Numerous interests including now CNN are pursuing key information from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation that the Trump Justice Department has so far kept under wraps. This week, the news organization filed suit against the FBI in an effort to compel them to respond to a Freedom of Information Act that they filed months ago seeking memos of what witnesses in the Mueller probe told FBI agents.
In all, the Mueller probe relied on the testimony of some 500 witnesses, and only minuscule portions of what they told investigators have actually been made public, despite the overwhelming relevance of their testimony to quite simply, the state of American democracy. The witnesses and records of their testimony include some really high-profile figures, like former deputy Trump campaign chairman Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and former White House counsel Don McGahn, as CNN summarizes.
Besides CNN, other nongovernmental organizations are also seeking related caches of information in cases that have also gone to court, with the Justice Department remaining quite tight-lipped in the whole situation. Other cases include demands from Buzzfeed News for the witness testimony memos collected by the special counsel’s office itself, while the Electronic Privacy Information Center is also “seeking a vast collection of records from the Mueller investigation in court,” as CNN puts it.
CNN’s suit, filed in D.C. District Court, will be handled by Judge Royce Lamberth, whose time on the bench goes back decades. Importantly, that means that he’s not a Trump appointee, a quality that could also include gross conflicts of interest. It was Trump judicial appointee and Trump campaign donor Judge Trevor McFadden who recently ruled against House Democratic efforts to stop the president from redirecting military funds to the construction of his long-sought southern border wall blocking off Mexico. Importantly, a temporary injunction remained in place blocking at least some wall construction even following McFadden’s ruling, but the clear bias in a clearly politically charged case remains poignant.
CNN’s efforts to get around the Trump administration’s incessant political stonewalling and get info from the Mueller probe come in addition to similar pushes from House Democrats. The House Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed the full, unredacted final report from Mueller’s investigation and every document it references, meaning underlying evidence including those witness testimony memos that CNN is after. The Justice Department has refused to comply, and the House is set to vote next week on holding Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress over that issue.
They will also be soon voting on holding former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress for his refusal to testify, which he declined at the demand of the White House even though he no longer works there. In line with these issues, the Trump White House has as a rule consistently refused the wide swath of Democratic investigative efforts, even as issues covered by the Mueller report clearly linger.
That report outlines a number of instances in which the president seems to have obstructed justice that were not pursued to criminal charges because of standing Justice Department precedent against indicting a sitting president, not a lack of guilt.
Featured Image via screenshot