A government watchdog is suing the Department of Justice (DOJ) over the agency’s refusal to comply with a pair of records requests mandated under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
On Wednesday, the nonprofit group Empower Oversight filed its lawsuit to compel the release of documents shedding light on the DOJ’s commitment to the independence of the Durham investigation, a special counsel probe into the origins of the Russia hoax.
“Empower Oversight has been incredibly patient in attempting to work with the Justice Department since last summer,” Empower Oversight’s founder and president Jason Foster said in a press release. “But, the issues raised in our filings are key to ensuring public faith in the integrity, independence, and objectivity of the DOJ’s handling of the Durham probe. If the DOJ simply complied voluntarily and timely with its FOIA obligations, litigation like this would not be necessary to enforce the transparency required by law.”
The group’s first FOIA submitted in July last year aimed at the agency’s hiring practices with the decision to recruit attorney, former CNN analyst, and Russia truther Susan Hennessey to join the department’s National Security Division (NSD). The division Hennessey now serves as a senior official “supervises the investigation and prosecution of cases affecting or relating to national security, including any cases involving foreign interference in elections or violent extremist threats to elections.” That includes the investigation run by U.S. Special Counsel John Durham, an investigation Hennessey has previously dismissed in since-deleted tweets as it probes the conspiracies Hennessey championed.
Empower Oversight sought documents related to whether the department took steps to recuse Hennessey from oversight of the very probe she criticized.
The group’s second FOIA request was filed in August, and targeted the Justice Department’s financial commitment to fully fund the Durham investigation after the Mueller probe was run for years with unlimited resources.
“Empower Oversight sought all records of any communications regarding the Fiscal Year 2022 budget for the Durham investigation in order to get a clearer picture for the public regarding the potential for interference with the Special Counsel’s independence,” the group wrote.
In February last year, Attorney General Merrick Garland told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing he saw “no reason” Durham should be relieved from the investigation but made no commitment to full funding for the probe when pressed on the issue.
“I don’t have any reason, from what I know now, which is really very little, to make any determination on that ground,” Garland said of agency resources dedicated to the probe. “But I have no reason to think he should not remain in place.”
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to The Federalist’s request for comment.