You may have read about Senior United States District Court Judge Reggie Walton’s whack upside the head of Attorney General Barr this week. The whack was administered in Judge Walton’s opinion ruling on the Freedom of Information Act case that seeks the Department of Justice’s release of an unredacted version of the Mueller report. The opinion is accessible online here.
Judge Walton’s whack is misguided. The Wall Street Journal takes the time to hit back in the editorial Judge Walton’s political aside.” That’s some “aside.” It constitutes almost the entirety of Judge Walton’s opinion.
The Journal editorial explains:
In a 23-page ruling demanding that the Justice Department turn over an unredacted version of the Mueller report, Judge Walton accused Attorney General William Barr of a “lack of candor.” He said the AG’s pubic statements led him to question whether Mr. Barr had made “a calculated attempt” to “influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump” when he first summarized the findings.
When Mr. Barr sent Congress a four-page summary of the report’s “principal conclusions” in March 2019, special counsel Robert Mueller complained that it “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusion.” Mr. Mueller did not claim that Mr. Barr’s summary was false or inaccurate.
He didn’t because it wasn’t. In April Justice made public a mildly redacted version of the full report that confirmed the essence of Mr. Barr’s summary, as he had promised he would at his confirmation hearing. Mr. Barr had no incentive to mischaracterize a report he knew would be released.
Judge Walton’s logic appears to be that because he believes partisan critics who claim Mr. Barr wasn’t honest in his letter summarizing a report he didn’t write, somehow the redactions weren’t honest either. The absurdity is that Mr. Barr didn’t make these redactions.
As the Justice Department explained Friday: “The original redactions in the public report were made by Department attorneys, in consultation with senior members of Special Counsel Mueller’s team, prosecutors in U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and members of the Intelligence Community. In response to [Freedom of Information Act] requests, the entire report was then reviewed by career attorneys, including different career attorneys with expertise in FOIA cases—a process in which the Attorney General played no role.”
The Journal editorial concludes with the understated observation Judge Walton’s “decision to add his political broadside [to his opinion] raises more questions about the judge than about the Attorney General.” More broadly, however, Judge Walton’s opinions seems to me yet another episode in the sorry saga of Trumplaw.
UPDATE: In the tweet below Byron York provides the statement issued by Barr’s official spokesman.
Justice Department spokeswoman responds to Judge Walton's accusation that AG Barr misled public ('lack of candor') about Mueller Report. Judge's assertions, spox says, were 'contrary to the facts.' pic.twitter.com/VUwPFAMpIK
— Byron York (@ByronYork) March 7, 2020