A band of news organizations have filed a motion with a federal court to unseal documents related to Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The records specifically concern the indictments of several former Trump campaign and administration officials including one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn.
Manafort was indicted on a multitude of money laundering charges as well as charges of lying to the FBI. Investigators raided his home last year attempting to retrieve documents they feared could be withheld or destroyed. The motion by the news organizations seeks materials used by Mueller to obtain search warrants used in those raids.
The motion was filed jointly by The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN and Politico. The outlets argue that the public’s interest in this case is so great that it supersedes the government’s desire to keep it confidential.
The U.S. District Court Judge overseeing the Manafort case has indicated her agreement with that sentiment in the past. The Mueller investigation is “one of the most high-profile and complicated investigations,” in history Judge Amy Berman Jackson said at a hearing earlier this year.
“The fact that this case is of significant public interest is not a reason to seal things. It’s a reason to unseal things,” she said at a Feb. 14 hearing.
But she has also admonished attorneys in the case about speaking publicly about the proceedings. Berman’s concern was possible contamination of the jury pool through heightened media coverage. She imposed a gag order at the beginning of the case. Neither side opposed it.
“This is a criminal trial, and it’s not a public relations campaign,” Jackson said after Manafort was indicted. “So I want to make it clear, from this point on, that I expect counsel to do their talking in this courtroom and in their pleadings, and not on the courthouse steps.”
Manafort’s trial is expected to begin in September.
Photo by Daniel X. O’Neil via Flickr