WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Washington, DC, ruled Tuesday that he will not order the Justice Department to speed up its timeline for releasing special counsel Robert Mueller's report and other records related to the investigation.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, which filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Mueller's report, had asked the judge to issue an injunction requiring the government to release the report to the public by April 15, or whenever Attorney General Bill Barr sent it to Congress — whichever date was sooner. They also wanted an order requiring DOJ to "immediately" produce any executive summaries that went along with the report.
At a hearing on Tuesday, a lawyer for the Justice Department said she did not know exactly when Barr planned to release the report to Congress and the public. Barr previously told Congress that he planned to release Mueller's report by "mid-April," and testified Tuesday that he would submit it within a week.
US District Judge Reggie Walton denied EPIC's request from the bench. He said the organization failed to show that it would suffer "irreparable harm" if it had to wait until after Barr released a redacted version of Mueller's report to move ahead with litigation over what information the Justice Department decides to redact as well as what other records from Mueller's investigation should be released.
Walton said he appreciated "that this is an extremely important subject matter to the nation," and that he would strive to move the case along as quickly as possible. The government is due to respond to EPIC's lawsuit by April 25, and then will meet with EPIC to discuss the scope of the records request and a schedule for processing it. Walton scheduled a status hearing for May 2.
In the weeks since Mueller submitted his roughly 400-page report to Barr late last month, Barr and other senior officials have been reviewing it to decide what information needs to be redacted and withheld from the public — information related to grand jury proceedings, sensitive intelligence matters, ongoing investigations, or that would violate the privacy rights of "peripheral third parties."
EPIC's lawyer Alan Butler argued during the hearing that the public needed to see the report as quickly as possible, given the immediacy of the debate over the conclusion of Mueller's investigation and what happens next. Barr is scheduled to testify in the Senate and House Judiciary Committees on May 1 and 2, respectively, about the report and Mueller's investigation.
Speaking with BuzzFeed News after the hearing, Butler stressed that the court proceedings were important because a judge could decide if the department had redacted too much information or improperly withheld other documents. (BuzzFeed News has also sued the Justice Department for Mueller's report.)
After Walton announced his decision to deny EPIC's request for an injunction, Butler asked if the judge would order the Justice Department to meet with the organization now and at least get started with discussions about the scope of documents they wanted and a schedule. Walton declined to do so.