Judge Rejects FBI Plea To Keep Comey Memos Redacted

By Jerry Dunleavy August 15th, 2019 | Image Source: Variety

A federal judge ruled against the FBI’s efforts to keep some redacted documents related to former FBI Director James Comey’s memos hidden from the public.

The ruling comes after the FBI asked Judge James Boasberg to reconsider a district court ruling earlier this year that CNN and other media organizations and watchdog groups were entitled to information related both to Comey’s memos and to how those memos were used in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation, which concluded earlier this year. But the FBI battled against disclosure.

The bureau was claiming it had “effectively asserted” a Freedom of Information Act exemption as the basis to protect its redactions. But the judge said the FBI never actually made this assertion in the relevant filings. Nevertheless, the FBI wanted the judge to act like it had and to rule accordingly in its favor to stop more information from being released. The FBI also argued that, even though it invoked the National Security Act, it had actually meant to invoke the Freedom of Information Act instead.

The judge denied these requests Monday, calling the arguments a bridge too far and pointing out the FBI never made the arguments it now wanted him to consider.

Media and watchdog groups have fought to obtain documents relating to Comey’s notes through federal open records laws since May 2017, when the existence of Comey’s memos was first made public. Those memos recount hotly disputed conversations between Comey and Trump that are hotly disputed.

Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017, then one of the memos subsequently leaked by Comey to a friend was detailed in the New York Times a week later. Comey later told Congress he leaked the memo to prompt a special counsel investigation. The day after the story appeared, Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election.

The Justice Department long argued the release of the Comey memos in full would interfere with the special counsel investigation, and the court originally ruled in its favor. But redacted versions of the memos were eventually released to Congress and the public.

Following the completion of Mueller’s investigation, CNN asked the court to unseal, in full, three documents: two 2017 memos to the court authored by high-ranking FBI official David Archey discussing why the special counsel compiled Comey’s memos and answering the court’s questions about the connection between the memos and the special counsel investigation, and a transcript of and other records related to Mueller lawyer Michael Dreeben’s presentation to the court.

Speculation that Comey’s memos were being used by Mueller seemed to be confirmed when Archey told the court the Comey memos shouldn’t be released because they were considered evidence in the Trump-Russia probe.

The FBI eventually handed over much of the requested information this year, but CNN and others still sought redacted information from Archey’s final memo. Following this week’s judicial ruling, the information is likely to be made public soon.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz criminally referred Comey to the Justice Department earlier this year for the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information in his memos, but the Justice Department declined to press charges. Comey is not out of the woods yet, however, as Horowitz is still scrutinizing him as part of a broader investigation into allegations of abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Source: Washington Examiner: Judge rejects FBI plea to keep Comey memos redacted

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