The department said it is reviewing information that was earlier withheld to protect personal privacy and pending court or law enforcement proceedings. Now that Stone has been convicted at trial, sentenced for lying in a congressional Russia probe and a gag order in his case lifted, the department is reviewing its redactions.
The department “concluded that reprocessing the Mueller Report is appropriate,” and its Office of Information Policy is “reevaluating whether the redactions . . . for material related to Mr. Stone in the Mueller Report remain applicable,” an attorney with the civil division’s federal programs branch wrote in a two-page notice.
The office will post an updated version of the report in its online Freedom of Information Act library no later than next Friday if appropriate, trial attorney Courtney D. Enlow wrote.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton earlier ordered the Justice Department to produce a complete report for his review, and this week he set a July 20 hearing for the government to provide more information about remaining redactions.
“The Justice Department has withheld significant portions of the Mueller Report on the theory that disclosure would interfere with the criminal case against Stone,” EPIC attorney John Davisson said in a statement. “But as EPIC noted in a recent filing, trial court proceedings in the Stone case have now ended.”
Leopold attorney Matt Topic added, “There was no justification for the widespread redaction of information about Stone in the first place. . . . We look forward to the results of Judge Walton’s ex parte hearing next month, in which he will dig deeper into DOJ’s secrecy claims.”
The action in the case comes as the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked the release for now of the full report, staying a March 10 appeals court ruling, while it considers whether to hear a case brought by the House Judiciary Committee for secret grand jury materials cited in the report.
The House seeks information about potential obstruction of justice, the subject of the second part of Mueller’s two-part report.
Mueller’s 448-page report detailed the results of his investigation into whether anyone on the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election and whether Trump attempted to obstruct that investigation.
Walton has previously sharply criticized Attorney General William P. Barr for a “lack of candor” and truthfulness in his handling of Mueller’s report. The judge cited serious discrepancies between Barr’s public statements about Mueller’s findings and the public, partially redacted version of his report.
In a March opinion, Walton said Barr’s defense of Justice Department redactions “cannot be credited without the Court’s independent verification in light of Attorney General Barr’s conduct and misleading public statements.”
Federal judges in Washington have grappled with the Justice Department’s handling of several Mueller prosecutions of Trump allies. On Friday, a three-judge appeals court panel appeared reluctant to force a trial judge to grant the department’s abrupt May 7 request to undo the guilty plea of former Trump security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts.
In February, another judge sentenced Stone to more than three years in prison after an internal fight among Barr, his deputies and career prosecutors over what sentence to recommend in that case.
That month, Walton — appointed a U.S. district judge in 2001 by President George W. Bush — also noted Trump’s repeated personal attacks on former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe. The judge said the department’s long-delayed decision to drop a long-running investigation into whether McCabe lied to investigators about a media disclosure created the appearance that it was hounding one of Trump’s enemies.
Walton likened the appearance of Trump’s comments to “ a banana republic ,” adding, “I think as a government and as a society we’re going to pay a price at some point for this.”