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Federal Judge, After Reading the Unredacted Mueller Report, Orders DOJ to Explain Itself at Hearing


Attorney General William Barr, President Donald Trump, Coronavirus Briefing, COVID-19, Pandemic

A federal judge who previously said that Attorney General William Barr “distorted” the findings of the redacted Mueller Report confirmed on Monday that he has finally read the unredacted version. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton then ordered the Department of Justice to answer his questions “regarding certain redactions of the Mueller Report” at an ex parte (one party only) hearing next month.

The much-anticipated development in the lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), BuzzFeed and BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold comes months after the judge expressed his skepticism about the DOJ’s decision-making in no uncertain terms. The pandemic, as Judge Walton noted, more than threw a wrench in the matter and continues to do so. But Judge Walton, having reviewed the full Mueller Report in his chambers, made clear that he has some questions that the DOJ cannot answer remotely:

Having reviewed the unredacted version of the Mueller Report, the Court cannot assess the merits of certain redactions without further representations from the Department. However, because the Court must discuss the substance of the redactions with the Department, and because such a discussion cannot occur remotely due to the lack of a secure connection between the Court and the Department necessary to avoid disclosure of the redacted information, and in light of Chief Judge Howell’s May 26, 2020 Order, In re: Further Extension of Postponed Court Proceedings in Standing Order 20-9 and Limiting Court Operations in Exigent Circumstances Created by the COVID-19 Pandemic, Standing Order No. 20-29 (BAH), it is hereby ORDERED that the status conference currently scheduled for June 18, 2020, is VACATED.

Judge Walton, a George W. Bush appointee, ordered the DOJ to appear at a hearing on July 20 at 9:30 a.m. in order to “address the Court’s questions regarding certain redactions of the Mueller Report.” In a footnote, the judge said the DOJ should be prepared, “if necessary,” for a continuation of the hearing on July 21 and July 22.

Finally, Walton said he would at a later date let the DOJ know which topics the Department “should be prepared to discuss.”

Read the order below:

Reggie Walton confirms he has read the Mueller Report by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.