A federal district court judge overseeing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) over the redacted portions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report used his ruling to slam Attorney General Bill Barr, accusing him of covering up for President Donald Trump and misleading the public about the report’s conclusions.
But on Friday, Barr’s DOJ fired back with a statement blasting the judge for making assertions that it said were “contrary to the facts,” Fox News reported.
U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton, an appointee of President George W. Bush, was ruling Thursday on the FOIA case brought by BuzzFeed News and a nonprofit group known as Electronic Privacy Information Center. The suit demanded access to an unredacted version of Mueller’s report on his probe of alleged Trump–Russia collusion, which came up short.
“The court seriously questions 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,” Judge Walton wrote, according to Fox.
Walton went on to call for the full, unredacted version of the report to be released to the court so an independent review of the redactions could be conducted.
The clear implication was that Barr had been directly involved in the redactions and had purposely blacked out certain portions of the report that may have looked bad for President Trump.
“Contrary to the facts”
In response to that allegation, DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec issued a scathing statement on Friday alleging that the judge has no idea what he’s talking about.
“Yesterday afternoon, a district court issued an order on the narrow legal question of whether it should review the unredacted special counsel’s confidential report to confirm the report had been appropriately redacted under the Freedom of Information Act,” Kupec wrote. “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.
“The original redactions in the public report were made by Department attorneys, in consultation with senior members of Special Counsel Mueller’s team, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and members of the Intelligence Community,” Kupec added, according to the Washington Examiner. She went on to say that the report was “then reviewed by career attorneys, including different career attorneys with expertise in FOIA cases — a process in which the Attorney General played no role.”
“There is no basis to question the work or good faith of any of these career Department lawyers,” she said. “The department stands by their work, as well as the attorney general’s statements and efforts to provide as much transparency as possible in connection with the special counsel’s confidential report.”
The bottom line
Indeed, “contrary to the facts,” this district judge has essentially accused Attorney General Barr of engaging in a partisan cover-up and lying to the American people about the contents of Mueller’s report (which, by the way, the AG was under no obligation to release to the public at all).
In the most professional way possible, the DOJ just told this judge to get a clue and learn the facts before spouting off about things he doesn’t know anything about. Only time will tell if the adjudicator has any defense for himself — or an apology.