DOJ Refuses to Discuss Mueller’s Ethics Waiver

DOJ Refuses to Discuss Mueller's Ethics Waiver
DOJ Refuses to Discuss Mueller's Ethics Waiver

The Department of Justice is refusing to disclose details on a controversial ethics waiver related to Mueller’s work at WilmerHale law firm. Politico, a well-known political discussion website, subpoenaed the information through an official Freedom of Information Act request. The Justice Department did respond, but failed to provide any details on the waiver, via a memo that contained just a single sentence confirming Mueller’s approval. “”Pursuant to 5 CFR 2635.502(d), I hereby authorize Robert Mueller’s participation in the investigation into Russia’s role in the presidential campaign of 2016 and all matters arising from the investigation.” The release was signed by Scott Schools and dated May 18th, 2017.

Key Facts

  • When granted, the waiver seemingly gave Mueller a free pass on conflict of interest, something that would otherwise normally preclude someone from working in such an investigation.
  • Political analysts feel that Mueller’s past work with the WilmerHale Law Firm is a conflict of interest which may indicate an inability to work the investigation without bias. WilmerHale law firm is connected to a number of other Trump campaigners, including Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner. Despite this correlation, the law firm denies that Mueller had any association with Kushner or Manafort.
  • Justice Department officials did find a separate two-page memo, but refused to release it on the grounds that it would injure the deliberative process. In a statement, a representative said, that the “…memo is protected by the deliberative process privilege (Exemption 5 of the Freedom of Information Act). This is in contrast to the communications related to the Francisco waiver, in which the deliberative discussions were expressly adopted by the decision maker.”
  • Former White House ethics lawyer, Richard Painter, explained in an interview why denying the release of the two-page document was an issue. “The conspiratorial side of me thinks somebody at Justice is not giving you the explanation for the waiver because they want to create the impression that Robert Mueller has a problem when Robert Mueller doesn’t have a problem.” He also suggested that the decision would lead to “Fox News conspiracy talk.”
  • Other analysts believe the refusal may be an indication that the alleged anti-Trump investigator involvement may be legitimate. Some believe that the entire Russian interference investigation is little more than a ploy to discredit Trump and his campaign.

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