Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Justice

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CABLE NEWS NETWORK, INC., Plaintiff, v. Civil Action Nos. 17-1167, 17-1175, 17-1189, 17-1212, FEDERAL BUREAU OF 17-1830 (JEB) INVESTIGATION, Defendant. (And Consolidated Cases) MEMORANDUM OPINION These five consolidated cases pertain to Freedom of Information Act requests by assorted media and non-profit organizations, mainly seeking any memoranda prepared by former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey about his conversations with President Donald Trump. On February 2, 2018, this Court granted a partial Motion for Summary Judgment in favor of Defendants FBI and Department of Justice, holding that the Government was not required to disclose the Memos. See Cable News Network, Inc. v. FBI, 2018 WL 692921 (D.D.C. Feb. 2, 2018). Defendants now seek to get rid of the little that remains: requests from a group of reporters and organizations (collectively, USA Today) and from Freedom Watch, Inc. for documents related to the memos about Trump and for any memos by Comey (or related documents) about other specific prominent figures. Finding that a valid exemption again shields most of the information from release, the Court will largely grant the Motion. 1 I. Background As the prior Opinion provides the full background, id. at *1-2, the Court only briefly recites some essential facts here. On May 9, 2017, the President fired Comey as Director of the FBI. Id. at *1. One week later, Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate “(i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and (iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).” Id. at *5 (quoting DOJ Order No. 3915–2017 (May 17, 2017)). The day before Mueller was appointed, the New York Times published a report about an earlier meeting between then-Director Comey and the President, claiming to rely on a contemporaneous memo written by Comey. Id. at *5. Following that story, it soon came out that the former Director had “[c]reat[ed] written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with” Trump. Id. at *1 (citation omitted). With that revelation, the “Comey Memos” entered the American lexicon and, subsequently, this Court’s docket. Five Plaintiffs submitted FOIA requests to the FBI and/or DOJ seeking the Memos. In addition, USA Today and Freedom Watch sought other records related to the former Director. USA Today requested from both the FBI and DOJ “[a]ny records reflecting discussions” between Comey and FBI or DOJ staff regarding the Comey Memos. Gannett Satellite Info. Network, LLC v. DOJ, No. 17- 1175, ECF No. 9 (Amended Complaint), ¶ 27. Freedom Watch asked the FBI for all documents and records that “relate in any way to any memoranda prepared, written and/or issued by former FBI Director James Comey concerning Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, and President Donald Trump.” Freedom Watch v. DOJ, No. 17-1212, ECF No. 1, Exh. A at ...

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