On Friday, the Department of Justice dropped a key objection to the release of more than 4,500 pages of documents related to the Durham investigation, the Trump-era inquiry into the origins of the FBI’s probe of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The DOJ had previously withheld the records claiming that their disclosure would interfere with an ongoing law enforcement investigation. Instead of filing an anticipated brief that would have defended the withholdings, the department withdrew its assertion of the “ongoing investigation” exemption — strongly suggesting that the Durham investigation has been closed.
The reversal was announced in a motion filed in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit American Oversight brought in August 2019 to compel the release of documents related to the Durham inquiry, including communications between Durham and senior Justice Department officials and any communications Durham or DOJ officials may have had with the Trump White House or Congress.
Statement from American Oversight Executive Director Heather Sawyer:
“The Durham investigation remains an alarming example of former President Trump’s weaponization of the Justice Department for his own political ends. Tasked with proving Trump’s allegations of a ‘deep state’ plot against him — and given nearly four years and millions of taxpayer dollars to do so — Durham found no wrongdoing. It’s long past time for the American people to see the full extent of the inquiry’s work and its influences and we look forward to the release of these records.”
American Oversight first requested the records in June 2019, after then Attorney General William Barr had instructed Durham to initiate the politicized investigation of the roots of the inquiry into potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign. That original FBI inquiry ultimately led to the larger investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Lawyers for the Justice Department had previously argued the government could properly withhold more than 4,500 pages of records and one voicemail audio recording responsive to American Oversight’s requests under the FOIA exemption designed to protect ongoing investigations.
The New York Times reported in January that, after four years, the Durham inquiry was winding down “without uncovering anything like the deep state plot alleged by Mr. Trump and suspected by Mr. Barr.” Records previously obtained by American Oversight through the litigation revealed that Barr met frequently with Durham in the period directly after the Mueller investigation ended — 18 times in seven months — raising questions about potential political interference.
Read additional records uncovered by American Oversight about Durham’s investigation here.
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