A federal judge obtained the full and unredacted report on election interference and obstruction of justice prepared by former special counsel Robert Mueller on Monday.
A two-page filing submitted by U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia notified Judge Reggie Walton of the delivery of the documents in question. The filing also noted DOJ’s compliance with two court orders issued by Walton earlier this month demanding the law enforcement agency supply the full report.
Monday’s filing notes, in relevant part:
On March 5, 2020, the Court ordered [DOJ] to “submit the unredacted version of the Mueller Report to the Court for its in camera review.” On March 16, 2020, the Court ordered [DOJ] to “submit unredacted copies of the final two pages of its October 10, 2019 production to the Court for its in camera review.”
Pursuant to those Orders and instructions from chambers, on March 30, 2020, [DOJ] counsel hand-delivered two paper copies and one electronic copy of the two records at issue to chambers. Also included with those copies is cover letter from the Office of Information Policy, which is attached to this notice.”
The long sought-after report won’t be looked over any time soon, however, due to the general and specific federal caseload slowdowns enacted in response to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and social distancing response regime.
Judge Walton issued a minute order explaining his postponement:
Consistent with the [DOJ’s] Notice of Submission of Documents for In Camera Review, the Court has received the unredacted version of the report regarding Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 United Stats presidential election (the “Mueller Report”). However, in light of the Chief Judge Howell’s March 16, 2020 Order Regard Court Operations in Exigent Circumstances Created by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Court’s review of the unredacted version of the Mueller Report is unable to occur until the Court resumes its normal operations on April 20, 2020, unless the Court’s normal operations are further suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The battle over the full Mueller Report has been hard fought by Judge Walton–a George W. Bush-appointed judge and somewhat persistent critic of the Trump administration on matters of executive power, privilege and authority.
“I just think it’s a banana republic when we go down that road,” Walton opined before DOJ attorneys while discussing President Donald Trump attempting to force a prosecution of former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) deputy director Andrew McCabe. “I think there are a lot of people on the outside who perceive that there is undo inappropriate pressure being brought to bear.”
Walton also groused that the Trump administration was “going after the courts, too,” during another hearing about the McCabe situation–while pushing DOJ attorneys to make their minds up about charging the onetime FBI number two over lying to federal investigators about leaks he authorized.
The 71-year-old judge also took aim at Attorney General William Barr in the present case.
Last August, Walton said it was “difficult to reconcile” the full Mueller Report with Barr’s controversial summary which gave the arguably false impression that Trump was wholly exonerated of any and all wrongdoing by Mueller.
Earlier in March, Walton revealed that he was not pleased about Barr’s handling of the Mueller report. He said he had “grave concerns.”
“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 said of Barr–while also implying the 77th and 85th attorney general didn’t actually read the entire report.
“These circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility and in turn, the Department’s representation that ‘all of the information redacted from the version of the [Mueller] Report released by [ ] Attorney General [Barr]’ is protected from disclosure by its claimed FOIA exemptions,” the judge continued.
While Walton’s receipt of the report was hailed, some were disappointed in the delay.
“Damn,” tweeted media critic Dan Froomkin. “Sounded to me like perfect quarantine reading.”
Other Twitters were somewhat less understanding.
But national security journalist Marcy Wheeler wasn’t quite as torn up about it.
“For those bitching about this delay, please note that Judge Walton is 71 years old and has been one of the DC District judges most willing to take on Executive overreach in recent decades,” she tweeted. “Let’s keep him safe.”
[image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]