—who doesn’t face re-election until 2020—has vowed to block Justice Department nominees from being confirmed unless Sessions reverses course, Bloomberg reports.

The question for Republicans is whether pushing back publicly will fuel Democratic opponents’ criticism during the upcoming, fiercely competitive midterm campaign.

The issue looms large in Colorado, Nevada and California, which legalized marijuana and where several congressional Republicans, including California Representative Dana Rohrabacher (48th District) , already are facing tough re-election battles.

“This is a freedom issue,” Rohrabacher said in a January 4 conference call with reporters, calling for a change in federal law to protect legal marijuana in states. “I think Jeff Sessions has forgotten about the Constitution and the 10th Amendment,” which gives powers to the states.

“By taking this benighted minority position, [Sessions] actually places Republicans’ electoral fortunes in jeopardy,” Rohrabacher said in a statement later Thursday.

The question for Republicans is whether whatever they choose to do now will fuel Democratic opponents’ criticism during the upcoming, fiercely competitive midterm campaign.

“It’s time for anyone who cares about this issue to mobilize and push back strongly against this decision,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon (3rd District), a Democrat who is co-chairman of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

Research contact: @sahilkapur