In a court document filed on Tuesday, one of the top lawyers working on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia collusion investigation complained that lawyers in Mueller’s office “face the press of other work” this week, and will not have time to respond to a newspaper’s request for unsealed documents from the investigation. But in the filing with the United States District Court in Washington D.C., Mueller investigation lawyer Michael Dreeben did not offer any explanation for why the Special Counsel’s office would be especially busy not only this week, but at least until April 1.
Dreeben’s filing came in response to a March 7 request by The Washington Post to unseal records from the now-completed case involving former Donald Trump campaign Chair Paul Manafort, who last week was sentenced to about seven-and-half years behind bars on an array of convictions for fraud and conspiracy charges. In its motion to unseal the documents, totaling hundreds of pages, The Post said it was especially interested in Mueller’s allegation that “Manafort voided his cooperation agreement with prosecutors in Washington by lying to them about five subjects over more than 50 hours of interviews.”
After the first of his two scheduled trials, which resulted in eight convictions, Manafort struck a plea deal with Mueller’s prosecutors, offering his cooperation in the Russia collusion investigation stemming from the 2016 presidential campaign, in exchange for being allowed to plead guilty to reduced charges. But Mueller claimed later that Manafort never actually cooperated, instead impeding the investigation by lying to Mueller’s investigators. A judge agreed that Manafort had, in fact, lied to Mueller’s team, as Axios reported.
But most of the evidence submitted by Mueller to support his charge that Manafort lied instead of cooperating was heavily redacted or placed under seal. Mueller faced a deadline of this Thursday, March 21, for responding to the Post request for the unsealed documents — but on Tuesday, Dreeben asked the court for an extension, citing the office’s mysteriously packed week, as CNN reported.
“The government respectfully requests an extension of time — through and including April 1, 2019 — to respond to the motion,” Dreeben wrote in the court filing.
“The counsel responsible for preparing the response face the press of other work and require additional time to consult within the government.”
“What is keeping him so busy?” asked CNN court correspondent Katelyn Polantz, on her Twitter account.
“The filing doesn’t provide additional details so it’s unclear whether the cryptic reference is related to Mueller’s timeline for concluding his Russia investigation,” wrote The Associated Press, in an account of the Dreeben document.