Mueller Argues Against Media Access to Sealed Records 'Replete With Sensitive Investigatory Information'

By Susan Jones | May 25, 2018 | 7:17 AM EDT

Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller speaks at his retirement ceremony in August 2013. (Photo: Screen capture/C-SPAN)

(CNSNews.com) - While Republicans are pressing the Justice Department to show them classified documents explaining exactly when, why and how the FBI's Trump-Russia investigation started, five major media companies are seeking access to search warrants and other sealed court records relating to the Trump-Russia investigation and the Paul Manafort case.

This week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team filed a 23-page legal brief in federal court in Washington, arguing against the request by The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and Politico.

Those media outlets have asked the court to unseal warrants, applications and other supporting information "pertaining to the Special Counsel's investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," as well as certain records relating to the pending prosecution of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

The media outlets said they want access to the material to advance the public’s interest in understanding the dimensions of the Special Counsel’s investigation.

"The request for broad unsealing of search warrant materials should be denied," the Mueller filing said. "The Special Counsel’s investigation is not a closed matter, but an ongoing criminal investigation with multiple lines of non-public inquiry. No right of public access exists to search warrant materials in an ongoing investigation."

The filing noted that search warrants regularly remain sealed while investigations are ongoing. "And a right of public access risks jeopardizing open investigations."

The Mueller team said it does not oppose unsealing, with appropriate redactions, two warrant applications that Manafort's attorneys are challenging. "Through briefing and argument, many relevant facts have or will soon become public. And for those two warrants, it would be possible to redact information," the Mueller team argued.

But redactions of the Trump-Russia materials are not "feasible," the Mueller team said, because those warrants are "replete with sensitive investigatory information," and "little information of public interest would remain."

The document states that the Special Counsel is "investigating avenues used by Russia to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and links and/or coordination between Russia and individuals affiliated with the campaign of President Trump. The investigation consists of multiple lines of inquiry, and "many aspects of the investigation are factually and legally interconnected: they involve overlapping courses of conduct, relationships, and events, and they rely on similar sources, methods, and techniques."

The document notes that the government has brought criminal charges against "22 individuals and entities (the entities are three Russian companies).

And while details of the investigation "cannot be discussed in a public filing," the Mueller team said it would be willing, if asked by the court, to "provide a more detailed presentation" behind closed doors.


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