A federal judge on Thursday ordered Attorney General William Barr to hand over a full, unredacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report of his two-year Russia investigation’s findings. Judge Reggie Walton of the federal district court in Washington, D.C., slammed Barr for lacking “credibility” when he presented his four-page summary of the document to Congress and the public in March of last year, according to The New York Times.
Shortly after Mueller completed his report and turned it over to Barr, the attorney general made a public statement, along with his brief summary, in which he “made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report” in favor of President Donald Trump, according to Walton’s opinion issued on Thursday.
Walton is known as a generally conservative judge who was appointed to the bench in 2001 by Republican President George W. Bush.
In the statement, Barr said that he had decided that nothing in the report supported bringing an obstruction of justice charge against Trump, a claim that allegedly took Mueller by surprise. In fact, Mueller had detailed 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice by the president, though he left it to Congress to decide whether to pursue charges against him in the form of impeachment proceedings.
But at the time Barr made his statement, the contents of the report itself remained a secret from both Congress and the public.
Walton issued his opinion in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Jason Leopold of BuzzFeed News, seeking an unredacted copy of the Mueller report. The redacted document that was released in April 2019 contained numerous blacked-out passages and also remains the only publicly released edition.
However, Walton said in his ruling that due to his lack of “credibility” in creating his summation of the Mueller report, Barr could not be trusted to make proper redactions, according to Law.com.
“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,” Walton wrote in his 23-page opinion.
The judge added that he has “grave concerns about the objectivity of the process” by which Barr made the redactions.
The Department of Justice had asked Walton to issue a summary judgment denying the EPIC and Buzzfeed FOIA request, saying that the redactions were exempt from Freedom of Information requirements. But the judge said that he could not “reconcile” Barr’s summary with what Mueller actually wrote in the report itself, leading him to question the attorney general’s credibility.