Judicial Watch May Get Peek at Redacted Mueller Scope Memo
Tom Fitton said the nonprofit government watchdog 'has never before seen this level of secrecy and cover-up' in a special counsel
Justice Department officials “may soon provide” Judicial Watch with “additional, previously withheld material” from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo outlining the scope of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the watchdog organization announced Tuesday.
Rosenstein circulated his Aug. 2, 2017, memo detailing the scope of Mueller’s investigation into allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian interests. The memo granted Mueller the authority to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from that investigation.”
Although significant portions of the released memo were redacted, one broad aspect of Mueller’s scope included investigating whether Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, “committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials” or “committed a crime or crimes arising out of payments he received from the Ukrainian government before and during the tenure of President Viktor Yanukovych.”
Judicial Watch announced Tuesday that the DOJ responded to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on Thursday and notified the organization that the department was “processing the August 2 memo to determine if it can release additional portions that have not already been filed publicly.”
"We are pleased, especially after Judge [T.S.] Ellis' hearing, that our lawsuit is causing the Justice Department to rethink its cover-up of the 'scope memo' for Mueller," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement Tuesday.
Fitton referred to the setback Mueller's investigators suffered Friday when the federal judge rebuked them for their treatment of Manafort, who faces charges of bank fraud as a result of Mueller's scrutiny.
"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud," Ellis told Mueller prosecutor Michael Dreeben, as he accused the special counsel of pursuing Manafort in the hope it would lead to "prosecution or impeachment" of Trump.
"That's what you're really interested in," Ellis added.
A court filing in April revealed that there was a "scope" for Mueller's probe. Rosenstein's redacted scope memo was released at that time. But Judicial Watch noted that the DOJ initially refused to confirm whether any document containing a "scope" for Mueller's probe existed until after Friday's setback with Ellis.
"In light of the Special Counsel's public acknowledgement of the August 2 memo, the government has been assessing whether the acknowledgment alters its prior response to Request No. 3 [for documents describing the scope of Mueller's authority] of the FOIA request at issue in this suit, and processing the August 2 memorandum to determine if it can release additional portions that have not already been filed publicly, but needs some additional time to complete these tasks," the DOJ admitted.
Fitton claimed that "Judicial Watch has never before seen this level of secrecy and cover-up surrounding the operation of a special or independent counsel."