A federal judge who questioned Attorney General William Barr’s “credibility” has received an unredacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Justice Department attorneys say that the release of the document was in pursuance to two orders this month by District Court Judge Reggie Walton.
Walton, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said the court had “grave concerns about the objectivity of the process that preceded the public release of the redacted version of the Mueller Report” and its “impacts on the Justice Department’s subsequent justifications” that its redactions of the report were authorized under the Freedom of Information Act.
The judge said on March 5 that he believed that AG Barr had “dubiously handled” the public release of the Mueller report.
Despite the transfer which included two paper copies and an electronic copy of the two records at issue, the court won’t be able to review them immediately because of the coronavirus crisis.
“Consistent with the [DOJ’s] Notice of Submission of Documents for In Camera Review, the Court has received the unredacted version of the report regarding Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 United States presidential election (the ‘Mueller Report’),” Walton said in a minute order Monday afternoon. “However, in light of the Chief Judge Howell’s March 16, 2020 Order Regarding Court Operations in Exigent Circumstances Created by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Court’s review of the unredacted version of the Mueller Report is unable to occur until the Court resumes its normal operations on April 20, 2020, unless the Court’s normal operations are further suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mueller’s report, released last April, noted his investigation “identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign” but “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Earlier this month, Walton said “the speed by which Attorney General Barr released to the public the summary of Special Counsel Mueller’s principal conclusions, coupled with the fact that Attorney General Barr failed to provide a thorough representation of the findings set forth in the Mueller Report, causes the Court to question whether Attorney General Barr’s intent was to create a one-sided narrative about the Mueller Report.”
The judge added that it was “a narrative that is clearly in some respects substantively at odds with the redacted version of the Mueller Report.”
DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec pushed back a couple of days later, calling the court’s assertions “contrary to the facts.”
Kupec said the Justice Department “stands by” the work of the DOJ officials who made the redaction decisions and defended Barr’s “efforts to provide as much transparency as possible in connection with the Special Counsel’s confidential report.”
In case you haven’t noticed, with so much attention on President Trump and his battle with the ongoing corona crisis, Joe Biden and the contest for the Democratic 2020 nominee has practically disappeared from the news cycle.
Within just a few days after he made headlines with his commanding primary victories in Florida, Arizona, and Illinois, the coronavirus has turned former Vice President Joe Biden into a virtual prisoner of his Delaware home, where he’s reduced to sniping at President Trump from the family rec room.
“He’s making himself irrelevant,” Saikat Chakrabarti, a former chief of staff to Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, told The New York Post, saying the virtual broadcasts were not helping. “We need action immediately, and Biden can’t do anything real right now.”
Biden has been forced to watch from the sidelines as President Trump steals the spotlight with his daily coronavirus briefings that have been a ratings smash.
Though Biden, and others have criticized the president for spreading inaccurate information and saying things like he wants to quarantine New York, and promoting untested antibiotics and other drugs during his briefings — national polls suggest Americans are increasingly pleased with his performance in handling the deadly pandemic.
The latest findings from Gallup show the president with a 49% approval rating, approaching a career-high that he last enjoyed in February, during the height of his Senate impeachment trial. The same survey found 60% of Americans now approve of his handling of the coronavirus crisis, including more than a quarter of Democrats.
“I think Trump is being seen as handing the pandemic well by the public even though he was too late to start procuring any [personal protective equipment],” Chakrabarti said, explaining the polling bounce, adding that Biden missed his moment to make an impression. “[Trump] is the only one going up every day and talking to the American people.”
As for Biden’s rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders — whose challenge to Biden for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination is sagging — has been in D.C. helping to hammer out trillions of dollars in coronavirus relief spending. The 78-year has also held several in depth coronavirus town halls via Facebook Live.
But Biden has gone nearly dark. Aside from a call with reporters, and a virtual live-stream appearance at a fundraiser on Sunday, the ex-vice president has had few appearances on TV. He reappeared on CNN on March 24, and it did not go smoothly.
During the brief Q&A, Biden coughed repeatedly into his fist shortly after telling the anchor he had no symptoms of coronavirus and had not been tested. At one point Tapper even scolded the vice president for not directing coughs into his elbow.
The coughing came along with the usual Biden word salads. On “The View” that same day, the former veep told guest co-host Sara Haines that “we have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse no matter what.”
He also had an emotional moment during a virtual CNN town hall Friday talking about personal loss and almost gave out his telephone number on live television.
Many Democrats and armchair pundits have unflatteringly compared Biden’s performance with Gov. Cuomo, who has won praise from both sides of the aisle for his smooth command of facts, regular virus updates and tough, no-nonsense approach to defiant New Yorkers. The fervor peaked as the hashtag #PresidentCuomo zipped across Twitter last week.
“He is currently the only Democrat showing leadership in a moment of crisis, at least publicly,” Chakrabarti said. “Cuomo is doing the daily press conference, he’s leading in a way that President Trump was.”
However, Biden’s campaign seems to be counting on that Trump will eventually botch the government’s response to COVID-19. “Donald Trump’s failure to take this virus seriously in the face of urgent and obvious warning signs will go down as one of most incompetent and ultimately harmful decisions by a president in recent history,” a Biden aide told The Post.