CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
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Washington – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) today for its failure to respond to an expedited FOIA request seeking communications concerning DOJ’s decision to share private text messages from two former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigators with reporters.

In advance of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on December 13, 2017, DOJ took an unprecedented step and invited a group of reporters to its offices to view private text messages sent during the 2016 campaign that were critical of President Trump. A former DOJ official commented that the leak was done “so Rosenstein can get credit from House Republicans at his hearing today.” CREW filed an expedited FOIA request on December 13, 2017, asking DOJ’s senior leadership offices for all communications concerning the decision, but the DOJ has yet to act.

“Sharing these text messages was a highly unusual step for the Justice Department to take,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder, a former DOJ corruption prosecutor. “The American people deserve to know the decision-making process behind it.”

At the same time, CREW filed an expedited FOIA request with the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) seeking the same categories of documents. The Inspector General responded two days later, sending CREW a letter it sent to Congress that included the statement that DOJ “did not consult with the OIG in order to determine whether releasing the text messages met applicable ethical and legal standards before providing them to Congress.” The Inspector General also wrote that “[t]he Department did not consult with the OIG before sharing the text messages with the press.”

“The Office of the Inspector General had no problem quickly giving us documents,” Bookbinder said. “We have to wonder why the office that controls records of senior Department leadership is dragging their feet.”