Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] filed a complaint [text, PDF] on Wednesday alleging that the Department of Justice (DOJ) violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] in failing to respond to their expedited request seeking communications concerning the DOJ’s decision to release private text messages sent during the 2016 presidential campaign by two former FBI investigators who had previously worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team.
The request stems from DOJ’s December 12 invitation to a group of reporters to view the FBI investigators’ anti-Trump text messages at their offices prior to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s [official website] public hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on December 13. During his testimony , Rosenstein maintained that the texts “were fit for public consumption.”
CREW’s complaint claims that DOJ’s release of the text messages was unusual and unprecedented, and the public has a clear and pressing interest in learning whether the leak was properly authorized and the extent that the authors were protected.
Under FOIA, agencies are required to make a determination on a request for expedition within 10 calendar days following the request date. However, DOJ regulations provide that requests for expedition regarding matters of widespread media interests where possible questions exist about the government’s integrity affecting public confidence must be submitted to DOJ’s Director of Public Affairs, Sarah Isgur Flores [official website]. CREW’s expedited request was sent to Flores’ office on December 13th, where it “is still pending.”
CREW is a non-profit, non-partisan organization claiming to protect the rights of citizens to be informed about the activities of government officials and agencies, and to ensuring their integrity.
The complaint was filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.