“Because these are among the earliest warrants obtained in the investigation and only two warrants are at issue,” the prosecutors wrote, “the government believes that it could practicably redact sensitive information and nonetheless leave unredacted certain information whose disclosure would not harm the ongoing investigation.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is fighting a drive by media organizations to unseal secret court filings relating to searches and surveillance efforts undertaken as part of the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.
While lawyers for President Donald Trump have suggested in recent weeks that the inquiry appears to be winding down, Mueller’s prosecutors submitted a court filing on Wednesday that painted a very different picture of an investigation that is moving forward on multiple fronts and could be jeopardized by premature disclosure of the records sought by news outlets.
“The Special Counsel’s investigation is not a closed matter, but an ongoing criminal investigation with multiple lines of non-public inquiry,” prosecutors wrote in a brief submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson. “The investigation consists of multiple lines of inquiry within the overall scope of the Special Counsel’s authority. 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 investigation is not complete and its details remain non-public.”
While Mueller’s inquiry has now been underway for more than a year and the FBI was investigating even earlier, none of a slew of search warrants, surveillance requests and similar filings have been officially unsealed by the courts. However, defense lawyers for Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, have made public some details on two search warrants they have challenged in the criminal cases against their client.
Last month, five news organizations – POLITICO, The Associated Press, The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post – asked Jackson to unseal an unknown number of warrants and similar orders obtained during the course of the investigation.
“The gravity and importance of this criminal investigation is second to none in our nation’s history, and therefore the public’s interest in the transparency of that investigation could not be greater,” lawyers Jay Ward Brown and Matthew Kelley wrote on behalf of the media coalition.
The news outlets suggested that deletion of some details could accommodate any concerns about particularly sensitive aspects of the filings, but Mueller’s team said Wednesday that such an alternative would not prevent damage to the ongoing investigation. Indeed, the prosecutors said that revealing even bare-bones information about when warrants were issued could inflict grave damage on the inquiry.
“The dates and volume of warrants also reveal the evolution and direction of investigative interests,” Mueller attorneys Michael Dreeben, Andrew Weissmann and Adam Jed wrote. “Making this information public while an investigation is ongoing could pose a clear and ominous threat to the investigation’s integrity.”
Mueller’s team offered one concession: It said it would agree to a fuller but still less-than-complete release of the two search warrants being battled over in the Manafort cases.
“Because these are among the earliest warrants obtained in the investigation and only two warrants are at issue,” the prosecutors wrote, “the government believes that it could practicably redact sensitive information and nonetheless leave unredacted certain information whose disclosure would not harm the ongoing investigation.”
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