A federal judge had some unkind words for President Donald Trump during a recent hearing regarding the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to investigate former deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Andrew McCabe.
An inspector general report which was made public in April found that McCabe lied–while under oath and speaking with federal investigators–about the disclosure of information to a reporter regarding the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
That news lingered until late August when it seemed McCabe was likely to be prosecuted for lying to federal investigators. Former acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker even appeared on Fox News to predict that McCabe was “imminently going to be charged.”
McCabe has still yet to be indicted and the government’s slowness in making a decision recently came to the fore of a separate but related civil case currently making its way through the District of Columbia.
The lawsuit is based on a frustrated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the legal transparency organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) in July 2018. CREW sought to make public all records related to the FBI’s investigation into McCabe–which led to his firing in March 2018.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton expressed no small amount of sympathy for the plaintiffs–threatening to release scores of McCabe-related material unless the government quickly reaches a decision on whether to prosecute the former FBI second-in-command.
“I would send this message to those in positions of authority in the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Justice Department,” Walton said in a transcript of a Monday hearing, “I will not condone further delay.”
While expressing his “dismay” that the case was “just dragging too long,” the long-serving judge told DOJ lawyers:
You all have got to cut and make your decision. It’s not a hard decision, and I think it needs to be made. If it’s not made, I’m going to start ordering the release of information because I think our society, our public does have a right to know what’s going on.
The DOJ claims those documents could impact an ongoing law enforcement matter. McCabe says the information may be relevant to his defense in the event he is ultimately charged–an idea echoed by CREW attorney Anne L. Weismann, who argued that a separate lawsuit filed by McCabe “reveals exactly what we had feared.”
Weismann was on a rhetorical tear during Monday’s hearing and directed much of her ire at President Trump.
“We’re in dark times where there’s growing evidence that the president aided by the attorney general is using the power of his office to go after perceived political enemies,” she argued. “He’s going after the intelligence community. He’s going after the law enforcement community–”
Walton, a conservative jurist appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush, then briefly interrupted:
Going after the courts, too.
Weismann collected her thoughts and then continued, “And he is going after the courts, the press.”
The judge then appeared to endorse wholesale Weismann’s criticism of the 45th president.
“I totally appreciate what you just said and share many of the same concerns,” he said.
[image via LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images]