The Department of Justice on Friday evening released 176 pages of notes from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s interviews with key witnesses during his office’s investigation into Russian election interference. But the records, produced under a federal court order resulting from dual Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits filed by CNN and BuzzFeed, conspicuously withheld all memos concerning the testimony Mueller’s team elicited from the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
“Despite a court order, the Justice Department is holding back Special Counsel Mueller memos regarding the interviews conducted with the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner,” CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz said Friday.
!!! Despite a court order, the Justice Department is holding back Special Counsel Mueller memos regarding the interviews conducted with the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
CNN and Buzzfeed won access to thousands of pages of Mueller’s witness memos.
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) January 18, 2020
Senior United States District Judge for the District of Columbia Reggie Walton, an appointee of George W. Bush, had ordered the DOJ to turn over the same slew of documents provided to House congressional investigators, which included the 302 interview memos from the FBI’s interview with Kushner. While the Justice Department is entitled to redact documents in accordance with FOIA guidelines, no explanation was given for the missing documents, according to CNN.
“But still, on January 2 and on Friday night, the Justice Department was to have handed over as much of the documents the House had read as it could under the public records access law. Kushner wasn’t in either January batch,” the report stated. “It’s still not clear why. CNN and BuzzFeed continue to fight for access to more documents from the Mueller investigation in court.”
Judge Walton has already been critical of the Trump administration for what he perceived as its failure to properly staff the Executive branch divisions charged with complying with FOIA requests, and ordered the DOJ to provide a plan of action detailing its efforts to keep up with transparency and accountability mandates.
“Otherwise, they’re just totally thumbing their nose at the objective of FOIA,” he said. “The American public is going to become totally disillusioned.”
Thus far, the FOIA lawsuits have forced the DOJ to provide CNN and BuzzFeed with more than 800 pages of documents, some of which are heavily redacted “citing exemptions under FOIA to protect national security, attorney-client privilege, and ongoing investigations.” However, both news organizations have pledged to challenge those exemptions.
Read the latest FOIA documents below:
[Image via Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images]