A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to hand over to him a copy of the unredacted Mueller report and accused Attorney General William Barr of misrepresenting its findings in the days before it was submitted to Congress last year.
Judge Reggie B. Walton, a federal district court judge in Washington, said that he could not reconcile Barr’s public comments in April 2019 about the report with the actual findings that former special counsel Robert Mueller outlined.
“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 statements, 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 in his decision.
“These circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility” as well as the DOJ’s arguments in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, Walton added.
A DOJ spokeswoman did not respond when asked for comment.
The judge, who was appointed to the court by former President George W. Bush, said he would review the full report to determine whether the redactions made by the DOJ are subject to a FOIA request. The unredacted version will not be released to the public in the meantime.
After Mueller submitted his long-awaited report on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the DOJ waited nearly a month before releasing to the public a redacted version in April. During that time, Barr summarized the findings publicly as clearing Trump of any wrongdoing and concluding that neither he nor his campaign had colluded with Russia for assistance during the presidential race.
Mueller criticized Barr’s framing of his report, writing in a letter to the DOJ last year that it “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions.”
The report said that while the investigation had not been able to establish proof that the campaign had conspired with Russia, it found “multiple links between Trump campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government.”
Walton is presiding over a pair of consolidated FOIA lawsuits brought by Buzzfeed journalist Jason Leopold and the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center.
The judge said that Barr’s public statements about the report has caused him to doubt the DOJ’s arguments that the redactions should remain in place.
“The Court has grave concerns about the objectivity of the process that preceded the public release of the redacted version of the Mueller Report and its impacts on the Department’s subsequent justifications that its redactions of the Mueller Report are authorized by the FOIA,” Walton wrote.
He ordered the DOJ to hand over the unredacted report by March 30.
Author: Harper Neidig
Source: The Hill: Judge demands unredacted Mueller report, questions Barr’s ‘credibility’