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Fed Judge orders unredacted copy of Mueller report, unwilling to take AG Barr at his word

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A federal judge is apparently not taking the word of US Attorney General Bill Barr on face value, issuing an order for the release of an unredacted copy of the Mueller report.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton reportedly wants to review the redactions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report himself, and ordered the Department of Justice on Thursday to turn over the document.

(Image: Fox News screenshot)

Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for an unredacted version of the Mueller report from Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and BuzzFeed’s Jason Leopold, saying he would have to assess whether the redactions were justifiable.

“Specifically, the Court must grant the plaintiffs’ motions to the extent they seek in camera review of the unredacted version of the Mueller Report and deny without prejudice the plaintiffs’ motions in all other respects,” Walton wrote in his memorandum.

“The Court further concludes that it must deny without prejudice the Department’s motion for summary judgment and directs the Department to submit the unredacted version of the Mueller Report to the Court for in camera review,” the record continued, adding that “if the Court concludes after its in camera review that any of the redacted information was inappropriately withheld, it will issue a supplemental Memorandum Opinion and Order that comports with that finding.”

The judge accused Barr of creating a “one-sided narrative” about the Mueller report and said he “lacked candor.”

Barr released a letter last year summarizing the conclusions from the Mueller investigation after receiving the special counsel’s final report. The entire report, save for grand jury material redactions, was released a few weeks later.

Walton noted the “grave concerns” over Barr’s handling of the report findings in his memorandum on Thursday.

“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,” he wrote.

“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 said.

“The speed by which Attorney General Barr released to the public the summary of Special Counsel Mueller’s principal conclusions, coupled with the fact that Attorney General Barr failed to provide a thorough representation of the findings set forth in the Mueller Report, causes the Court to question whether Attorney General Barr’s intent was to create a one-sided narrative about the Mueller Report—a narrative that is clearly in some respects substantively at odds with the redacted version of the Mueller Report,” he continued.

Barr “lacked candor” in Walton’s opinion.

“These circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility,” he wrote, claiming he did not take his duty and responsibility as a judge lightly.

“Here, although it is with great consternation, true to the oath that the undersigned took upon becoming a federal judge, and the need for the American public to have faith in the judicial process, considering the record in this case, the Court must conclude that the actions of Attorney General Barr and his representations about the Mueller Report preclude the Court’s acceptance of the validity of the Department’s redactions without its independent verification,” Walton said.

“Accordingly, the Court concludes that it must conduct an in camera review of the unredacted version of the Mueller Report to assess de novo the applicability of the particular exemptions claimed by the Department for withholding information in the Mueller Report pursuant to the FOIA,” he concluded.

Many on social media were shocked by the federal judge’s order and his public criticism of the attorney general, while calling out the accusations.

Frieda Powers

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