Federal Judge to AG William Barr: Release Unredacted Mueller Report
In a scathing decision, D.C. District Court Judge Reggie Walton has ordered Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s Department of Justice to produce for his eyes only the full and unredacted Mueller Report. In his no-holds-barred opinion, Judge Walton specifically and directly accused the Attorney General of the United States of misrepresenting the report both to the public and Congress.
Judge Walton ordered that the report be in his hands no later than yesterday, March 30, in order that he may determine whether it should be released publicly.
Judge Walton’s decision is in response to a BuzzFeed News lawsuit against Barr and DOJ which sought to lift the redactions from the report and then publicize it in toto.
The Mueller Report lays out the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s involvement with the thoroughly documented Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Judge Walton was merciless in his characterization of the attorney general’s handling of the investigation and the release of the report. He wrote, for example, that Barr’s public comments in April of 2019 about the report did not square with the report’s actual findings and were deliberately and consciously misleading to the public. Both Barr’s public comments and four-page “summary” of the report prior to its release were filled with “inconsistencies,” Judge Walton charged. He also said that he was greatly “troubled” by Barr’s actions, including the “haste” with which Barr released that initial letter.
In Judge Walton’s own words:
“The inconsistencies between attorney general Barr’s statements, made at a time when the public did not have access to the redacted version of the Mueller report to assess the veracity of his statements, and portions of the redacted version of the Mueller report that conflict with those statements cause the court to seriously question whether attorney general Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller report in favor of President Trump despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller report to the contrary.”
The good judge was just warming up, though:
“These circumstances generally, and attorney general Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question attorney general Barr’s credibility,” he concluded.
As stated, Mueller’s report laid out the evidence for several potential charges of obstruction of justice against both Trump and his campaign — without actually bringing the charge. Mueller, unfortunately, left that to Congress under the never-tested, never adjudicated “guidance” of a Watergate-era White House Counsel memo, which argued that a sitting president cannot be criminally charged. Barr’s “summary” and his comments cleared Trump of any wrongdoing and then hid all evidence to the contrary under the opaque covering of “redaction”.
To be sure, Mueller’s report did not find evidence that Trump’s campaign criminally conspired (“colluded”) with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, but he refused to definitively and categorically state whether obstruction of justice had occurred.
Indeed, even the watered-down, redacted copy of the report released by Barr described at least eleven instances in which Trump and/or his campaign engaged in potential obstruction of justice. Still, Mueller did not — or would not — (even during a Congressional hearing appearance) directly state that the Trump regime was “guilty” of anything.
Trump took his hand-picked attorney general’s gift of a relatively clean slate as vindication of his constant braying that Democrats were engaged in a “witch hunt” against him. And, of course, once the severely redacted report hit the media, Trump went on a scorched earth crusade proclaiming his “total exoneration.” Yes, we all remember Trump ceaseless bellowing into every microphone and camera put before him about how Mueller’s team of “thirteen angry Democrats” were only out to ruin his heretofore “perfect” presidency.
But Mueller himself did manage to mildly criticize Barr’s “summary” not long after its release. He wrote that Barr’s paen to Trump’s innocence “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the special counsel’s findings. Without specifically calling out Barr himself, Mueller continued:
“There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the department appointed the special counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”
Who Is Judge Reggie Walton?
As per Wikipedia, Judge Walton was born (1949) and raised in the hardscrabble steel town of Donora, Pennsylvania. Judge Walton earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from West Virginia State College, courtesy of a football scholarship, in 1971. His Juris Doctor came three years later from the Washington College of Law at American University in 1974.
After several years in private practice, Judge Walton was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and served as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia from 1981 to 1989 and again from 1991 to 2001. He also served as associate director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In 2001, he was nominated to the federal bench by President George W. Bush. In 2004, Bush appointed him to chair the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, investigating ways to curb prison rape. In May 2007, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts appointed him to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
During his FISC tenure, Judge Walton was “exceptionally concerned” about the NSA’s “flagrant violation” of the court’s orders regarding privacy, and the deliberate “misinterpretations” of the court’s edicts.
As for his political leanings, The Washington Post had this to say about Judge Walton: “[F]ellow judges and lawyers who appear before him say Walton’s decisions do not appear to be guided by politics but by a tough-on-crime mentality.” Walton is something of a legend among Washington’s criminal defense bar and carries the moniker of a “long ball hitter” — the type of judge who does not hesitate to hand down long sentences in order to deter future crimes.
Yes, this judge takes the abstract notion of “deterring” crime seriously, practically, and personally. Case in point: In the fall of 2005, Judge Walton was driving his wife and daughter to the airport when he came across an assailant attacking a cab driver on the side of the road. The good judge immediately pulled over, got out of his vehicle, tackled and then held the culprit down until police showed up and took over. The D.C. police spokesperson noted in response, “God bless Judge Walton. I surely wouldn’t want to mess with him.” [Emphasis added].
How About A Real “October Surprise” This Time Around?
Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-KY) have ramrodded an entire battalion of youthful, unqualified, reactionary federal judges onto the bench. But it is heartening to know that there are still several “old school,” justice-loving men and women occupying at least some of those high perches and who are committed to safeguarding all of our civil and human rights.
Thus, the significance of Judge Walton’s decision/opinion here cannot be overstated. He is only one of a rapidly diminishing number of sitting federal judges willing to challenge the Trump regime for its brazen, fast and loose corrupting of the very Constitutional foundations of this republic. (Another recent exemplar is the judge who also dared challenge Trump, Barr and the DOJ in the Roger Stone matter — US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson).
Of course, it goes without saying that the Trump regime will appeal Judge Walton’s decision to release the full Mueller Report. No surprise here. That’s just what Trump does and always has done — appeal and appeal and appeal — until his opponents run out of time, money and/or sheer mental and physical stamina.
Here, however, Trump will not be able to credibly claim that Judge Walton is an “Obama judge” (and a “Mexican”), who is therefore “naturally” biased against him. No, this man is about as Republican as you can get, having been vetted several times by a Republican-controlled Senate, two Republican Presidents, and a Republican Supreme Court Chief Justice.
Finally, my unsolicited advice to Judge Walton is this:
Take your time, sir. Barring an appeal to the Supreme Court (pun very much intended), we should not expect your decision (and the subsequent release of the full, unadulterated and unredacted Mueller Report) — not until the end of the fast-approaching summer or early fall — just in time for the November 3 election.