Many Americans have developed grave concerns about Attorney General Bill Barr’s conduct — and apparently, that includes federal Judge Reggie Walton, who was nominated for the judiciary all the way back in 2001. Barr’s record includes keeping key details of the final report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation away from the public eye for weeks on end, and on Thursday, Walton ruled that, essentially, the attorney general’s team is no longer a trustworthy source on what should and shouldn’t be redacted from the Mueller report itself in the first place. Walton demanded an unredacted copy of the Mueller report for independent review by the court, which would determine whether the Barr-led Justice Department’s redaction decisions were punitive.
‘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. he court will conduct an independent review of the unredacted version of the Mueller Report to determine whether it concurs with the Department’s determination.’
One observer, former Senate staffer Matthew Miller, commented:
‘Wow, not every day you see a federal judge essentially saying the AG misled the American people.’
Wow, not every day you see a federal judge essentially saying the AG misled the American people. https://t.co/V7VQ4nSZ99
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) March 5, 2020
Walton delivered this ruling in an ongoing Freedom of Information Act case that interests including Buzzfeed News brought in an attempt to force the release of the unredacted Mueller report. Buzzfeed’s senior investigative reporter Jason Leopold called Walton’s ruling “what we hoped for.”
Judge Walton just ordered DOJ to turn over an unredacted copy of Mueller report by March 30 so he can review it to determine what can be further released publicly
This is what we hoped for! pic.twitter.com/c0B6ZD0vqc
— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) March 5, 2020
The redacted version of the Mueller report that was originally made available after Barr’s lengthy delays featured removed portions about grand jury testimony, certain individuals involved in the Russia scandal who didn’t face criminal charges, and more, including Trump ally Roger Stone’s then ongoing prosecution.
Investigators have been seeking the unredacted Mueller report as part of their probe into the president’s apparent obstruction of justice, which Mueller himself declined to issue a final judgment on. Barr kept Mueller’s specific conclusion about the topic — that Trump was neither exonerated nor charged — out of the public eye, opting to release an initial summary of the report simply featuring the lack of any charges — although Justice Department precedent prohibits charges for a sitting president, and Trump was not actually exonerated. Walton asked whether with his summary handling, 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.”
The answer, many believe, is that yes, Barr was essentially working as Trump’s lackey, and he’s done more to attract similar accusations in the time since.
His higher-ups at the department intervened to lower a federal sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone after the U.S. Attorney’s office handling the case issued their own conclusions. Every prosecutor who had been handling the case then resigned in protest of the political interference, and Barr is currently slated to testify to Congress about the situation at the end of this month — although Stone has already been sentenced to over three years in prison.