The Russia investigation continues to proceed in this new year, no matter how desperately Republicans want to try and discredit it.
One of the ways that Republicans, including the president, have sought to discredit the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller is through pointing to anti-Trump texts that were relatively recently revealed to have been part of the text conversations of FBI Agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, both of whom served on Special Counsel Mueller’s team at one point.
The texts were discovered as a part of an internal DOJ probe of the handling of the Clinton email scandal, something that the president has insisted for some time was handled inappropriately. The DOJ made the decision to themselves provide the texts to not only Congress but also to the media, giving Republicans yet another reason to claim that Mueller’s investigation is biased against the president in the process.
That decision on the part of the DOJ unsurprisingly proved controversial, and now, an independent government ethics advocacy group is suing the DOJ for failing to comply with their Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the internal processes that led to the decision.
BREAKING: we @CREWcrew suing DOJ to force release of info about selective disclosure of text messages between career employees released from Mueller investigation–texts are now being distorted/smeared by GOP, we need full record to judge. https://t.co/Kftinw1uVt
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) January 3, 2018
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — an organization that has taken on the president in the past — filed their lawsuit against the DOJ on Wednesday. It comes after the organization filed an expedited FOIA request for the relevant documents on December 13, the same day that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to defend his department.
Rosenstein is the one who appointed Special Counsel Mueller in the first place, doing so after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation and Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
Federal agencies are supposed to respond to expedited FOIA requests within ten days of them being filed, but the DOJ has, apparently, failed to do so in this case. CREW, as their complaint notes, is in apparent full compliance with the regulations governing how requests make it to deserving expedited consideration, including the fact that the issue at hand is of a “clear and pressing interest” to the public and the fact that the CREW would use the documents to “inform the public.”
CREW is pushing the judge in the case to both declare that the DOJ is in violation of the law through not having apparently yet responded to their FOIA request and to force the DOJ to hand over the requested documents.
The organization’s initial FOIA request reads, in part:
‘Given this highly unusual, if not unprecedented, action to secretly leak the contents of documents currently under review by your office, the public has a clear and pressing interest in learning whether the leak was properly authorized and the extent to which the interests of the texts’ authors were appropriately considered and protected.’
Time will tell if the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rules in CREW’s favor.
The suspicious way in which the DOJ has seemed to act as a surrogate for the Trump Administration in this instance, advancing its interests, is not entirely without precedent within the confines of the Trump Administration. The president has repeatedly pressed the DOJ to carry out his wishes, even if they are outside of the normal realm of law and order. Most recently, for instance, he strongly suggested that a selection of his political opponents should be prosecuted by the DOJ and possibly thrown in jail.
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